Sahar Hashemi Finds Purpose in Work

June 15, 2017

Sahar Hashemi

We can't wait to hear more from Sahar Hashemi at the 2017 Simmons International Leadership Conference!

Entrepreneur and thought leader Sahar Hashemi co-founded Coffee Republic, the UK's first US-style coffee bar, and built the company into one of the country's most high-profile brands.

How does a sense of purpose inform your work? 

Today it really has to be about purpose – for all of us. It used to be that there was work and there was the rest of life. You worked for the paycheck and that was separated from your purpose, which was typically outside of work and not central to it. But I think what’s happening more now is that people are successfully making what’s important to them core to what they do. The people who really succeed are combining their day job with their purpose. It’s the plus side of work encroaching on our lives, on more of a 24/7 basis. It’s much more important to know what drives you and to make that the thing you do in work and life.

What is the most daring move you’ve made in your career?

When I left Coffee Republic I had a bit of a gap in my life and was deciding to write my book “Anyone Can Do It” about my experiences founding and building Coffee Republic. People warned me that I might fail – I remember one friend saying I might “ruin the whole thing” by writing the book. I think what she meant was that I might diminish my success if the book failed – if I failed. She reminded me that I didn’t know how to write. And I certainly didn’t! So, doing the book was brave. 

But I try to do something daring every day. I’ve found recently that I got into a bit of a comfort zone with all the consulting and speaking that I do, so I’ve just taken on a job co-chairing the government task force here [UK]. This is very much out of my comfort zone. I’m terrified but it excites me enormously and it’s given me enormous energy. Very quickly things that are daring become part of you so you have to introduce new things that are out of your comfort zone.

What’s the best piece of career advice that you’ve got along the way?

"Do something you enjoy.” That’s smart because by definition the stuff you enjoy is the stuff you’re good at, and when you enjoy it, it comes naturally. My belief is that every single person’s got one area that is their reservoir of talent, everyone’s got one little patch of something. Sadly, some people do go through life not knowing what that is, never discovering it. The best signal of that something is when you so engrossed in doing it that the time flies! That thing you’re good at, I think that is your destiny. That brings me back to purpose; it’s a guiding light you find within.

Is there a female leader whom you most admire? 

I admire everyone! I read a lot of business biographies, always taking away insights and tips. I’m so thankful that we now have so many role models and access to stories of how people are getting on doing something they love; doing the daring stuff the whole time. The piece of advice that I’d give is to make sure that you’re always reinventing yourself because the world is changing. What we liked five years ago we don’t like anymore, so it’s just constantly looking at it with an empty sheet and going back to the drawing board and thinking, “What is it I love doing now? What do I want to do more of?” Never thinking “I’m there."

If you could change one way in which women support other women what would that be?

I think through sharing their stories and sharing their difficulties and not glossing over what issues or insecurities they’ve had; sharing the humanness of their own experience. Being genuine about that is really important, and women are very good at sharing.

If you could sit down and dine with anyone, past or present, who would you want that to be and what would you ask them?

I lost my mother eight years ago, and I would want most to dine with her because she’s always been my mentor. I would love to have her back. I want to tell her what’s going on, and for her to still be my sounding board. There’s no one like her.