Balancing life and motherhood is never easy, but it can be an even more challenging task when you’re running your own business.
Rasha Khawaja established her company in 2010, and has been working for herself for the past seven years. During that time, she’s also welcomed two young sons, who ‘completed her family’.
Here, she spills the beans on kickstarting her self-employed career, and how she juggles her roles as boss, wife and mum…
The idea for Rasha’s company came to her whilst completing a programme at Oxford Business School.
‘It was there when I had a genuine light bulb moment,’ she says. ‘Something in my mind simply clicked into place, so I came back with a mission to support creative companies and to seed the brightest minds that would one day be the job creators of the future.’
Seven years and two children later, she’s now the founder and CEO of Toucan, a company that supports start-ups through those all important early stages.
‘We are deeply passionate about making meaningfully impact, unearthing new talent, and using creativity for inclusiveness,’ she explains – but how did Rasha go from mentee to managing all of these mentors?
‘We started with the help and support of friends and family, but mentorship was also crucial to how we got started – it is a huge value add to be connected to someone who is highly experienced in your industry. They can provide you with advice, based on personal experience, and teach you lessons that they learnt from their own mistakes.’
‘I like to practise ‘Kaizen’ (‘change for better’), which refers to the continuous improvement that I look to make in both my professional and personal life. My mentors always taught me to look beyond and above myself and to always try to improve myself, to elevate myself.’
Of course, no business is created without challenges, and one of the biggest obstacles Rasha faced was finding a group of people to help her bring her vision to life.
‘I did not have a team in place and this became a major hurdle as the company began to expand,’ she adds. ‘This challenge luckily transformed into a highlight because, as soon as I put together my team, I found my sounding board – collaboration is key to progression.’
Toucan has gone on to win awards and support many early-stage companies with their ventures, but despite her success, Rasha says that ‘family always comes first’.
‘Without them for constant support and endless inspiration I would not be here and my company would not be here,’ she admits.
‘Irrespective of your occupation and lifestyle, even if there are two working parents in a family, it is undoubtedly a challenge. However, the rewards certainly outweigh the obstacles. Myself and my husband are hugely lucky to have a valuable support system to help us along the way.’
‘Bundling out the house in the morning is always quite the task but we have settled into a rhythm that works for us. There are so many fellow working mothers that I meet every day and it is great to have a community of working women that I can share my challenges with.’
Rasha’s key motivation is knowing that she’s working to provide for her young family in the years to come: ‘Knowing that I am building future prospects for my family and my children, whilst doing something that I am truly passionate about is hugely rewarding.’
‘A guilty mother is not a productive mother. I have learnt that being a positive, strong model is the best thing that I can be for my children.’
‘If they were old enough, I hope that they would be proud that their mother supports early stage businesses in the creative sector. Meanwhile, they are more focused on when the next episode of Peppa Pig is going to be on, as they should be!’
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Rasha feels so passionately about the importance of parents in the workplace that she’s partnered with Time Inc. to launch the Ignite Awards, which gives you the chance to be your own boss and kickstart your own businesses with the support of Toucan’s mentors.
So if you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to take charge of your goals, work for yourself and get your exciting idea off the ground, now would be a good time to start…