Entrepreneurship, STEM & Startups. What Can Passion and Resilience Teach You.
After the events of this past year, we collectively understand the importance of resilience, determination and focusing on what matters. Ready to rebuild and rebound, embracing a spirit of hope and optimism for the new year? Then join us as we kick off the very first episode of 2021 with Dubai-based Aya Sadder, founder and CEO of Bolt, an event management company that supports startups.
Aya is breaking down barriers for women in tech and creating solutions for future visionaries, all while leading with kindness and eternal curiosity. Aya’s passion and excitement for the future, and her insight into visionary leadership, innovation, and progressive thinking is exactly what we need to propel us forward and motivate us in 2021.
In this episode, Chelsea and Aya talk about the key characteristics of visionary leaders, how entrepreneurship can positively impact the world, the importance of female leaders in tech and beyond, how Aya became involved in STEM, the startup community in Dubai, and so much more.
Believing in the power of startups and entrepreneurs to change the world for the better, Aya has helped bring companies to life. An active member of the startup community in the UAE and a certified public speaker, Aya has delivered TEDx talks in Rome and Dubai, covering topics like Society 5.0 and the role of startups in the experience economy.
Follow along Aya's journey at @ayasadder. Join one of Bolt's upcoming experiential hackathons, workshops or programmes @whybolt, whybolt.com.
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Chelsea Brown: Welcome to the first episode of 2021. This past year has been a roller coaster of emotions and uncertainty. It's left us with so many questions. I know I'm not alone when I admit that there have been times where I felt overwhelmed, or afraid because I didn't know what was going to happen next.
But honestly, I think what has kept me inspired and optimistic are the stories of triumph, determination and strength each woman has brought to this podcast. At Millie, we've always believed in the power of stories to change perspective and forge connections. But I feel like during this past year, we've really been able to experience the power of this idea firsthand. I also think that at the end of the day, we can only do our best by trusting the process, and most importantly, trusting ourselves.
Aya Sadder: If you're really passionate about doing something, it's because you genuinely believe that that is aligned with your values. You don't have to do, I would say 100 million things, you just need to do a few things to the best of your ability, and really give that the energy, and focus, and love.
Chelsea: I am so happy to be back behind the mic welcoming our first guest of 2021, Dubai-based Aya Sadder.
Aya: How can we really focus on being present and creating space in our minds to be out of the box thinkers? Let technology run its course, but focus on the creative part of your mind, so you keep on challenging technology to become better.
Chelsea: Aya is a believer in startups, and has helped bring companies to life across a range of industries, countries and ecosystems. She's the founder and CEO of Bolt, an event management company that supports startups through hackathons, workshops, and bespoke accelerator programs.
Aya: It's incredible thing to be around entrepreneurs who genuinely believe that the world is a good place. We can make it better if we just focus more on ourselves. But when it comes to facing adversity, I think if you want to do something, it's not about thinking about, "I'm a woman, I cannot do it." It's about thinking to yourself, "I have a goal, this is what I have in mind. I'm going to reach there eventually." You are constantly moving closer and closer towards your vision of where you want to go.
Chelsea: Aya has delivered TEDx talks in Rome and Dubai, covering topics from society 5.0 and the role of startups in the experience economy. She joins us now on the Millie podcast, so let's get this started. Hello, Aya, thank you for joining us all the way from Dubai.
Aya: It's my pleasure.
Chelsea: Let's start with the elephant in the room. You are absolutely not the average person we see rising to the top of their game in tech. It's a male-dominated industry.
Aya: You're right, it really is. I think it's really important to create that gender balance in tech. Specifically, because if we think about AI being coded by men, that's our lives, that's our future that's being designed by men. It really needs to incorporate both sides. I'm a huge advocate for trying to encourage more women in STEM, more people in STEM in general, so that we can get a better understanding of how to make full use of the future.
Chelsea: How did you become involved in this industry? Was it something that you were drawn into, or something that you maybe found and just fell in love?
Aya: It's interesting, before I went to Babson, I graduated from Babson College, which is a small entrepreneurship school in the remote area of Massachusetts. Tucked between Newton and Wellesley. One of the main things that I took away when I completed my degree was, how do we tackle the future? Where are we going? Where are we headed? Was sort of the question that we all asked each other.
There was so many different tech clubs, entrepreneurship clubs around campus. By default, you get involved in these competitions, and you're sort of mingling with people who are always thinking outside of the box.
This really attracted me to the field, I thought, "What better than to spend your time with people who are very intellectual, very interested in the future, and are constantly challenging the status quo?"
I thought I would love to spend the rest of my life being part of such a culture. It really was attractive back then, and it became really hard to go back to anything else to be honest.
Chelsea: Wow. What kind of person do you think you have to be to make it in that industry?
Aya: You're asking such a great question. I actually was listening to a podcast by Sam Altman this morning, who was the president at [inaudible]. I've recently become, I would say, re-fascinated by him. But he really points out some of the characteristics of a great founder, which I found to be very notable. So notable that I took notes about it.
The things that he describes a great CEO to be are to be visionary, to be a person who executes, and a person who also adopts a do whatever it takes type of attitude.
He talks a lot about culture. I think this is something we can all really learn from. It's, as soon as you have more than one person in your company, you create a culture. You have to decide, and really early on how you want to really evangelize that culture. How do you want to become, how do you want your company to become.
I think he says, "Really early on, envision what you want to be, and then envision that your whole company is going to be like that." That's how you build good culture. It's really interesting that you ask this question, I was just thinking about it this morning. It's an interesting and important topic, for sure.
Chelsea: Actually, that leads me to another question on that. What is your process when you are building your corporate culture?
Aya: I actually had a nice trail of comments by a few people around the topic of, how do you build a strong company, and a resilient one for that matter? One of the things we have discussed is really building a team slowly. Not bringing anybody sort of by force into the company, just to grow at an early stage.
I think a lot of what you need to do is build slowly, build organically, really be close to your customer when you start. Then start to see what are the areas that allow for you to grow into a bigger company.
If I can add, in the words of Zuckerberg, he hired a growth team really early on in Facebook, and he thinks that they are still the most important team in his company. He really believes that everybody should have a growth team.
It's interesting that you ask this question again, because those are the things that I'm starting to think of for my own team. I really want to build a culture that's sustainable, and that believes in the brand, believes in the company values, and wants to grow with it. It's really important who you select to be on your team, and how you really share your vision with them, and feel the energy from that team to see if you're really aligned on where you're going. Because sustainability is key.
Chelsea: This might be a controversial question. Women can face many challenges and stereotypes within the startups. Then just hearing what you're saying now, do you think men and women face different adversities or maybe handle leadership differently?
Aya: It's interesting, because if you listen into Sheryl Sandberg, and she's sharing her experience being in one of the most sought after positions in the world, by both men and women, not just by women. You listen to her the way she talks about leaning in and claiming your spot on the table. So elegantly, but with so much assertiveness.
I think one thing that you can learn from different leaders in high positions is, you have to be completely yourself in any position that you want to take on. But also you need to be a good leader for others. I think one thing when we talk about women versus men, or I would say what are women faced with versus what men are also faced by? Here, it's a little bit of a gray area.
Are we talking about sitting in a certain position within a company? Or are we talking about the sort of the smoke break, whiskey glass, after work type of conversation that usually takes place with the boys? What is the biggest challenge here for us? Is it that we're not connected enough to sit in the position that we want? Or are we not qualified enough to sit in the position that we want or both? We can go on for hours about this question, and debate and re-debate.
Chelsea: I know.
Aya: For sure.
Chelsea: It's a big one. But I want to start at the beginning of you. What did that journey for you look like to this confident, empowered, which I've heard people say, girl boss, with you? How did you get here?
Aya: I always believe that you have to be a student from now until forever. I think the more that you ask questions, you're curious. You never know the real answer behind something, but you're always seeking it. I think people really admire passion when they see it, as I think it's almost a rare thing to come by these days, unfortunately.
One thing that I always think about is, if you're really passionate about doing something, it's because you genuinely believe that that is aligned with your values. You would never see me closing a deal on a project, if I don't believe in it. That's my rule of thumb. The second thing is, surrounding yourself with people who you want to be around.
I think one thing you'll realize when you're running your own company is you choose who you want to work with, and you also choose who you don't want to work with. I think that the second you really realize the power is in your hands and the impact of your company is also in the fate of whatever you decide to do next. This is when you start feeling, "I can be a lot more choosy about who I want to work with, and what I want to do next." But at the same time, you gain a lot of respect from people who have been encouraging you to move forward for a long time.
You realize that a lot of people out there also want to see people do good in this world. I think that's always been a motivating factor for me, is I surround myself with amazing people. I'm never shy to ask for help, never, never, never. I absolutely love seeing other people who are passionate about their business. Chelsea, I'm a big fan of the work you're doing. Honestly, it's an honour for me to even be on this podcast with you today.
These are the things that matter, these are the things that really matter to me, and they inspire me to keep doing what I'm doing. These are the motivating factors for me.
Chelsea: Aya, thank you for saying that. That means a lot coming from you. What does the startup community look like in Dubai?
Aya: I think you would be shocked to see how much the UAE has grown in the innovation landscape. We have one of the biggest conferences here called Step Conference. They started off as just a tiny little idea, and now we're being compared to Rise Up, we're being compared to South by Southwest, and Web Summit.
It's amazing to see over the past few years, I would say, we started looking at innovation around 2012, 2013. I think we were a few years late compared to other markets. Now, you'll see the private sector investing more in generating opportunities for startups, by partnering with them or funding them. There's a lot more, I would say, inclusion and acceptance, and then you have an amazing push by the government.
One thing that I'm very proud of in this country is, the public sector are extremely involved in anything related to entrepreneurship. From the healthcare industry, to the fintech, to edutech, whatever it might be, the government really supports these initiatives. For example, we have a hub here called Area 2071. You're probably wondering why 2071. It's incredible to say that the UAE was offered its independence in 1971. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was the VP ruler of Dubai. Wanted to project what could take place in the next 100 years after their independence?
Today, it would be 50 years into the future, but back then, we're talking about 100 years post-independence, what will Dubai look like? He really believes in developing a strong future for the country. Prosperity comes from collaboration, comes from innovation, and it comes from acting on your words. I think these are some of the beautiful principles this country is really born on.
The innovation landscape here really is developing quite fast, and honestly it's starting to become more and more exciting just to be here. In terms of facing adversity as a woman, I think, maybe because I studied in the US and I came back to Dubai. A lot of what I learned in college was confidence. Confidence in my speech, confidence in my work, confidence in delivering good, quality work. I would say the criteria of what you need to hand in every time. That's how you maintain the respect of anybody you work with. That's how you consistently do well in life, I believe. It's your integrity at the end of the day.
Now, I think when it comes to facing adversity, I think, look, I always imagine it like this. If you want to do something, you really want to do something, whatever it might be. Whether you want to meet the highest ranked official in the government, or you want to be invited to speak on a specific panel, or you want to apply for a top tier job. I think it's not about thinking about, "I'm a woman, I cannot do it." It's about thinking to yourself, I have a goal, this is what I have in mind. I'm going to reach there eventually." That laser vision, that ability to focus on saying, "I'm going to reach there." This is the power of being, I would say, a confident individual.
It's not about, "Oh, I was supposed to get there now, but I didn't get there now." None of that is true. It's always about you will get there when it's your time to get there. But and if it's really what you want, time is not a factor at all, it's just a means. It's something that's passing by you, and you are constantly moving closer and closer towards your vision of where you want to go.
I wouldn't say that, of course, we face certain challenges, but the question is, are those really challenges or are they just things that we think are in our way? You see what I mean?
Aya: Is it really a problem? How big is it? How big is that problem? Is it solvable? Can I ask other people to come in and help me solve it? Or am I just going to get lost in my negative thoughts into thinking I can't do it? I really challenge this, not just for women but also for men, to ask themselves that question. Did I not reach there because I don't think I'm capable of reaching there? Or do I think something is truly in my way? That's how I would look at it.
Chelsea: You say you learn confidence with your undergrad, but how do you get through moments of self-doubt if you have any?
Aya: I work out a lot. I think discipline is super important. Discipline allows for you to focus on what you need to focus on now. It allows for you to create deadlines in your mind that, "By a certain time on a certain day, I need to be done with X, Y, Z."
I schedule in workouts throughout my week. So that I know that if I had a hard day or I had a moment to self-doubt, I have those moments where I can really just enjoy a good workout. The second thing is admitting to yourself that you're tired, and you need a day off.
What's amazing is I have a lot of respect for the investors who have put money into the company. But also, I have very candid conversations with them or even they tell me, "Look, you need a day off. You need to refresh and come back when you're kind of ready."
I think it's so important to be comfortable with your body's energy, and to always listen to how you're feeling. I think those are the key things that keep you sane, and also keep you a positive individual. It's important to remember that. You need time off, and sometimes that's okay, that's totally fine.
Chelsea: I guess as an entrepreneur, sometimes you feel like you're failing, or you feel like you're maybe being selfish by taking time off. But it's actually the opposite, because things can, the integrity of the work can sometimes fall between the cracks if we're overworked.
One of your quotable quotes is, "The more entrepreneurs we have in the world, we'll have a more positive world with a lot more impact." Why do you think entrepreneurship is so important, and how it can shape the world in a positive way?
Aya: I can't but help remember some of the incredible mentors I've had in my life. They really come back into mind when you said that statement. Because, I used to surround myself with people who were just shining from the inside. It's incredible thing to be around entrepreneurs who genuinely believe that the world is a good place, and we can make it better if we just focus more on ourselves.
What's incredible about entrepreneurs is they have razor-sharp vision on what they want to achieve. But they always do it with a better purpose in mind than a bigger company, or an older corporate. There's always this new knowledge, and that new knowledge encompasses humanity within your business. It reminds you that everything that you're working for, everything that you're doing is for the sake of humanity. It's for the sake of the betterment of humanity.
I think what's amazing is entrepreneurs are being taught the new ways to work. That includes impact in a very positive way, and it promotes inclusivity, and diversity on your teams. Making sure that your culture is rich and positive. These are the elements that you really think, this is why we need more entrepreneurs in the world. That for me is why.
Chelsea: Speaking about entrepreneurs, how do you think COVID will affect their journey?
Aya: This is really interesting. A friend of mine, his name is Hashim Al Rhaili, he works with a lot of different scientists around the world. He has the number one science nature page on Facebook, actually. I was asking Hashim about the vaccine, and what's going to happen next? He said something really interesting, actually. He said, "COVID is not going to go away." He's like, "But we're going to learn how to live with it."
Very interesting. Because you and I, Chelsea probably would take the vaccine. Maybe we take it, again in another few months, and then again in another few months. Because we truly believe that we should do things that are going to, let's say, not harm us in the long-term, but also keep us safe for now.
But how many of us actually would take this vaccine? How many of us would actually [inaudible] to stay safe? Is every government in the world going to force the people to take this vaccine? Definitely not. Again, there is profit in the matter, it's not a free drug, and it's not mandatory.
You have to remember that, that free will is going to affect everyone else. This is where culture comes in, and doing things that keep other people safe. Being safe is also a self choice, and a lot of people have to make that for themselves. That's one big thing. I think, now thinking about the fact that COVID is not going to go away anytime soon, and you and I both know, every five minutes, another, COVID-19 strain, 95 just came out. We're constantly hearing that, "PS, this is not the end."
I think what we're going to see now is a lot of companies losing interest in real estate, that's for one. They're going to be imposing many more work from home types of rules. If you ask me, I've been a nomad since 2014. I don't believe in having an office. I love WeWork's concept, because it allows me to work anywhere I want in the world.
It's a sharing concept where I meet amazing entrepreneurs who are exchanging knowledge and positive energy. That's one. A lot of big companies are starting to realize that even them, at the size that they are, and the amount of bureaucracy and politics that's also involved, is it really worth it to be at that scale, to be at that size?
There's a lot of things that are going to come up now, is if we're working away from the office, how are we going to learn to trust each other? Are we going to trust our teams more or how are we going to adapt to this? Now, every question I've just raised is now under the spotlight. Each company is now under the spotlight, and forced to answer these questions.
I think what we're going to see next is, entrepreneurs are going to get out of this a lot faster, because they already implement a lot of nomadic culture within their own companies. It's the bigger companies that are going to suffer a little bit more, because they're going to take longer to try and implement these changes. The most important question that comes up now is, does everybody trust their team? Are they able to allow them to work at a distance?
I think we're going to see a lot of changes, and a lot of interesting things happening over this period of time.
Chelsea: It's crazy. I think a lot more people are seeing the value in having the more, I guess, nomadic, as you said, lifestyle. But the working from home lifestyle, people are resilient, people are connecting. Some people are even more efficient working from home. Oh, I love what you said in your Instagram, how you schedule, I actually might take this on with my team, coffee breaks. Did you mean that in Zoom coffee breaks?
Aya: Yeah. We have a Zoom coffee break, where we all have just a little bit of a chill out time, or we just catch up, and we just, we have a coffee.
Chelsea: Yes. Because you said you do this in the office, so then you should continue to do this virtually.
Aya: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Chelsea: Your mom told you, "Do your best, don't be average, choose." Of course, your life to date is opposite of average, what did that mean to you? How have you taken that and put that into your life?
Aya: I'll tell you something really personal about that talk. I didn't realize it until I read the comments on my TEDx, which also, it does shake you to your core when you have so many people offering their opinion on the subject that you're sharing.
That opening line, actually, I received a comment from somebody who said, "Life is much more simple, you just need to choose what you want to do. Then you'll be happy."
It's funny, because it was exactly what I wanted to hear back is, you don't have to do, I would say 100 million things, you just need to do a few things to the best of your ability. Really give that the energy, and focus, and love. The more things that you do that have a commonality with each other. I think that's where you really can and should invest your time.
Something that I realized when I was delivering that talk is, I was doing so many things at the same time. A lot of the things that I was doing were not connected. This is why it became harder for me to even move. I became the person who is slowing myself down.
What my mom was trying to tell me, which I think she was really happy after I delivered the talk and received the comments back. It was, "Look, you don't need to do everything. You need to do what makes you happy, you need to do things that have a shared, common vision. That shared common vision has to be shared with your values as a person." That's when you start to be a happier person. You don't contribute on an average scale, you do your very best. Because that's what you know how to do, and those are the areas that you can really excel in. That was really I would say the comeback of saying that statement my mom shared.
Chelsea: You speak publicly quite often. This actually takes me into my next thought, which was about your TEDx, Roma talk. Which is available on YouTube for everybody. But I'd love to understand more about why it's important to expand our minds and explore topics like this. You speak so passionately about it, it's really cool. I don't have a technology background. Why should we expand our minds like this?
Aya: What happened was, I was talking to an engineer about this concept. He's like one of the smartest engineers I've ever met. I was trying to explain to him the concept of time, and through a discussion of technology and discussing how AI, and augmented reality are going to be shaping our world. I had this sort of vision of three planets, sort of swimming next to each other in the middle of a galaxy.
As soon as I imagined the three planets swimming next to each other, I had this moment where I was like, "I need to sit down and I need to write this out. I need to understand what theory means." I just went on researching for hours, and hours and hours. I was like, "You know what? This is almost like a methodology. This is something that we can use."
The idea was, if everything that we're doing today is optimizing our efforts, so technology is allowing for computers to think faster than us. The biometric systems are allowing for us to move and pass through things with security clearance. You walk out of a room, the light bulb switch off. I'm describing things simply for you.
But the trick here was to think about, how do we start to get people to think about wellness and mindfulness, and let the technology do all the hard parts of our life? How can we really focus on being present and creating a lot of space in our minds to be much more I would say, out of the box thinkers? Let technology run its course, let AI design things for us, so we can become smarter. But focus on the creative part of your mind, so you keep on challenging technology to become better.
It was really about segregating almost our worlds, really appreciating everything that you can have full access to. But the idea was, whichever world you're in right now, optimize your time there, so that you can extract the most amount of value from it. Don't spend time swimming in the three, and just picking what you want from it. Be very focused on every single, I would say space of time you're in. This was the idea.
Chelsea: Wow. Honestly, that is so cool. I just loved your talk on this, and inviting everyone to check it out on YouTube. You are an advocate for women in business, and you talk about the boardroom a lot. How are you actively championing women leaders?
Aya: Yes, it is definitely something, Chelsea I'm super passionate about. I really believe it starts with confidence, and pushing yourself towards achieving the goals that you have in mind for yourself. That's where you'll end up in terms of, if you really want to get to the highest posts within a company, or you want to be on the board of a company. Or whatever vision you have in mind for yourself, you will be able to achieve as long as you're confident in your decisions.
Maybe this is not the best person to use as an example, because she was branded a little bit of a culprit in Silicon Valley. But Elizabeth Holmes talks about never having a plan B, unless your plan A is very corrupt. But this concept of not having a backup plan, and really just going for it, and failing, and pivoting, and getting back up, and moving. I really admired that perseverance in terms of saying, "I have a vision in mind that I know I want to get there." Really becoming confident in my actions, and becoming very confident with failure as well will get you there.
People want to sit across a table in a boardroom from other people who have failed, and who are confident enough to share their failure with others. Because that's what we're learning here today.
Chelsea: How have you approached your personal journey with boardrooms? I loved what you said once about listening to your elders, of course. But you are a millennial, you're absolutely not the millennial stereotype, which is a topic I love. Because we see a lot of millennial stereotypes, little bit entitled. You've also put it, you don't have the right to be here, you have to earn the right. I love this, and I think this is something that we do see from our parents, and our parents, parents. What was your journey like to get there? What do you practice every day when you're pitching a new idea as the younger colleague?
Aya: It's a beautiful question. It's beautiful for me, because I wish I could teach more people to be humble, because that's something that I try to teach myself every day. It's not something that you wake up with, it's something that you have to remind yourself constantly, that you need to be that way.
Maybe because maybe I look up to my parents a lot, they came from a war-torn country. They put everything that they had on the table to support us three kids, they even had to support their own families back home. It really was, I would say, the most difficult period they ever had to go through, and it was for the sake of the entire family.
I think one thing that I really admire from both my parents is the energy, and love, and humbleness in terms of having provided us with a great life. It really taught us how to be more grateful every single day. I can tell you, one of my very, very good friends Mia, taught me a lot about gratefulness.
She reminded me over and over again, and that became something that I had to ask myself when things were going right, or even when they're going wrong. "Am I still grateful for where I am?" Not to put it into a, I would say, a positive toxicity type of setting, where you wake up in the morning, you're like, "Oh, thank God, at least I have water," or, "Thank God, I have a bed." This is not the point.
The point is, you have to be pleased with your progress in terms of the direction that you're going in, and really focus on that, and ask yourself the question, "Am I doing the best that I can do to reach my goal? Am I being open with others? Am I being transparent about my challenges?"
All of these questions really have to come into mind, and you have to be just very honest with yourself. It's your conscious at the end of the day, you have to fall asleep to. When you talk to yourself, are you kind, are you open? Are you willing to accept feedback from others? It has to be a lot of things that you have to challenge your subconscious constantly with.
Chelsea Brown: Yes. I know we talked about this briefly, but I'd love to circle back to where does your resilience come from?
Aya Sadder: I think it's also about the people you surround yourself with. I have some incredible entrepreneurs that I went to Babson with, Brittany Lowe, CEO of Beautini. She came into my room, I remember we were really young, just freshmen, sophomore in college. She was holding this little mascara, and she was pitching her heart out. And she's the cutest thing ever.
I looked at her and I was like, "Why are you doing this? What's your motivation behind Beautini?" She's like, "I just love working in this industry. I think it's such a fun industry." This is little Brittany at 18 years old. What makes you resilient is the passion that you have for this industry. I was always passionate about education, I was always admiring professors, scholars who are out there to give more to the world.
It just reconfirming that people who have access to education can make the world a better place. Also, they can make a better life for themselves. You might not be able to change the world, but you would be able to change the life of one person, if you give them access to education. I think this is really what inspires me to keep working in this field is, I might not be able to change the whole world. But maybe I'll help a few people realize that they can do more for others. Maybe before I die, I would be able to see that domino effect.
That's what makes me proud to be human, and that's something that makes me proud to be still fighting in this industry.
Chelsea: I love that. You said you were sitting with your peers, I think it was at your graduation, and you kind of had this moment of, "Where are we going?" So, where are you going, what's next?
Aya: I'd love to talk about what I'm working on, now. What's my latest and most important project? I've launched a company called Bolt, and it's an event management company that's going to be creating programs, events, hackathons, workshops, predominantly around startup topics, across almost every industry.
The idea was, "How can I create the future of my own company to be aligned with my own values?" Something I really believe in is in giving back, and giving back educational opportunities for those who can't receive it.
What I really intend to do with Bolt is create hubs for the company around the world, to find the change-makers, to find the leaders who also want to teach entrepreneurship in areas where we can't get access to education, we can't have the bare minimum provided to us.
The dream for Bolt is to become an engine, a catalyst for many different cities that need access to education. Creating almost like the ambassadors of Bolt to go out there and create that space, to create that change in areas that need the most help. That's really the dream of what I'm going after.
Chelsea: How can people get involved in that?
Aya: I have a website, it's called readysetbolt.com. We have a little link there that has join the ambassador program, and people can sign up to get involved, whether as a mentor, or maybe as just a person who wants to attend an event, or somebody who wants to run their own event as well. There's a few ways that people can get involved.
Chelsea: I think you're working on other projects as well as this entrepreneurial projects. Can you share a little bit about some of your other recent projects?
Aya: When I was working with Emirates Airline, the best airline in the world, has won many prizes. But Emirates wanted to get more involved in innovation, and they started to think about ways to support young entrepreneurs, from around the globe, actually. To come to Dubai, and present their ideas to the airline.
Now, I'll tell you, there's one entrepreneur that he's just amazing, and his name is Hong Bowe. This guy was like, "I want to change the whole duty free landscape. I believe that we have to revolutionize the way that duty free is going to look like in the future."
One thing I absolutely admire about entrepreneurs like Hong Bowe, and I really hope there's more like him in the world, or can learn from him. Is he was so humble but so persistent, and so open to trying out new things, and pivoting, and learning. My God, you sit with him, and the first thing he tells you is, "Hey, did you know this fun fact about the industry?"
But the most important thing to kind of learn about from Hong Bowe is, be an entrepreneur who doesn't step down, and who waits for the opportunity to pitch his heart out. It's entrepreneurs like him that made it really worth it. Understanding that it's your passion, your resilience, and it's your consistency, in terms of pursuing your vision that makes you a great entrepreneur.
Chelsea: I want to ask you more about how just building that confidence and combating any self-doubt. I would imagine that first walk up to the stage, when you're speaking at one of your TEDx conferences or Keynotes. That must have been nerve wracking.
Aya: Actually, kind of a funny story. I don't think I've ever told anyone this. I was the first up to give my talk, and the microphone wasn't working. I actually did take one and then take two. But I did it with the biggest smile on my face, and I didn't care. Because right up front, my parents were sitting and I was so proud, and so honoured to see my dad there. It was such an emotional moment, but it was really a proud moment as well.
The second one, I remember I walked across the stage, and I looked up, and all of a sudden the entire audience just went blue. My first reaction was, "Why did everybody just go blue?" Then I realized, "Oh, my God, everybody's listening to me speaking in Italian." As I speak in English, it's being translated on the spot. Just for a split moment, my heart stopped, because I was like, "Oh, my gosh, I hope the translator has the updated script. I can't make any mistakes."
Chelsea: Oh my Goodness.
Aya: That first fear moments as well of speaking in front of 2500 people, and I say that because there were aisles filled with people. There were no seats and people were on the floor, it really was beyond anything I've ever experienced. But I remember just looking up and thinking, "The most important part for me to remember now is that all my jokes will not be received on time." It's an experience, but it was so beautiful, and it was such an honor to be there. Honestly, the energy from the audience was just on fire. It was just an incredible experience overall.
I would really encourage anybody who wants to go after a TEDx dream, to go on stage to do it. It's worth it, 100%.
Chelsea: Oh, my God. Thank you so much for joining us today, Aya.
Aya: Thank you for having me.
Chelsea: I really enjoyed talking with you, and thank you for sharing all of your knowledge with the Millie community.
Aya: It's my pleasure.
Chelsea: Thank you for joining me for this uplifting and motivating conversation with Aya Sadder. Bolt is now live and you can learn more at whybolt.com. Please join me back here in two weeks when I speak with celebrity trainer, nutritionist, yogi and wellness warrior, Karina V.
As our commitment to extreme all or nothing new year's resolution starts to fade, this is the perfect time to talk about sustainable long-term habits. Tune in and tap into Karina's conscientious and compassionate approach to exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness. If you enjoy listening to this podcast, please hit subscribe, share with your friends, and visit us at millie.ca.