Sana, before getting to know your founder journey let’s chat about you. What were some of the challenges which shaped you growing up?
As a first generation American, it was very difficult for me to feel like I belonged. My parents tried to push their culture onto us when we were younger, but I didn’t relate to it. I also didn’t completely understand American culture because I didn’t get to live it to the fullest. My parents were very strict and religious, so I was never allowed to go to school dances or the mall with my friends. They always said “School is for friends, home is for family.” So I had to create my own little social world on the internet. I remember using chat rooms and tumblr & Xanga to find people to connect with.
Ah interesting – an early appreciation for how you could network online! What was your career journey like? Did you always have an ambition to found your own venture?
I loved working for myself at a very young age, so I always knew I was going to build something one day. I remember when I was 13 years old, one day I was hanging out at my dad’s gas station like we always did. My siblings would raid all the candy – and I used to run to the cash register to help customers. During college, my parents owned a restaurant and I worked there every single weekend. I loved it! I quickly started taking on catering clients for weddings and met so many wedding vendors that when I graduated, I decided to start my own wedding planning business. I ran it for 4 years until I got married and moved to New York City. Wedding planning was so much fun, but it wasn’t my passion. After organising so many weddings, I just couldn’t justify spending so much money on one day so my husband and I basically eloped in Mexico!
I wanted to build something bigger than myself, but I didn’t have the experience. So I applied to a million startups and finally landed my first full time job as an Office Manager at a tech startup in NYC. I learned so much about bureaucracy and not ruffling feathers with all of my big ideas. I hated it! After 5 years, I had a 6-figure salary, a double story condo in Brooklyn, a BMW, and all the things I thought I wanted, but I was absolutely miserable and so, I quit.
“After 5 years, I had a 6-figure salary, a double story condo in Brooklyn, a BMW, and all the things I thought I wanted, but I was absolutely miserable and so, I quit.”
My husband was able to work remotely, so we decided to sell all of our things except for whatever fit into one carry on and a backpack. We booked a house in Mexico for a month, with no further plans and just started traveling the world. It was the most life changing year of my life.
All of those experiences then gave me a clear vision for what I wanted to do next which is where Jet Black Social Club started to form.
What was the inception moment for that? Was there a singular moment?
Ah, yes and no. Something started brewing when I was traveling. We met so many amazing locals & expats through facebook groups to search for things to do beyond the tourist attractions. I became hooked with having great conversations with strangers and hearing their stories. It reminded me of my early highschool years when I tried to find a community. It reminded me that connecting with people is so amazing and energizing. I knew I had to create a way for people to connect on a deeper level.
After too many margaritas on Cinco de Mayo during covid, I finally decided to get out of my own head and just go for it! So I built the website, social media channels and started to reach out to my network for market research!
“After too many margaritas on Cinco de Mayo during covid, I finally decided to get out of my own head and just go for it!”
BAM! And did you bootstrap or explore funding for any initial start-up costs?
I’ve bootstrapped the whole way! Trying to be extremely mindful and intentional with my spending so I can build with purpose and intention. I thought about crowdfunding, but I don’t want to give memberships away to people just because they gave us money. It’s extremely important for me to make sure I vet out every person prior to joining the club to ensure it stays a safe place for anyone who needs one!
In the chaos of the past year, what has been a big win for you or a nice moment of encouragement?
The first time I received a message from a stranger telling me that I inspired them to chase their dreams and become an entrepreneur was the first time I finally felt like I was living my purpose. I’m not motivated by money or success. I want to build something bigger than myself and help people. Whether that means helping people feel less lonely as members in the club, or inspiring people to be unapologetically themselves and chase their dreams. I never had someone to look up to and that’s why I got stuck in the corporate world for a little while. But I’m so glad I took that leap of faith to carve my own path now!
What have been the most helpful or constructive things which you’d want to pass on to other women thinking about starting out?
The main reason it took me so long to own my purpose is because of lack of confidence. I realised that I’ll always have my moments that I’m unclear about why I’m doing this, but journaling helps me come back to my “Why” which builds up my confidence again. When you journal, ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” “What is my purpose?” “What do I want my legacy to be?” just one question, 10 minutes a day. It has been the biggest self esteem boost that I needed to realign with myself.
Are there any particular entrepreneurs or founders who inspire you?
Ooh yes. One entrepreneur in particular that really stands out to me is Jaime Schmidt. She founded Schmidt Naturals at 31 years old as a mother of a newborn, and sold it for 9 figures 7 years later. Her book Supermaker is extremely inspiring for anyone who feels a lack of confidence or thinks they need support before they become an entrepreneur. She’s the definition of “don’t listen to anyone but yourself”.
Love it! Aside from Supermaker, are there any other books you’d recommend?
I’d also recommend Stillness is the Key. It’s full of amazing anecdotes to help you meditate, journal and align with your spirit, mind and body. But it isn’t the typical stuffy story. It’s extremely easy to read and very interesting.
And finally, what’s one thing you’ve brought into your life this year which has improved it?
I started mediation in 2021 and it has honestly changed my life already. I’m a newbie so guided meditations are all I can do – so far! I always tried it and hated it before because I just couldn’t understand the purpose. But after feeling like I was all over the place with starting my business, I really became desperate to find some stillness. Luckily I checked out the Headspace Netflix special and became hooked! It’s amazing how much clarity 10 minutes of silence can bring you. It’s helped me see my past, acknowledge it and understand it better so that I don’t feel like I’m pulling kilos of baggage with me everywhere I go. I feel light and at peace with so much! Try it! =)
“It’s amazing how much clarity 10 minutes of silence can bring you. It’s helped me see my past, acknowledge it and understand it better so that I don’t feel like I’m pulling kilos of baggage with me everywhere I go.”
Jet Black Social Club is currently based in New York but will be expanding to London in 2022. For any questions on the network, you can find more info and connect with Sana Akhand via their Website.