Women in business are on the rise. Soulaima Gourani is a lecturer, corporate advisor, and author. In 2012 she was announced as one of the Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum. In 2013 she was announced as one of the greatest thinkers in the Nordic by Nordic Business Forum. And in 2014 chosen as one of the “40 under 40” European young leaders. She was elected as a TED mentor in 2016.
We had a chance to interview Soulaima and asked about her story, how she started her business and the future of TradeConductor.
Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
I was fired from my job while I was three months pregnant. I only had two weeks of leave. I did not throw in the towel. I never ever gave up, so I decided to start my own business. I also started my own business because of my need for personal and professional freedom. I needed to create a sense of control over my own life. I never wanted to get fired again and have another organization take control of my life. I’ve also always hated organizations that are too “structured.” As a result that led me to start my own business and co-write the bestseller, “Unboss”, because I felt like there was a need for organizations that were more independent and “free-spirited”.
How did you come up with your business name?
TRADECONDUCTOR – I came up with the name because CONDUCTOR means either a person who directs the performance of an orchestra or choir. Conductors are also the materials that permit electrons to flow freely. So, therefore I decided to start a business that “open doors,” trade, negotiate and close contracts on behalf of nations, companies or people – so I combined trade with conductor and that is how TRADECONDUCTOR.com was born.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
Tradeconductor.com connects manufacturers of products/services to distributors or end users. A lot of great minds have amazing products and ideas but not the right (global) network. I have a fantastic network all over the world. For almost 20 years I have been traveling the globe. I have connections in most countries. I help my clients navigate their ideas and products into the world. I am a global citizen, and I understand the global marketplace. Did you know that cultural barriers or lack of the right professional relations make global trade a challenge for most companies? When it comes to international trade and business, it’s critically important that you place it in the hands of a professional that has the best interests. Since 1999 I have worked in every aspect of the import/export arena gaining extensive experience with various trade relations and regulations, utilizing my vast knowledge and experience in sales, marketing, and strategic networking. I am a business agent with ties all over the world and in many different industries. I connect people and business from around the world. Remember, today you can get access to any product, service or even person in the world!
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
My global network, for sure. I work and travel in more than 35 countries. My personal and cultural understanding and my skills within sales and deal-making. I’ve had a total of more than 1000 happy clients. I have been an immigrant in four countries now. Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years? Growing. Opening offices all over the USA. I opened my office in Copenhagen in 2007, Austin, TX in 2015, and in 2018 I will be opening my next office in Palo Alto.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Learn money and invest in yourself. Implement changes in your life when you can, and not when you have to do it!Some time ago, I was in Stockholm and gave a talk about careers to some incredible mid-level female managers in the international investment business sectors. I looked around the room and opened my lecture by saying, “Look at all of you. I think that I will start with the word ‘investment.’ You want to reach the next level, but what is your investment account? How much money have you put aside for this?” They did not answer. “No, because you are probably counting on your boss to come up with an education plan, right? When I look around the room and compute how much all your bags cost, I realize there is more money for education here than the whole company has.” Then they laughed. But I simply do not get how they could use their money for something such as bags when they are currently not where they want to be in their lives. In my opinion, that is entirely incomprehensible. Spend money wisely, invest in yourself. Spend money on travel, books, educators, mentors, health and mental health. What you put into your head no one can steal from you. Don’t wait for changes to come.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
“There is no future in any job. The future lies in the person who holds the job.” George W. Crane. You are on your own! Take that responsibility seriously. One of the prerequisites in taking control of your life is your willingness to make an effort and not point to your lack of the right education, strange name, your kids, ethnic background, childhood, gender, age, past failures, or limited network as excuses for not having an exciting, meaningful, challenging and exciting work and life. I don’t say this because I only want you to be happy, healthy and wealthy but also because 60% of the jobs ten years from now has not been invented yet. You cannot look for your next job; you must create it! Promise yourself that you will be faithful to your goals. As one person in my network says, “If you do not have your own dreams and goals, then you have to content yourself with being a resource that others can use to achieve their dreams and goals.”
No dreams are too big, and the only person who limits them is you. Often the limitations only exist in your own thoughts. Question your level of ambition and decide on your valuation and values. A lot of people drop their jaw when I tell them that I have paid for most of my MBA myself, which is probably around 50,000 USD. I spend a lot of money on education at Yale, ISB India, Harvard, Kennedy University, INCAE, Stanford University and so on and on study trips, as well as on building and investing in networks in foreign countries. As much as 70% of everything that I own is reinvested in new projects that can lead me to the “next level.”
Anything else additional you want to tell our readers?
Yes, my vision is to change the world to a better more tolerant place through trade, business, and via relations between countries and people. I believe that international trade can change the world for the better. I am the founder of Tradeconductor.com – World peace through trade and CEO of GetCapitalAid.