The founder of Instagram hit Tania’s Teahouse talks resilience, inspirations and the comfort of cafés.
I struggled through a chronic pain condition and autoimmune disorder in university, and I went through a bad phase. I used to go to cafés to escape, and distract myself, and lose myself over a cuppa. I realized that cafés harbour a special energy. I also started getting really into tea. I learned about all the profound, miraculous health benefits that it can have. I learned that happiness is in the little things in life — like your morning cup of tea.
I love reading. I find solace in reading a book, seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, and entering a different world.
JK Rowling has been a huge influence on me. I was a bookworm as a child, and up until university, I would spend each summer re-reading the entire “Harry Potter” series. Not many people know that she originally put JK Rowling — instead of Joanna Kathleen — because her editor feared that boys wouldn’t be interested in her book if they knew it was by a girl! Her story is so inspiring — she was suffering through poverty before the series, and she actually penned her first ideas about the series on a coffee-shop napkin (oh, the magic of café culture!). The love for Harry, the love for the series, is unreal, and I think to have that affect on people is so amazing. And even with her success, she is said to be so down-to-earth and humble.
I’m also super-inspired by Her Excellency, Sara al Madani. She was actually the first person I spoke to about Tania’s Teahouse, and she was unbelievably supportive and helpful. She’s a Boss Babe and started entrepreneurship at such a young age. She’s one of the kindest, most empowering people I’ve ever met, and such a strong pillar in the business community.
People think owning your own business is a glamorous life. It most certainly is not! Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and I’m forever grateful, but it came with blood, sweat, and tears. Especially the tears! It’s unbelievably stressful, time consuming, and soul-wrenching, and is not for the faint-hearted. I’ve faced cyber-bullying, unsolicited advice, criticism, hate messages… Basically you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I love it, but it’s not easy!
I’m proud of myself for having faith in what I believed in. We’ve had amazing coverage, and word has spread so fast. I’m so proud of our team for all of their hard work, and I’m also proud and grateful that I pursued this, even with zero business experience. I’ve grown so much during this journey.
I think my worst habit — which I’ve grown out of now — was taking things personally and not being able to separate my personal and professional lives.
I’m a sensitive person by nature, and any criticisms about the Teahouse, I’d take to heart and feel torn up about. The same with any issues, hiccups, or stressful moments at the café — I’d have panic attacks, and just let them get to me. I was too soft, easily manipulated, and a stress-ball! I had to build up resilience, and not overthink things. I learned to maintain self-respect, kill with kindness, and allowed myself to grow and roll with the punches.
I’ve always been taught that if something’s not meant to be, or if something isn’t good for you, it won’t happen. My mom has always told me to “Leave it in God’s hands.” There’s obviously a lot of uncertainty and risk associated with starting your own business venture and I really think that having faith, being resilient, and not letting hurdles get in the way of keeping your eye on the prize helps you grow and succeed.
I think the worst advice I’ve ever had is “Be fearless.” That’s fundamentally impossible as a human being. You’re just kidding yourself if you think you’re fearless. Fear is what drives you! As an entrepreneur you’re scared as hell of the chance of your business failing, crappy customers, and the day-to-day issues. If you stay deluded and ignore things around you, you’ll be emotionless. Instead learn to handle things, prioritize things, deprioritize other things, filter out negativity and develop the heart and brain to manage things in a healthy manner.
I’ve realized that some people cannot be reasoned with. Instagram is a double-edged sword — most of the time it’s an amazing platform for marketing, but other times it opens you up to negativity, hatred, and abuse. I’ve learned to not let these things get to me and instead to conserve my energy for constructive feedback.
“When you’re out to dinner, see how a guy treats the waiter — not you.” I really belive in that. Kindness really can be hard to find sometimes. In terms of both friendships and relationships it’s super important to surround yourself with people who are genuinely kind and happy for you.
Men who think they are smart are so transparent. I’ve had a lot of guys try to mansplain things to me in professional settings, and it really irritates me. I’m confident, and I think that when you know your self worth and don’t appear meek and soft-spoken, it can really shock them.
Evolutionarily, women are more resilient. We often bear the brunt of handling and managing a plethora of things all at once. Women are stronger than we look, and empathy does not make us weak!