Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Eram Siddiqui is an impressive female entrepreneur in her own right. As the founder of Hudson + Bleeker, she has had a fascinating rise to the top, building her brand of travel bags and accessories to international success, as the line is currently carried in over 400 stories worldwide. Along the way she has never lost sight of her vision to give back, committing to providing entrepreneurial opportunities to women across the world - and providing health supplies to mothers in need in her own community in Queens. We sat down for a chat with Eram to talk about the power of saying no, how to trust your intuition in business and what matters to her most this year.
"What is your purpose in life?" Find and build community. Whether it is as CEO of Hudson+Bleecker, as a mom or board member of Sundara, finding and building community, connecting folks together to find solutions and help one another is profoundly fulfilling and brings me the greatest sense of purpose.
"What is something most people don’t know about you - but should if they really want to understand you?" Family always comes first.
"What’s the most thought-provoking encounter that you’ve been in?" The power of saying no. I recently walked away from a 6 figure partnership with a very large, highly sought after retailer. It took me 4 years, dozens of meetings and cross country flights to close this deal. I committed years to building a relationship with this retailer, on the hopes of landing this deal -- one that I thought would be a deal of a lifetime and a marker of my success. When the coronavirus hit the U.S. in March, as an organization we were already dealing with fallout and supply chain delays since January. COVID-19 heavily impacted the safe return of employees to our factory as well as sourcing and production. Our production timelines were pushed back and almost all of our retail partners understood this and worked with us in good faith. Except for this one. They demanded that we meet pre-Covid delivery schedules and were not interested in supporting our efforts. I was actually told by one of their VPs that despite the global pandemic, it was "business as usual". Once I realized that this retailer was not a partner whose culture and ethos aligned with ours, I walked away from a deal that would have been the highest in annual gross revenue in the history of our brand and I don't feel bad about it all. It was one of the smartest decisions I have ever made.
"What has been one of the biggest highlights of your life?" The biggest high and the greatest challenge of my life has been launching and scaling Hudson+Bleecker, a womens travel and lifestyle accessories brand. In 8 years, I have built a 7 figure premium accessories brand with only seed investment. The second and equally impactful highlight of my life has been overcoming infertility and giving birth to my two children, who are my world.
"Can you tell us about a particular hard time or low moment?" If I am being honest, I am living it. I gave birth to my second child in March as the world was closing down due to the Coronavirus. I welcomed a new baby, pivoted my business overnight and have been effectively caring for two children 24 hours a day with the help of my husband while running a business that was heavily impacted due to the pandemic. What has gotten me through this time is the self realization that so many founders, particularly women and moms like me are also barely surviving through these challenging times and facing the same hurdles as me. But, there is a silver lining to the pandemic. The silver lining is that I am taking the opportunity to make smarter decisions, muting the noise and valuing the power of saying no. With a limited schedule and children to care for, my time is incredibly valuable so prioritizing "what matters" has taken on new meaning.
"What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten in your career?" Know and understand your worth. Imposter syndrome is very real especially in women. It is very easy to doubt oneself, especially during challenging times. My husband has been my biggest cheerleader and I'm incredibly grateful for his unwavering support. However, while I value his support, his advice is what resonates with me daily. He has helped me understand my worth, celebrate the wins and has empowered me personally and professionally to unabashedly own it .
"What’s something that you wish you could tell the younger version of yourself?" Trust your intuition. It will never let you down. Another piece of advice is that nothing is ever a mistake, it is a learning opportunity. Very cliche, I know but incredibly valuable advice. Once I learned to believe and lead with these two convictions, I was able to take fear out of the equation, trust my intuition and take risks, learn and grow personally and professionally.
"Who do you admire and look up to, and why?" Mothers. Both working moms and stay at home moms. I never understood the power of moms until I became one. Being a mom is the most thankless job, the hardest job (harder than running a business) and the least supported role in the United States. Mothers are strong, resourceful and the ultimate multi-taskers. I often joke that we are faster than Google in our resourcefulness. We make sure everyone is fed, bathed and clothed and address everyones physical and emotional needs before our own. Some of us run businesses large and small, we are leaders at home and in the work place. I celebrate, admire and applaud every mother, particularly mothers in the United States as the stacks against are high. We are more often than not overlooked as new hires, passed over for promotions and are stigmatized for being mothers. I admire and tremendously respect moms like Sarah Lux Lee of Mindr and Katya Libin and Amri Kibbler of Heymama who are tirelessly working to support mothers through community engagement, workplace initiatives, legislation and education. And lets not forget Sundara, who is empowering mothers in developing countries through employment opportunities and education to lift them and their families out of poverty.
"What do you like the most about being involved in Sundara?" Community and mission. What has always drawn me to Sundara is the organizations mission of providing education and access to clean hygiene and jobs in developing countries. At the heart of Sundara's mission is community. Being a member of this community has been incredibly rewarding and insightful. Erin is a thoughtful leader who is always bringing innovative solutions and ideas to the table to help propel Sundaras mission. I am most excited about RISE as it empowers and supports female entrepreneurs.
"Why is RISE by Sundara important to you?" Being a founder can be a very lonely and isolating journey, especially for female founders. Having a team to lean on for guidance, strategic and financial support is invaluable as you launch a new venture. As a female founder, RISE is so important to me as it is a platform for me to help and advise other female founders.
"Summarize your life motto in one sentence."
Don't wait for good things to happen to you. Make them happen.