It’s OK to Cry: When It’s Not Just Business


How much do you pour of yourself into your business? Is it OK to cry? Is it really just business?

It was about 10 minutes before preschool pick up time when the message came in. Depending on your point of view, one could have understood it as simply a disappointing business development. But the sensation of the bottom of my stomach dropping to the top of my feet told me that this was going to be a tough one.

I responded predictably, perfunctorily, and professionally to the message, and boarded my car to pick up my kids.

During the drive to the preschool I was on auto-pilot. You know that eery numbness that settles in only a few times in your life – when something happens that is altogether shocking while simultaneously feeling like a peculiar combination of a sucker punch and a sword through the heart? Yeah- that.

I was surprised by my own reaction bubbling up. It wasn’t the first disappointment in a business outcome, nor was it an inaugural disappointment in a relationship. Something was different about this one.

It wasn’t until after I hurried along a friendly conversation with a fellow parent at the preschool and my preschoolers were buckled into their carseats, that I burst into tears. There, with face in hands, slumped over the steering wheel, and two kids staring on in confusion and concern, I realized that it’s not “just business”.

What is it that conventional experts tell us are the keys to success, particularly in social media? Something about authenticity, engagement, generosity, relationships, and inspiration? Be human, we’re told. Give freely, we’re urged. Form relationships- even friendships, we’re encouraged. Meet offline, care, and invest yourself, we’re guided. ….Or did I get that wrong?

Then again we’re businesspeople. We exist in a hyper-capitalist micro-culture by definition. The name of this game is to get ahead, with no guarantees that no one’s feelings won’t get hurt along the way. Loyalty is something we try to define, instill, protect, predict, mandate, and enforce in contracts, but ultimately fail in doing as it is a human essence- not one intrinsic to business. Business is the exchange of a product or service for a mutually agreed-upon value. A successful business makes money, not necessarily friends. …Or did I get that wrong?

I think we’re being led astray as women and mom entrepreneurs. The messaging to simultaneously be authentic, generous, and form relationships is incongruent, fragmented, and antithetical to the undercurrents of the business world. We’re in an awkward sororital blender filled of love for one another, fresh maternal streaks in the “mothering” era of our lives, sprinkled with primal competitive streaks, and doused with more obligation, information, expectation, and opportunity than at any other time in our female history.

The result is that we are playing by some of the rules some of the time, and the rest of the rules when the first set of rules fails us. Internally we recognize we’re switching rulebooks – perhaps from a friend-colleague hybrid role to strictly-business-colleague/ ex-colleague role. But we rationalize the shift in expectations of ourselves by citing a plethora of yet a different set of expectations of the other party. Mom entrepreneurs especially are effectively floating unanchored in an ambience of undefined roles and expectations, with the additional complicating element of time introduced. Who is good for us now, may be replaced by someone else. What was good for us a while ago, isn’t anymore- mirroring the rapid changes in our own families as children grow from babies to teens, and in our bodies as we transform from vessels for baby-making to autonomic women in the driver’s seat of our physical being and minds.

While I wax philosophical, the tears dry. I ponder why, in a world with no guarantees, and plenty of risk, this would hurt. The answer is simple: I cared.

I cared not just for the business disappointment in question, but for the relationship with the other human. I did invest, bond, relate, share, give, trust, and lend myself to the vulnerabilities inherent in forming a hybrid relationship based on both business and personal connection. I am not ashamed that this affected me, and actually embrace that I am a feeling, emotional, and – yes- female being.

I also had passion for my business, so I did actually give a d*mn about the bad news I had just received. Sure we should try our best to detach ourselves emotionally from our business to create a healthy balance, but complete detachment contradicts what the “greats” recount as what made them successful. They cite passion as the secret sauce, and it’s what we all tell newbies to “go find” if they want to start a business.

In walking through this experience I have come to realize that I reject any notion that we should detach from our humanness in business. That is what makes this niche special- that we are moms and entrepreneurs in the same breath. In fact we are these each in the same physical space, in the same armful, in the same desk space, and in the same mental real estate. And, in a crowded landscape of contradictory advice, sensibilities, and modalities in the mom entrepreneur niche in its infancy, I stand by my decision to care. I walk away from this experience wiser and more cautious to protect my interests in the future. However I will continue to operate from a paradigm of belief of the best of humankind. Really, I don’t know another way.

I stand in gratitude for the opportunities with which I continue to be blessed to share, invest, and care in other people. It’s *not* just business. And it *is* OK to cry.

Zahra Al-Harazi’s Inspirational Rise from Immigrant Mom to Acclaimed Creator, Entrepreneur, Mentor, & Philanthropist

Owner & Creative Director of Foundry Communications

"I never once felt that I couldn't do something that I set my mind to do"

There are going to be curveballs.

I had the absolute privilege to sit down with Zahra Al-Harazi, Owner & Creative Director of Foundry Communications.  The day before, we were two of the three panelists asked to speak about Women in Entrepreneurship at the Globe and Mail Small Business Summit in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

I knew I was going to interview Ms. Al-Harazi ahead of the summit appearance, and knew what I was going to ask her.  “What’s on the hearts and mind of our mom entrepreneur audience?” I asked myself. Given her background, I knew the burning question to ask: “How did you overcome the adversity you clearly experienced being an immigrant to North America with no recognized credentials, parenting three children by the time you were 25 years young?”…But of course that was my question for the intelligent, successful, charming woman I just met.

However I quickly realized during the course of the preparation for our speaking engagement that the teachable lesson on adversity we were sure to glean from Zahra Al-Harazi wasn’t to be.  It was somewhere around the point at which she was asked about the hardships of being a female entrepreneur.  She retorted, “Yes things happen that are difficult but that’s not unique to women. That’s just life.  There are going to be curveballs.“

Zahra Al-Harazi was not an entrepreneurial mom who overcame adversity story for one very surprising, and decidedly simple reason: this is a woman who does not see adversity, only opportunity.

No Adversity, Only Opportunity.

Zahra Al-Harazi was born in Yemen to a loving, supportive family and a deeply family-oriented community. However the traditional culture offered little for women who dreamed of career success.  Al-Harazi was genuinely content with the life of a full-time, very young mom three children by the time she turned 25 years old.

Following the promise of new opportunities in Canada, she and her then-husband decided to move to Calgary in 1996, one of the worst winters on record. Accustomed to a different culture, a desert climate, knowing no one, and parenting now school-aged children, Al-Harazi became bored.  However her university credentials were not recognized in Canada.  Her years teaching elementary school and English as a Second Language in Yemen weren’t worth much without the credentials in the competitive oil and gas driven market. Warding off self-doubts in her abilities in her new country, one day Al-Harazi applied and was hired as a salesperson in a clothing store.

They Gave Me a Rule Book, But I Threw It Out and Wrote My Own.

The company handed out a store policy book with recommendations for approaching customers, suggesting merchandise, and closing the sales.  But Al-Harazi quickly learned that her own instincts trumped the book.  “They gave me a rule book, but I threw it out and wrote my own,” she muses.  Instantly she recognized her penchant for selling using her own prescience in sensing whom to approach, learning how to listen to their needs, and authentically delivering the best solution for them.  Al-Harazi found she excelled at the art of customer satisfaction.

Thirsting for knowledge and advancement in her newfound skills, Al-Harazi enrolled in an art design school, still struggling with confidence in her abilities in yet a new frontier.  Quickly the doubts subsided, and she found a sense of ownership in her talents and aptitude in design.  By the fourth year Al-Harazi was altogether the top student in her graduating class, ten years older than most of the other students, half as able to devote time to study as a parent of three, and first to get a job after graduation.  Zahra was going places.

I realized that others appreciated what I brought to the table.

The next two years would find Al-Harazi on a meteoric rise. Spending about one year each in two small design firms, Al-Harazi rose from a junior designer to head designer in two years flat.  “It was a time of huge awareness for me and my own abilities,” Al-Harazi recounts.  “I realized that others appreciated what I brought to the table.”  And she never looked back.

Sensing the time was right she gathered other business partners, set about to buy them out in a strategic multi-year plan, and started Foundry Communications, a boutique communications, marketing, branding company with two co-founders.

In Foundry’s third year, it was named #4 in Profit W100 List of the Top 10 Companies to Watch.  In 2011, the young Foundry Communications made #82 in Profit Magazine’s prestigious list of fastest profit-growing companies run by women.  Additional honors would soon include Al-Harazi’s inclusion in Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 in Calgary designation, and Al-Harazi’s honor by Chatelaine Magazine as Entrepreneur of the Year.

You should do good.

Despite the superfluous trophy cabinet and medal hook Al-Harazi and the Foundry team can boast, Al-Harazi remains grounded in humility, family, and philanthropy.  Renowned for her tireless volunteer hours benefitting women immigrants in her community, vacations with her children to build houses in developing countries, generous devotion to mentorship of fellow entrepreneurs, and her advisory role on several boards, Al-Harazi sees giving back as a way of life.

“Honestly I have not felt once that I couldn’t do something that I set my mind to do,” Al-Harazi gazes thoughtfully, “but I know not everyone is as fortunate. And so I give back. You should do good.”

Al-Harazi has incorporated philanthropy into her business persona, noting, “People see what you are doing, and where you spend your time, and it does make a difference.  It helps them form an opinion about who you are. The time you invest causes people to talk about you,” Al-Harazi explains.  “Like Brett (W. Brett Wilson, friend and fellow successful entrepreneur) says, philanthropy is part of your marketing budget. “  Foundry Communications donates a staggering $100,000 of its time annually in support of non-profit organizations.

Already resolving that this curveball in my interview with Al-Harazi was a serendipitous seed of inspiration, I set out to reach the heart of this entrepreneur with the golden fingers of success.

What really does it for you now?

“Providing a strategic solution that is perfect for a business makes me happy,” Al-Harazi shares. “I hate ‘that’s so pretty’,” her voice rises in offense to the word. “I don’t want to make something ‘pretty,’ I want to create a lasting solution that clients will appreciate 5-10 years down the line.  ‘Pretty’ isn’t the goal.”

Al-Harazi is also immensely proud that Foundry Communications rose from nothing debt-free.  No bank loans, and no big investments leapt the infant firm ahead.  “It’s something I needed to do at the time, for me- to stay debt-free.” However she thinks differently now, and believes that Foundry has proven itself, and is open to new possibilities.

What advice can you offer entrepreneurial moms from your journey?

Believe in yourself.  Al-Harazi says pointedly. “Believe in your strengths. If you don’t believe in yourself, it will shine through.  Have faith in yourself, and others will have faith in you.  You must have confidence in your own abilities.”

Be a part of a community.   Join groups, network, mentor, and give back. Teach your children the value of volunteering.“ Become integral to a community, and it can’t forget you.

Learn how to delegate.  It’s so hard for entrepreneurs to let go of control, but you have to.  Build a great team, and pay them well.  There are parts of my business I should never touch with a 10-foot-pole. But I’m a damn good Creative Director, so that’s what I should do.“

Redefine Adversity: Drink It and Fill It Up Again.  People look at me and say,  ‘Oh my gosh you came to Canada and you didn’t know the culture and you had to go back to school, and there were all these barriers, and you didn’t have this and you didn’t have that… ‘ And I say, ‘Yes! I did (all of that)! And it was FUN!,” Al-Harazi beams. “Not to say that I didn’t have to work my ass off and had to start my homework after little kids were in bed, but those weren’t difficult things because I love my kids and I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work.”

Al-Harazi shared her favorite quote in closing, perhaps in perfect summary of her teachable lesson.  She heard once that the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi was asked, ”Do you view the glass as half full or half empty?” And he quickly quipped, “Who the f*ck cares? Drink it and fill it up again!” ~ Christie Schultz, Founder & CEO of

Follow Zahra: @zahrasays

Follow Foundry Communications:; @foundrysays


MomVentures April 23rd Fusion Event


Monday April 23, 2012

Globe and Mail Small Business Summit

Sneak Peek

A Radio-Meets-Twitter,

Power-Packed Event!

Chat with Summit speakers, the Report on Business Editor, and air your thoughts on the current  and emerging issues facing small business owners.

The Small Business Summit, held in Calgary at the Hotel Arts this Wednesday, April 25th is brought to you by The Globe and Mail’s Report on Small Business in conjunction with Achilles Media, Small Business Summit is a one-day event, geared to entrepreneurs, to kick-start your small or medium enterprise to the next level.

The radio show is hosted by Susan Sohn of Get Real Live, and the Twitter chat is hosted by  Our fusion event gives you the chance to have a sneak peek into this fantastic event and connect with some of the speakers and other attendees, as well as discuss what’s on YOUR mind as a small business owner.  Read the speaker bios here:

Susan Sohn is our vivacious, straight-talk, firecracker host. She is a lifelong entrepreneur, mom of three, children’s book and blog author, speaker, talk-radio host, social media personality, former resident of Asia, Australia, Canada, and the US, and the epicenter of several family-oriented and media concepts: thefamilyroom,, and GetRealLive. Across these, and via her many expert media appearances, Susan communicates her passion: “Building extraordinary families, developing relationships and strengthening the communities we live in.” Susan uses a breadth of life experience, a keen moral compass, and a no-nonsense down-to-earth approach to get to heart of the important issues of our times.

Contact and follow GetRealLive:
Radio show:
GetRealLIve Twitter:

Susan on Twitter:

MomVentures on Twitter:

Globe and Mail on Twitter:

Globe and Mail Report on Business on Twitter:

Globe and Mail Fusion Event

Globe and Mail Fusion Event

Date: Monday April 23, 2012


10-11pm Eastern
9-10pm Central
8-9pm Mountain
7-8pm Pacific

Radio call-in number: 718-508-9042

Twitter chat room URL:

**Listen to the radio show and chat about the show at the same time on Twitter!**

Bring your questions for speakers who will be responding to audience questions live on air as well as in the chat room.

See you then!

Radio Show

To listen to / call into the radio show:

Listen to internet radio with Susan J Sohn on Blog Talk Radio

Twitter Chat

To log into the Twitter chat:
any time during our chat .

[addw2p name=”globesbs12chat”]











EMI Toronto Event – Master Your Brilliance with Carolyn Ellis

Master Your Brilliance with Carolyn Ellis!

Entrepreneurial Moms of Toronto May 2012 Event

Date: Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Time: 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Location: 25 Sheppard Avenue West, Suite 300 Toronto, Ontario

Non-Member Price: $25 in advance, $30 at the door
Member Price: Free!

Speaker: Carolyn Ellis (

Topic:  Master Your Brilliance with Carolyn Ellis

Carolyn Ellis

About Carolyn Ellis:

Carolyn Ellis is the founder of and specializes in helping overwhelmed and frustrated entrepreneurs align their energy, business design and priorities with their true purpose so they can deliver their gifts powerfully and profitably. Carolyn strongly believes that having a six figure-plus business is no fun if you’re maxed out on time—which is why she helps her clients build their brilliant empires with work-life balance and real freedom in mind.

A member of the International Association of Women in Business Coaching, Carolyn is an award-winning author, a certified Money, Marketing & Soul Coach, Money Breakthrough Method coach and the creator of the THRIVE Principles TM. She has trained with some of the world’s greatest transformational and marketing leaders, and has in fact been engaged by many of them to assist their personal clients with their business and coaching needs.

Carolyn also has a graduate degree from Harvard University, and is a Master Integrative Coach and Advanced PSYCH-K Facilitator. She has worked on Wall Street, served as a senior policy advisor in government and was the Director of Development for two of the top independent schools in Canada.


Are you a Member? Register here:

Not a Member yet?

Become a member today:  Join Now!

Not ready to become a member?  You’re still welcome!

Purchase your event ticket by clicking the button below:




Choking on Kid Clutter? Go Ahead and Throw It UP!

Tips on Taming Kids' Room and Maintaining Your Sanity

Choking on Kid Clutter? Go Ahead and Throw It UP!

Last night I gashed my foot open on a Lego.  Even though the playroom is in good condition and it was just an unlucky step, it reminded me just how important it is to keep a handle on kids’ rooms before they get a handle on YOU.

Kid clutter got you feeling a little claustrophobic? 

Try these 5 tips to tame the madness:

  1. Should it be kept? – Wrestling with what to keep for little Johnny’s posterity scrapbook (that you TOTALLY plan to start someday)? Here’s the rule of thumb: if it represents his or her era, usual style at this age, or a special event you can all remember together, it’s in the running.  Only if it can stand the test of time (likely with your modifications) and display nicely, should you keep it.  If it’s a pile of rose petals that are already looking smashed and attracting ants, ditch them.  Make a project of pressing some the next time, label, and laminate or preserve them in wax paper.
  2. Think: dual use –  In a playroom or bedroom, instead of a traditional kids’ table with legs and 4 chairs, consider installing an inexpensive shelf into a wall and tuck bean bags underneath it.  Kids can use the shelf for eating or crafts while sitting on the bean bags, or longterm book or trophy display. Bean bags are also great sleepovers, movie-watching, travel, and versatile storage when not in use.
  3. Throw it UP and tie it DOWN – Think vertical in kids’ rooms and get as much off the floor as possible.  Stuffed animals can be hung from the ceiling in mesh bags, stackable organizers can safely pile those light items such as sticker collections, feathers and puff ball craft supplies, and markers.  Remember to anchor shelves, organizers and anything that kids might climb with inexpensive hooks and anchors from the hardware store to prevent injury.  Creative thought into shifting from horizontal storage to vertical can give you back valuable square footage. Tie down cords for gaming modules, TV’s, laptops, and other modern toys create safety hazards and the illusion of a big mess even when there isn’t one.  Invest in inexpensive rip-ties, clips or bands to get the cords out of eyesight and out of tripping range. Lassoing in those wayward cords can yield lots of usable space you thought you lost.
  4. Repurpose – Did that favorite truck finally break?  In your sweeping spring clean up as you find broken parts that your nostalgic little one doesn’t want to purge, try making art from a few of the pieces that can be displayed.  Broken wheels, dollhouse pieces, and random red and green crafts leftover from the holidays can be creatively fit into a diorama to give to Grandma for Mother’s Day, or fit into a 3-D canvas painting for your family to enjoy for years to come.  Don’t forget that broken crayons can be stripped of their paper wrapping and melted down in silicon cupcake molds, and cooled to create fantastic rainbow-colored, shaped crayons.
  5. Lastly, but often as a last resort, donate it – Kids are often very attached to their special items.  But throw in a special twist and magically giving seems so fun.  Help them make a letter for the child that will receive their old toys.  If you have time, include a photo of your little one or a photo of the family. Have your child write as much of the letter as they can, or draw a picture.  Deliver the toys with your child and let them experience the closure and satisfaction of giving something they once loved.  It will build character and a lasting memory that giving is worthwhile and fun.
Happy spring cleaning!

Forbes Names in Its “Top 10 Entrepreneurial Websites for Women” List

We are thrilled with the recognition from Forbes for not only being one of the top 100 websites for women, but  also one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurial sites for women!

Our recognition:

Full article:

Thank you Meghan Casserly and Forbes!

EMI Toronto Event – Attract Not Attack – a Gentle Way to Get Clients

Attract Not Attack – a Gentle Way to Get Clients

Entrepreneurial Moms of Toronto April 2012 Event

Date: Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Time: 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Location: Yonge and Sheppard area – Toronto, Ontario
(detailed address to follow once registered)

Non-Member Price: $25 in advance, $30 at the door
Member Price: Free!

Speaker: Chala Dincoy  (

Topic:  Attract Not Attack – a Gentle Way to Get Clients

 What business owner doesn’t want to truly understand their client’s needs immediately and deeply? How do you avoid lengthy and costly miscommunications? Why is it that some businesses have the same clients for life?
In this informative and action packed session, you will learn:
 – How to speak to clients from their point of view—not yours.
– How to get into your client’s world and get them to ask to work with you
– What’s the secret to attracting clients instead of chasing them?


About Chala Dincoy:
 Chala is the person you go to if you want to jump quickly to the next level of your business potential. A certified business coach, she cut her corporate teeth as a marketer at companies such as Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Frito Lay,Diageo, and Playtex and lastly BIC Inc. With a lifelong desire to use her corporate experiences to help managers and business professionals to increase their productivity, Chala has a practice supporting business professionals who want to progress further in their goals faster than they would on their own.



Are you a Member? Register here:

Not a Member yet?

Become a member today:  Join Now!

Not ready to become a member?  You’re still welcome!

Purchase your event ticket by clicking the button below:




EMI Toronto Event – Spring Into Action with a Blooming Business Model Tool

Spring Into Action with a Blooming Business Model Tool!

Entrepreneurial Moms of Toronto March 2012 Event

Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Time: 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Location: Yonge and Sheppard area – Toronto, Ontario
(detailed address to follow once registered)

Non-Member Price: $25 in advance, $30 at the door
Non-Member Price: Free!

Speaker: Betty Fiskel (

Topic:  Spring Into Action with a Blooming Business Model Tool!


Are you a Member? Register here:

Not a Member yet? You’re still welcome – please sign up here:

MomVentures March 1st Fusion Event Expert: Melissa Dawn Lierman

Our March 1st MomVentures fusion event features four outstanding leaders in their industries, entrepreneurial moms, and all-around awesome women who will host and panel this dynamic discussion crossing over a live radio show and Twitter chat titled “Pinterest 101”.

We are pleased to introduce you to the Pinterest 101 Fusion Event Expert, Melissa Dawn Lierman, Founder and CEO of TimeOutMom.

From her TimeOutMom bio:

In the past 10 years, Melissa has spoken at more than 300 events to audiences across North America on Social Media, Branding & Marketing, Website Development & Search Engine Optimization.

Melissa specializes in conducting workshops (1 hour, 3 hour, half day, full day) in Twitter, FaceBook, Blogging, and Social Media at conferences and at corporations delivering customized curriculum for specific niches, markets, and clients.

Melissa applies her experience in her day-to-day professional life as the Director of Social Media for Mom It Forward, Premier Fitness Camp, ZarBee’s Natural Health Products, and The Madow Dental Group.

When not public speaking, Melissa’s next greatest love is one-on-one consultations and strategy development with Brands, PR Agencies, Large & Small Businesses, and Bloggers.

Melissa has three children and she is also also a mom blogger at, an avid tweeter@TimeOutMom, and loves to connect with people all over the world via Social Media. You can often find her tweeting on Twitter late into the night – send her a tweet and say Hello!

Contact and follow TimeOutMom:

Contact Melissa Lierman:
Email: timeoutmom [at] gmail [dot] com

MomVentures March 1st Fusion Event Expert: Kim Garst

Our March 1st MomVentures fusion event features four outstanding leaders in their industries, entrepreneurial moms, and all-around awesome women who will host and panel this dynamic discussion crossing over a live radio show and Twitter chat titled “Pinterest 101”.

We are pleased to introduce you to the Pinterest 101 Fusion Event Expert, Kim Garst, CEO of Social Media Branding.

Kim has been a Mompreneur for almost 20 years. Currently she shares her business and marketing savvy through coaching and consulting with clients around the world. Kim specializes in helping you get more sales, more leads and more clients utilizing the power of social media and the Internet as a whole. Her systems are easy to implement and get quick results for small businesses as well as new and established solopreneurs. In just the past nine months Kim has built her second 6-figure income business. Kim’s recent achievements include being named to Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencers.

Contact and follow Social Media Branding:

Contact and follow Kim Garst:
Email: kim [at] kimgarst [dot] com