Celebrating International Women’s Day with our Co-Founder and CEO Hasna Kourda
words by Hasna
March 8, 2023
We’re here to celebrate International Women’s Day with our co-founder and CEO, Hasna Kourda. With her innovative approach to reducing waste in the fashion industry, she’s making strides towards a more sustainable fashion future – and we can’t wait to hear all about it!
Do you think being a female CEO has impacted your experience of entrepreneurship?
Obviously I only have the experience of being a female CEO, but what I do see when comparing myself to male CEOs is they have easier access to resources, funding and opportunities. As a female CEO I have had to work harder and prove myself more than my male counterparts. I have noticed that I am treated differently in meetings depending on if I have Mehdi (our co-founder and CTO), when he is in meetings I feel that I am being taken more seriously. It can be very frustrating but I have learnt to use this to my advantage!
There have been many situations in my business career where I have been the only woman in the room. What I like to do in these situations is to observe the interactions and exchanges of power between people. After doing this I have a good understanding of the different hierarchies at play and then I only address the person who has the decision making power. Being a woman in a room full of men allows you an invisibility which gives you space to observe first and then to take action. It is often not so much about fighting to share your voice and more about turning being underestimated into making the largest possible impact.
Who is your ultimate female role model?
This depends on what topic, when thinking about leadership and resilience I really love what Natalie Massenet has done in launching Net-a-Porter and beyond. She launched a whole new business model very early in the development of luxury e-commerce. Twenty years ago when you think about luxury fashion it was very secretive, it was not democratised and the prices of items were not readily available. Natalie revolutionised the luxury space and made items available online for everyone to see and purchase. Stores and brands no longer had the power to select their customers. I find what she does is incredible. Now she leads a VC and invests in other female founders, I love that!
From a personal level, my mother and my grandmother and all the women in my family are incredible role models. They have all been pioneers of circularity, but especially my grandmother. She is an incredibly resourceful and committed woman. My grandmother and the upcycled carpet she made from recycled and repurposed materials were a huge inspiration for the circular values inherent to Save Your Wardrobe. My grandmother is very value oriented and she has been amazing at passing on her knowledge to her children and grandchildren.
What advice would you give to an aspiring female founder or any other women trying to make their way in business?
Resilience persistence are crucial, but also it is important to be agile and adaptable. In the current climate it is essential to be able to adapt to market changes. We are in a moment of crisis in the UK so it is more important than ever to know how to rebound and pivot if necessary.
Clarity of vision is also very important as it allows you to be more resourceful in your business endeavours. When it comes to VC funding women do not even get 2% of the total funding available despite evidence that female leaders are much more resourceful and are better at optimising every penny of their funding to drive results.
How do you strike a balance between personal life and your business?
It is super difficult, you can’t be perfect on all fronts and you can’t be everywhere all at once. Some things just have to give. For me it is very important that I dedicate full attention to my kids and my family when I am at home.
It is also absolutely crucial that you look after your mental health. It gives you more stamina to be able to continue, be resilient, get up after challenges or when things don’t work and be more creative.
What do you envisage for the future of female leadership?
The future of female leadership is built with students. When I was in high school one of our guidance counsellors came to me and said ‘well, why don’t you become a teacher so that you enjoy the holidays and you can spend time with your husband and your children.’ I was 14 at the time. It is important that young girls are uplifted and inspired as it can have a huge impact on their confidence and their aspirations for leadership roles.
Empowering young girls at the educational level is essential for the future of female leadership. High school is crucial as well as mentorship from family, friends and teachers.