Like A Boss: Humaira Ahmed
This month, we're featuring Humaira Ahmed, powerhouse entrepreneur, CEO and founder of Locelle. She's a boss like no other, bringing women together in ways you wouldn't believe. She’s inspired us all, and now she’s about to inspire you. Keep on reading, Beaconites - you’re gonna love her.
So, Humaira what’s your career story?
I was born and raised in Pakistan. I moved to Toronto, then to Vancouver, and finally to Victoria - where I’ve lived for the past 8 years with my family. This was where Loc’elle was born, a women only social networking platform that provides women with a safer and easier way to meet a friend, mentor, network.
When I moved to Victoria, I struggled to make meaningful connections. As a driven entrepreneur, I wanted to meet other ambitious, hard-working women but had trouble finding them. I realized that meeting like-minded women easily is a challenge. Not everyone is an extrovert, meet-ups can be hard and intimidating, and other online platforms aren’t always successful.
As women go through various life transitions – moving to a new city, career change, caring for a baby, new relationship status, coming back from maternity leave or illness – the need to make meaningful connections arises. The challenge typically is not being able to easily find and meet up with like-minded women who live nearby and share similar interests and activities.
Personal experiences, and the fact that feelings of loneliness and isolation are known to be increasingly problematic, I began thinking of what a women-only social networking platform would look like and how it could make forming meaningful friendships a little easier, so I founded Locelle.
How did Lo’celle come to fruition?
I have two daughters, after my second, I felt isolated. I had worked as a contractor for 6 years prior. I was remote and was working alone. I wasn’t going out socially as much as I was for networking and I felt isolated. In my personal life, I felt isolated as well. A lot of the friends I had made were through my husbands' network. They didn’t have to work, and when we got together, they would talk about babies and shopping and I couldn’t do it. I would feel anxious - like I was wasting my time. They called me Ms. Business. I had to find a new tribe.
I was born and raised in Pakistan, lived in Toronto for 5 years, lived in Vancouver for 1 year, and have now lived in Victoria for 8 years. This is when I needed these connections the most. The realization that there needs to be a safe platform. Where women can find one another and connect easily.
I have a background in software engineering and in marketing for tech companies and then I founded my company.
My goal has been to support, connect, and champion women. This meant that there was a possibility of conflict, for example: introducing them to investors that I am also speaking with. Maybe they will get an investment and I won’t. When women feel threatened by one another, they don’t support each other.
When and how did you launch the Lo’celle?
As a marketer, I wanted to have enough of an interest to stop everything I was doing so I could focus all of my efforts on Lo’celle.
In November 2017 I set up a website landing page. Within 2 months, we had over 100 subscribers for a newsletter that didn’t exist. 90% were women. I had found my niche doing something for women. In January 2018, I started working on the app full-time. In February 2018, we incorporated and then in October 2018, we did our soft launch.
You have two young daughters, so, what are your thoughts on the current socio-political climate we are now living in?
I’m excited and I’m scared. There are all of these movements that we’re surrounded by, different trends and leaders. There is a lot of work that needs to be done. I also think that a lot of movements can be misconstrued or confused. All of the men in my life, people who work for my company, my husband, father-in-law, etc. they don’t feel threatened in any way. For example, the #MeToo movement highlighted workplace harassment but also created good dialogue. In terms of our platform, I’ve encountered a few people, women included, that say we are excluding men on the app. We don’t want Loc’elle to turn into a dating app. For example, what happened with the app Yammer. It’s a scary time.
How do you achieve balance in your life?
I don’t and that’s the reality of it. What I find works best is trying to accomplish monthly goals and daily activities. I take every day as it is or one week at a time. I plan time in my week to spend on myself. I recently started playing cricket again for the first time in 21 years. It’s important to make time for the important people in your life and for yourself. As a result, I am happier and calmer.
Who or what has inspired you along the way?
A few women:
Michelle Romanow - she has done such a great job! She has amazing attributes, doesn’t take no for an answer, she is a badass. She has made so much money. I have heard her talk and I asked her to be my advisor and she said “yes”!
Oprah - she comes from nothing and has worked so hard, especially, in times where black women weren’t able to find jobs in their respective fields. She is incredible. I think there is a lot to learn from her in terms of tenacity. She pushes me and gives me hope.
Nicole Smith - she is the founder & CEO of Flytographer. She is based in Victoria. I met her once and asked her to go for coffee, and instantly she is like you need to do this, and this, and this. For the longest time, I was intimidated by her but she has been one of the most helpful people I have encountered.
What is one key leadership lesson you have learned over the years?
Be fearless in asking for what you want and need.
After all of the success so far in your life, what is the one thing you still find yourself struggling with?
Work/life balance - it’s hard, but I know how important it is to the happiness and success of my family. Both of my daughters carry themselves as leaders and are very confident. This summer, I’ve taken every Friday off to spend time with my girls.
What’s next for you and Lo’celle?
We have recently pivoted our business model and we’re working towards on-boarding Enterprise-level companies. Our goal for Loc’elle is to be extremely robust and implemented in every Fortune 500 company.
Any final thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
I am a firm believer to never let fear stop you from doing something. Fear is just in our heads, and if we think we can’t accomplish something, it spirals out of control. The fear of regret is far greater than the fear of failure. Fail fast!
Rapid Fire Q’s
What gets you up in the morning? My kids! And, also the social impact side of our business.
What are you most grateful for in this moment? Sunshine and flexibility and being able to sit in the sun in my beautiful backyard and getting work done.
What is the best way women can support one another? I think if I can see if I can add value to whatever you are struggling with or having challenges with regardless of our differences or competition to just help out.
What 3 things do you always pack when you travel? My runners/sneakers, Loc’elle t-shirt, and my cape-style blazer.
What’s the last new thing you learned? Was today, I learned that leading your team with empathy and honesty is the best thing you can do.
What does success mean to you? Success to me, that’s pretty easy, as long as I am making a positive impact in the community.
What is your spirit age? 40