SORAYA DARABI

Mission-driven Serial Entrepreneur, Investor

She launched her career managing social media and digital strategy at the New York Times and soon after co-founded Foodspotting, which she sold to OpenTable in 2013. More recently, Soraya founded Zady, an e-commerce site for ethically made fashion, and raised a fund (full disclosure: we're one of her investments). Fun fact: Soraya and I once spent several hours at a nightclub in Tianjin dancing to pop songs with amused locals. We've been close ever since.

LEILA JANAH: LET'S START WITH A QUICK INTRODUCTION OF YOURSELF.
SORAYA DARABI: I am a mission-driven serial entrepreneur and investor with big ideas on how we can do well by our planet. I am on the New York board of the Nature Conservancy and a proud member of the YGL network at The World Economic Forum.
L.J.: WHY DO PEOPLE LOOK UP TO YOU?
S.D.: I often receive earnest letters from female entrepreneurs asking how they can bring an idea from notes on a napkin to fruition. It's not easy to respond to each one, but I try, because I so wish someone who had 'laid track' as Shonda Rhimes writes in her book, showed me the ropes early on in my career. Entrepreneurship like everything in life, is one small step at a time, one foot in front of the other.
L.J.: WHAT'S THE MOST EMBARRASSING THING YOU'VE DONE AT WORK?
S.D.: My most embarrassing moment happened during a pitch to a prominent New York VC for the company I co-founded, Zady. Half way through the meeting, we noticed he had fallen asleep. Needless to say, it taught me to make presentations as engaging as possible.
L.J.: WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST REGRET IN LIFE?
S.D.: My biggest regret in life was quitting the piano at age 10. I played well, but I rushed through every song. My teacher eventually asked me to sleep listening to a metronome so I could slow down the pace in my performance. Years later, I find myself rushing to an imaginary finish line, and a few more years of that metronome ticking away could possibly have helped.
L.J.: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF SHOES?
S.D.: I like a good pair of Nisolo smoking shoes, loafers really. You can buy them on Zady.
L.J.: WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR 18-YEAR-OLD SELF IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME?
S.D.: I would tell 18-year-old me to enjoy working as a Hostess at The Conga Club in Minneapolis, and to pick up more salsa skills, because in 3 months your mother will make you quit the job, thinking its too seedy for a nice girl. Dancing is a crucial way to get through the twists and turns of life.
L.J.: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE COMEDIAN?
S.D.: Chris Rock, generally, but especially in an election year. Or David Sedaris over the holidays.
L.J.: WHAT IS YOUR DREAM CAR?
S.D.: I'm a New Yorker. We don't drive!
L.J.: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE LINE FROM A MOVIE?
S.D.: "That'll do, pig. That'll do."
L.J.: WHAT'S YOUR BEST SKINCARE SECRET?
S.D.: I learned early on to stock up on virgin coconut oil. You can condition your hair with it, cook with it. I like to mix some with almond oil, lavender and shea butter - it makes a perfect soothing lotion.
L.J.: WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS?
S.D.: Read so much your eyes hurt. Make sure you love the concept six months in before quitting your job. Hedging doesn't mean you don't believe in your idea, it's simply the best way to ease into your right idea.

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