Sania Khiljee has a rare hustle mentality.
It's one thing to start a company, but to start, scale, and manage three is an incredible feat.
Sania never had an official job. It was easier because her family is entrepreneurial. Seeing a father who right out of college started his own business encouraged her to do the same. To succeed, she took her ability to thrive in school because she loved learning and applied it to her tenacity of solving problems.
That's why when she left college, she jumped into running a company, a franchise in Texas called Kids ‘R” Kids.
It hit seven figures within its first two years. She was only 23. When she turned 25, she got an itch to create something from scratch. To prove it to herself.
It was time to give herself that challenge.
When launching a franchise, management skills are critical. You have the brand name, you just need to ensure the right people are leading the charge.
"At my preschool franchise, the top management is my Center Director. If that person is not strong everything else will collapse underneath that. I've got assistant managers, curriculum managers, lead teachers, and assistant teachers.
I don't do any of the hirings for the teachers.
I just hire my management team.
With my top management, a lot of my focus is making sure that they're trained that they're excelling at their goals. Now that I've hired a good team I can disappear for probably three weeks or a month and it would be okay. So much of starting the business is ensuring the right people are in the right place. If that's the case, then everything comes together."
There's a craze in the business world and it's for subscription model startups. it's simple: more predictability; better margins. Sania realized this and decided to take the plunge.
"So I got this idea of a subscription box for baby brain development. My husband and I bootstrapped that business with about $10,000 as an experiment. I've never been in a product business. I've always been in service and that one was exciting because it got a lot of press early on. Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine featured it, but it didn’t translate to sales.
However, we mastered social media with that business. All of our business primarily came from Facebook and Instagram. Eventually, we scaled that up to over a six-figure business in about a year.
I learned that subscription is the fastest way to make a lot of money. So all three of my businesses have some component of subscription. The preschool model - they pay every week for their kids to attend. And social media is a lot of retainer work.
The business subscription box grew fast because I wasn't just selling a one-time product. I would get you hooked to the product and - hopefully - get you on for, at least, a year. I know subscription boxes are on the rise and people are getting in with every niche. It's okay if there's a lot of competition. People will fall in love with the way that your marketing is curated.
The number one factor to keep in mind with the subscription box business is you must make sure that you are over delivering. You must make sure your customers are happy. Their lifetime value can be dramatically altered by their happiness in their first month or two.
Everywhere you went there were boxes. It was exciting to see how much product comes in and out every month. In that business, I had a doctor that I was partnered with, a psychologist who helped me create the curriculum. That was a huge learning lesson - a takeaway for anyone who’s reading is you don't have to be an expert in every business you go into.
For example, I am not an expert in writing curriculum about baby brains. However, I partnered with someone who was and we worked it out. She wasn't on salary and got a percentage of equity.
You don't have to go into business and do everything. I don't know how to teach kids. My family just started a health care clinic. We don’t have medical degrees. If we hire the right people and we learn the business part, we’ll succeed.
At the tail end of the subscription business, I had several herniated discs in my spine. The challenge became I was managing three businesses from the franchise to a subscription box to my family business. It was brutal.
And I was a newlywed in my first year.
The physical pain coupled with the stress and never sleeping, always hustling, had also caused a panic disorder to develop. It feels like a heart attack and I was having three of those a week.
Moving in with someone for the first time to having to manage a household - there was no room to breathe. With a subscription, you put one product out, then you put another product out. There are such tight deadlines and my health completely collapsed.
Some people thrive in that situation. I'm open and transparent when I say it was difficult for us to found a company as a married couple because it was growing so fast. We were working all the time. Our house turned into a warehouse.
It doesn’t matter if you’re running million-dollar businesses. I was in a complete nightmare state with my physical body and health. It got so bad that I had to sell the subscription business.
I'm blessed that an offer came right when we needed it most. I may have killed myself trying to keep going. It took a couple months to recuperate. So my spine is back in order with lots of physical therapy. Now I’m rock climbing to stay healthy."
Once you've done it a couple times, there's room to help others. That's what Sania saw in her social media consultancy. She realized there were so many people who didn't know where to start that they could use a nudge in the right direction.
"I just launched another business about social media training because that's the main takeaway from the subscription business - the importance of social media for entrepreneurs.
Across businesses today, I manage about 120 employees roughly and that’s not easy.
There’s a lot of fist bumping.
The way that it comes together is that you have to have good top management in place. Ideally, you want to step away from your business and have it run without you.
For my social media business, I've got contractors for everything. People come to me for support in web development, logo design, and Facebook ads. They want Instagram management of their accounts and I direct them to the right people. I've got partnerships in place and I hold those companies and contractors accountable.
I do have a partner, an influencer with 50% in the business. He has a network of about 3 million plus followers on social media. The four parts of my business, include:
#1 Playing a Salesperson
Because the company is so new, I’m playing the role of a salesperson. I'm bringing in the business.
#2 Always Learning
The second part is also putting about an hour a day into learning something new because if I don't stay sharp, the people that are following me will not get the best content.
#3 Creating and Distributing Content Every Day
The second part is that I create content every day and I post content every day - everything from Facebook to LinkedIn to blogging.
#4 Service Quality Rules All
The last part is servicing clients - making sure that they're happy with the current contractors.
I take on the role of project manager to make sure everything's running. I'll hire someone to do all of these tasks for me. What I love about the business is that you can't automate a brand.
It still has to be you.
When you see Gary Vee still making his videos, you realize he still creates a lot of his content.
Social media is where my heart and soul is. Even if it takes two to three hours a day, I’ll commit to that for the rest of my life because that's where I want my legacy to be."
Sania notes that this was the hardest part about running a business. She learned a lot from her parents and realized the value in their wisdom once she experienced it herself.
"My husband is a geophysicist by profession and he's very analytical. I'm a lot more all over the place, but things get done. I've never been in a corporate environment. We have a different dynamic as co-founders and that’s what was hard for us in this process. We hated working together. And ultimately, that was one of the reasons for having panic attacks. It got to the point where I had to be open and honest about it.
If we had continued, it could have led to divorce. Everything was work and that was really tough on us. It’s funny because I see my parents working together every day and things are just fine. They have a beautiful working relationship.
There were some beautiful aspects to working together so I don't want to paint an all negative picture. We saw our garage fill up with boxes and then started looking for warehouses together. That was beautiful.
Anyone who's considering working with their spouse, know that if it doesn't work out that only means you have a bad working relationship. Your overall relationship comes first. Make sure to go on walks and disconnect from your cell phone, email, and business from time to time. Because if all you do is work together, your business will die.
One of the reasons my parents working relationships has worked out is they’ve weekends off. That's their time and they've done this for 30 years."
In one shape or form, Sania is involved with about six to seven businesses on a day-to-day process. Her day is spent primarily communicating with those teams to ensure everything's on track whether on-site visits or phone calls.
"Entrepreneurs will say talking to their team and putting out fires is what they do every day and that is a hundred percent my life.
I have a lot of checklists.
I work six days a week. A little bit on the seventh day as well. It’s non-stop if you like what you do. I take the time to learn because if I don't stay sharp, my businesses won't stay sharp. I go to business conferences, listen to audiobooks, and take online courses.
Now when I sense that I'm starting to experience tightness and pain in my body, I stop what I'm doing even if that means fewer sales and productivity."
Today, she knows that she needs to delegate more and that her business is only as good as she's feeling.
It's no longer all about work,
And more on having a healthy mind, body, and soul.
Because as Sania has realized - the most important characteristic for an entrepreneur is their longevity.