Female Entrepreneur: Zeenia Master | Founder, Xenia Hospitality Solutions
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently
Being hospitality professional with degrees from Switzerland and London, I have climbed up the ladder from waitress to manager by the time I left my last remunerated job. I have worked in London, Dubai, Kuwait for international brands like Hyatt, Sofitel, Shangri – La, Hotel Missoni and the Landmark London. With my expertise in food and beverages I have recently discovered a passion for event design and production. Combining my two loves of being a restaurateur and an event planner, my company Xenia Hospitality Solutions now provides clientele a complete 360-degree service solution for their every single event requirement. This venture landed wedding events in the Turf Club, NSCI etc.
With this business I realized that there are a lot of people looking to host small parties for 50 to 100 people but no venue to do so especially in South Mumbai. Hence, Yiamas: The Experimental Space was born. I am planning on turning Yiamas into a cultural hub where people feel comfortable in hosting anything from a string quartet to a private wedding or sangeet.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs. It only seemed natural that I would one day start my own venture, as I wasn’t interested in the logistics industry. I remember reading the book Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer and that actually was on reason why I started thinking about the hospitality industry in the first place. The more I researched the more I fell in love. First day of college in Switzerland my academic said “There is beauty and grace in what we do. It’s like you are on stage and everyone is enjoying the show.” I was sold!
What are the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
Greatest Challenge was breaking in a market with immense competition and where everyone thinks they are event planner. I cannot begin to tell you the amount of people I have met that will turn around and say “We have planned a lot of events.” Not realising they have still outsourced it to professionals like me for execution. In a country where everyone gets involved in a wedding getting people to trust that you will do an equally good job if not better is tough.
Greatest Reward was on Feb 15th this year when I opened my first banquet space. For a person that has been waiting to put her name on a door since she was 13 this day left me smiling from ear to ear.
What motivational tips can you give about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?
I strongly believe in that being safe is the riskiest thing you can do because society has evolved so much and there is so much more out there. Do something that scares you and makes you anxious. Because that is something worth trying, as that fear will force you to create art and who doesn’t want to buy art.
Poke the box a little you will be amazed to see what you can achieve if you push yourself out of your comfort zone just a little every day.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
Finding quality vendors that provide you with good customer service and products. What lands up happening since you are a lady and you are a start up the vendors think you aren’t serious. Often times your career is considered a “hobby” rather than an actual business venture. And gods forbid you come from a family of means then it is guaranteed that they will not take you seriously. I have had to keep four vendors on stand up in my initial project days.
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
I was blessed to have my father as my mentor. He is a beacon of light for me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for his guidance. Even after everything he has achieved he still has the same level of gusto in every project. Even in Yiamas he has taken a very keen interest coming to site every week to ensure we were on schedule. He helped me avoid a lot of small faux pas, which would have cost me a lot.
What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?
Someone once told me that your “Net worth” is only as large as your “Network”.
As a business owner, most of the times people will give you business because they know you. The more people know you or rather the more popular you become the more people want to be associated with you. Its uncomfortable to network at events alone which is why I always try and bring someone with me.
What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?
Find a new project as that expands your services and helps you put more feathers in your cap.
Be present on as many portals as possible within your trade. Visibility helps a lot.
Set Targets and divide them within your company that way everyone is on the ball to bring in business.
Keep a work journal. Every new idea you have write it down. I guarantee you every one of those ideas helps.
What does the future hold for you?
Having an international presence for sure in the near future. Expansion in a few more verticals like a café etc. is on the cards. Also, becoming a personality within the wedding planning industry, kind of like a Martha Stewart but for events.