Friday, March 7, 2008

The Start-Up 101 Series: Sumaya Kazi

The Young Entrepreneur in Millenia 2.0

With the rise of web 2.0, social networking and RSS feeds, there is a lot of noise out there in the marketing world. But how about marketing yourself?

I had the pleasure of speaking with Sumaya Kazi over the phone last weekend. Recognized as one of CNN’s Young People Who Rock last year, we spoke from our individual home offices—she in San Francisco East Bay and me in San Jose.

So how exactly does Sumaya rock? Nicknamed the “media maven” by Brass Magazine, she’s got the stuff to rival Mark Zuckerberg because she practically holds down three jobs as a social media manager at Sun Microsystems and the founder of two entrepreneurial ventures: The Cultural Connect and I Give a Damn! (IGAD) network. She is also incredibly smart: she can identify pressure points quickly and qualify questions to get her message across.

Sumaya has accurately identified two pressure points for young people in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. In Silicon Valley, entry-level jobs are hard to come by and with her website, The Cultural Connect, Sumaya pushed the envelope on entry-level jobs. Job titles don't faze her. Her belief is that it doesn’t matter how old or young you are, all it takes a little creativity and resource management.

Second, the need for role models and inspiration is fierce and The Cultural Connect inspires people to consider that young people (particularly those with hyphenated cultural backgrounds who aren’t as exposed in the media) have the tools and skill sets that they need to succeed. The Cultural Connect features five separate media outlets (DesiConnect, AsiaConnect, MidEast Connect, LatinConnect and AfricanaConnect) to showcase young professionals and encourages others to connect if they are interested in learning more about someone in their profession.

Sumaya may not think of herself as an entrepreneur, but she tells me that opportunities for business stem from complaints that people have. “If there is a problem and there’s an ability to fix a need, then you have a business.”

But while most people have one business, Sumaya is juggling three. What is her secret? Like GrĂ©goire Gentil, she says it’s important to delegate.

Delegating tasks is key. It is what allows her to have time for friends and family, salsa dancing, and other activities that let her bring stress levels down. "The busier I get the more I would go out dancing."

She admits that juggling three businesses is tough, but she keeps going because it’s exciting to work with young people who are so inspired themselves. Some are recent college graduates and they are the people who make The Cultural Connect and IGAD network come alive.

In other words, young people aren't limited by the opportunities that are out there. All we have to do is open our eyes to the fact, create our own opportunities and chase after our dreams in a new way.

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