Umaimah Mendhro: small town roots to global e-commerce revolution

"We believe it's time to rebuild commerce—for the mindful, global citizens of the modern world." Such is the VIDA's motto. VIDA moves commerce towards equity, supporting global makers in the context of responsible consumption. Read about Umaimah Mendhro's inspiration here!

new-logoWhat do you love about being an entrepreneur?

I love that I can build something never been built before. I love that there’s no rulebook. I love getting to work with the insanely talented and committed people I work with—in our extended network of designers, suppliers, vendors, and team members. I love making the airplane while being in mid-air!

Why did you start VIDA?

I founded VIDA because I saw how hundreds of millions of creatives from all parts of the world — with incredible undiscovered talent — remain unable to realize their vision and convert their art into products. I wanted to create a commerce platform that would not only connect artist and designers with manufacturing resources and conscious consumers, but help give back to those who create our products with their hands by giving them the gift of education.

Founder Umaimah Mendhro of VIDA and family

What did you eat for breakfast today?

Nonfat latte with two Splendas.

What do you do for a workout?

I walk the factory floors in Pakistan. Run on the beach in San Francisco. Or use the treadmill with Netflix documentaries wherever home is at the moment.

Founder Umaimah Mendhro's phone home screen

What’s on your phone’s home screen?

Path for my tens of thousands of family pictures—shared with family only. A folder for my 5-year-old. Apps including Google Analytics, Shopify, Mailchimp, Silicon Valley Bank to keep pulse on the business. WhatsApp to communicate directly with our factories overseas. Slack and Skype to communicate with our team. Asana and Any.DO for my to-do’s. Sunrise for my calendar. Waze to get me to where I need to be, the fastest that I can get there.

Founder Umaimah Mendhro of VIDA and family

What’s your “entrepreneurial superpower”?

Perseverance. Coming from a very small village in Pakistan, and living in exile in the Middle East with no schools around as I grew up, I learned to craft my own dreams, set my own path, and stay determined and resilient, no matter how big the setbacks. I’ve been knocked down a hundred times over in life—and (almost) every time, I gain more drive and strength to turn the challenges into an opportunity to create something even more beautiful and amazing.

Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now?

I admire entrepreneurs and businesses who have shown us the power of AND—questioning all running assumptions. I love how Warby Parker glasses are gorgeous designs AND a fraction of the market price AND enable us to give a pair to someone in need for every pair we buy. And I admire entrepreneurs, and people, who are brutally honest with themselves and with others. Who are speaking up—to help rather than boast—and reaching out.

I am inspired by guts and smarts. A new way of doing something that questions everything done before in that space. I love it when the sum becomes bigger than its parts. There’s something magical and absolutely beautiful about that.

Founder Umaimah Mendhro of VIDA with co-worker

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur while also being female?

Today, there are so many untapped businesses where the primary customers and constituents are women. Women control 80%+ of household spending and dominate social media. A female entrepreneur can inherently understand gaps and needs for the female customer base and chase after major business opportunities. Additionally, we are more supportive than ever before of female entrepreneurs and business women, e.g., with female-founder focused investment funds.

And the worst?

We still have biases against women leaders who we tend to stereotype women as either too bossy or too soft.

Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs?

There are more variables at play here than gender differences—specifically personality characteristics are much higher indicators of differences between any two entrepreneurs than simply gender. Having said that, I think women tend to be more self-critical, less confident, more analytical and exhaustive, and a lot more hard working. When not in check, these factors can work to the detriment of female entrepreneurs. While the entrepreneur down the street forges ahead with a half-baked idea and a ton of confidence to make it a success, atop a grand even if incomplete vision, the female entrepreneurs can be left behind.

What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?

“It doesn’t get any easier. You just get better at it.” Passed along by a fellow-founder whose mentor told her so, about his experience building a multimillion dollar company.

Founder Umaimah Mendhro of VIDA

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