Kiyan Foroughi, 27, is the CEO and co-founder of Boticca.com, an online marketplace for independent designers of unique jewelry, handbags and accessories. Boticca recently raised $2.5 million from investors, and has been featured in Wired Magazine, Vogue.com and the New York Times. Before Boticca, Foroughi worked as an investment associate, including a stint at Jefferies & Co. in New York where he was the youngest ever Fairness Opinion Specialist at the firm, advising on mergers and acquisitions with a combined worth more than $1 billion.
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Paris to Iranian immigrants who had left Iran to pursue their studies and were then forced to leave permanently after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Almost immediately after my birth, my family moved to Dubai in the 1980s – when there was nothing there at the time – to follow my father’s career. When I was 6, we moved back to Paris and after 5 years there, we moved back to Dubai. I lived in Dubai until I graduated from high school and moved to Boston to attend Tufts University. After graduation, I moved to New York City to begin my career in investment banking. After two fantastic, fast-paced and sleepless years working on Wall Street, I moved to London where I have been ever since.
2. How did you get to where you are in your career?
I started my career in investment banking because I was good with numbers and wanted to work in a fast-paced, challenging environment where I was going to be exposed to a lot of different things and business scenarios.
Five years later, I felt it was time to take the next step in my career evolution: stop watching others build companies from afar and build one of my own.
3. When did you first decide that you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
During my three years in private equity, I was fortunate to work with some really talented Internet entrepreneurs through companies we had invested in. The part of my job that I enjoyed the most was helping these entrepreneurs build their businesses. By watching them, I caught the entrepreneurial bug and decided that it was time to learn by doing!
Boticca is my first business and I’m delighted about it because it allows me to combine several of my passions: fashion (I’m now third generation in my family to work in the industry), the Internet and entrepreneurialism.
4. What does your typical day running Boticca entail?
Each day is different, challenging and exciting. In any given day, I’ll do everything from style hunting, meeting new designers to bring onboard, working on online marketing, social media, customer service, analyzing the business and statistics, thinking about strategy to administrative and legal stuff.
Being an entrepreneur means a lot of multi-tasking and wearing a multitude of different hats, depending on what the business and team require. But I think that that’s half the fun – you start to become very well rounded professionally.
5. How did growing up as a TCK benefit your career as an entrepreneur?
You develop a global vision about everything: your customers, your business and your ambitions. Having grown up in a place like Dubai, which is at a crossroads of civilizations with people from the Middle East, expatriates from Europe and the West as well as immigrants from all over Asia, you also develop an appreciation for and acceptance of other cultures. You can act as a bridge between different cultures and that really helps when you’re working as part of an international team, especially in a city as global as London. You can pretty much relate to anything and anyone. You also pick up the best from every culture: In my case, the work ethic and professionalism of the Americans, the rigor and healthy skepticism of the Europeans and the street-smarts of the Middle Easterners.
6. Is there anything about being a TCK that held you back in your career?
Not really. When I first moved to the U.S., 9/11 happened two weeks after I moved there and being of Iranian descent, I had to face a lot of misconceptions, but they were usually gone after a quick conversation.
Also, getting a job on Wall Street was a little tough because most companies were reluctant to go through the whole process of sponsoring non-Americans for a visa. Other than those small things, being a TCK has only helped.
7. What advice would you give to TCKs who want to pursue the entrepreneurial path?
Surround yourself with a great team. Take your time building the team to make sure that you bring onboard ambitious and talented people that see the same potential in the project as you do. You want your team to feel that the business is as much theirs as it is yours as a founder.
8. What is the best part about your job?
I’m fortunate through Boticca to meet some of the world’s most inspiring and creative people. I’m constantly fascinated by the way their minds work and how they see the world. Sometimes, their inspirations come from the strangest places, and it takes real skill and passion to turn the most random little thing into a work of art. In this go-go-go world, they are also constant reminders that the world is a beautiful place and that one should always stop once in a while to appreciate it.
9. What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions that the public has about running a company like Boticca, or being an entrepreneur?
That it’s all glitz and glamour! A lot of hard work goes into building a start-up and you regularly have to do things that are not so glamorous. I’ll do everything from dealing with mundane administrative stuff to changing light bulbs and fixing things around the office.
10. Any last thoughts?
Coming out of university, I wasn’t one of those graduates who always had a “grand plan.” I always said to myself: do something you enjoy, take in life’s lessons, evolve and you’ll always somehow manage to find your way to doing something you love.
Connect with Kiyan Foroughi on LinkedIn.