Soraya Darabi is the co-founder of Zady.com, a shopping platform and lifestyle destination for the next generation of consumers who care about the origins of the items they purchase. Zady launched to rave reviews in August 2013, and was featured on the cover of The Wall Street Journal’s “Off Duty” section with an article entitled: Feel-Good Fashion: The New Black.
What Whole Foods has done for the organic food movement, Zady does for sourced products. Zady is amongst the first online retailers to seamlessly integrate commerce, rich media content and social media to provide customers with a dynamic shopping experience. On Zady, customers can learn about the conscious consumer movement and purchase beautiful goods that were created with craftsmanship and artisanship – qualities that have been sacrificed in a world of cheap prices and fast production. Early this year, Zady was named one of The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Retail by Fast Company and one of 22 Instagram Accounts Fashionistas Should Follow in 2014 by Buzzfeed.com.
How did you get into the media/tech industry?
I began my career as an intern at The Washington Post.com and it was so useful in showing me the ropes of an industry I came to love. From there I worked for Conde Nast Publications on the digital side, before moving to NYTimes.com and focusing on social media marketing and digital partnerships. I am, and always have been, a media addict - though media changes year after year, which is why it's such an exciting field to be a part of.
What are you biggest successes and mistakes as a CEO and how have you learned from them?
As a Co-CEO you hear how important it is set the right behavior by example. That said, sometimes you must be careful to set behavior that is healthy or repicable. For instance, my business partner and I are up at 6 am daily answering emails to one another and our team. We send our last emails just before we sleep at 11 or so. If we expected every member of our team to adhere to these hours, we would all burn out very quickly. So the biggest lesson to learn as a CEO is to be flexible with the rules, and to take in as much advice as you can handle, but ultimately to trust your instincts first and foremost.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Remain confident in your idea. Many will tell you it's no good, it wont work out. Perseverance and determination are 90% of success. Forge ahead with your passion and your dream!
What products on Zady are consumers most interested in and what are your favorites?
Our customers live all over the country and range in age from early twenties to their mid seventies! So there isn't a one-size fits all product. That said, our home goods are universally loved, like the Le Feu De Leu candles, made by hand under water in LA. They smell divine. Everyone loves our Ellepi Whale Staplers made in Northern Italy because the design is so beautiful and really makes an office desk pop with color. My favorite item we carry are the Mercado Global Weekender bags made by artisans in Guatemala. MG is a non-profit that celebrates over 10 years of helping women in central America. They employee 300 artisans to make these bags, which I now use as luggage more often than not. The textiles are gorgeous and the importance of the work of this ngo is never lost on me as I take the bag to a new destination.
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
Favorite travel destination?
Zanzibar, I went for the first time with my sister while she was on a work trip in East Africa. I fell in love with the people, the climate, the local spices, the jungle and the beaches. And, of course, the food. It's my happy place.
What literature is on your bed stand?
The Goldfinch. A Thousand Splendid Suns. My Life In France. Those are the three most recent books I've read and I just loved each one. My mother is great lead-gen for literature and my friend Melanie, who works at The New Yorker, and my friend Chrysanthe, who started Brooklyn Based and I are beginning a book club together. I feel old having a book club for fiction - but it's really an essential luxury of life.
Role model - business and personal?
I have formal and informal mentors. I meet monthly with Linda Rottenberg, who began Endevour which helps high-impact entrepreneurs around the world. She's amazing. Beth Comstock, the CMO of GE is a mentor who has helped my career enormously, as has Fran Hauser, a Zady investor and GP at Rothenberg Ventures. My newest mentor is Carol Hochman, who began Danskin and recently founded Women in America. We meet monthly to discuss our business and growth plans. Each mentor offers invaluable advice and I feel pretty lucky to have them as a part of my network.
What's next for Zady and Soraya Darabi
What's next for Zady is that our community is growing day after day and we are enjoying watching crowdswell. What's next for me, personally, is my first vacation since our company launched. I'm going to Beijing with the World Economic Forum in September for the annual YGL conference and truly can't wait.
Following her tenure at the Times, Soraya served as Product Lead for drop.io, a real-time online sharing, collaboration, and presentation service (acquired by Facebook). She then went on to co-found the
mobile application Foodspotting, named by Apple and Wired Magazine as an “app of the year” before
being acquired by Open Table.
Soraya was recently featured on the cover of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business” issue,
and Brandweek’s “Hot Digital” issue, and was named one of Inc. Magazine's "30 Under 30," and
included in AdAge’s “25 People in Media to Follow on Twitter.”
Soraya received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Georgetown University.