Interview with Shama Hyder
A Woman Who Can Do It All: From Entrepreneur to Mom…
and Everything In Between
Let’s talk inspiration…
One of my favorite sources of inspiration is the connection that comes from learning about how other women are making bold moves around me. Learning from other women starting businesses, breaking glass ceilings, and leading the charge in their own lives is a resource that many mompreneurs seek on their Instagram profiles, podcasts they follow, and books they read.
I was over the moon when I had the opportunity to sit down with Shama Hyder, one of Forbes 30 Under 30 and owner and CEO of Zen Media, a digital marketing and PR agency that drives reach, relevance, and revenue for technology brands by turning moments into momentum.
I was immediately a Shama fan. The synergy between us was instantaneous! Despite running a major company that has Fortune 500 clients with intense needs, Shama clearly has a soft side when it comes to talking about family. She and her husband have an active 17 month old boy named Archer, and are expecting a little girl later this year. Our chat included laughs about how little Archer would surely become a protective big brother.
Shama has some impressive accolades. Not only is she an experienced speaker and been a guest on dozens of business panels, she can now add reality TV headliner to the list. She and her family were recently showcased on HGTV’s “Self-Made Mansions” a new series that puts the spotlight on self-made entrepreneurs that have found wild success and search for the home of their dreams.
Social Media Mogul? Or Mompreneur?
As you read about Shama, you will see how hard work and an unwavering dedication to knowing what works best for her clients has led to her success. She also has a playful side, which clearly has been an ingredient in her recipe of achievements, both as an entrepreneur and as a mom.
Let’s talk first about Shama’s impressive entrepreneurial background. She practically wrote the how-to-use Twitter handbook, and then we will chat motherhood with this superwoman who has found a way to balance it all.
You founded your company, Zen Media 12 years ago. Tell us a little more about how that started.
Shama started her business straight out of grad school about 12 years ago, inspired by the thesis she wrote about the start of Twitter. At that time, Shama had about 2,000 followers, so she is clearly someone that has watched the development of social media from the ground up and has been able to leverage that inside knowledge (from developing her own marketing/social media company) into a successful business. Zen Media was one of the first social media marketing companies in the world. She actually wrote one of the first books about social media marketing, the “Zen of Social Media Marketing”.
I see you are also a contributor to Forbes. Tell me how you find such interesting topics to write about?
“It’s an inside job,” she jokingly and humbly said. “I am so blessed to be on the pulse of neat, emerging concepts and ideas, and as I sit at the table with many thought leaders, brands, and moguls in the industry, I listen, learn, and watch many ideas and strategies come to life.”
As a multi published author and regular news contributor, notably to Forbes, I asked Shama where she found the inspiration for her writing. She was so humble in the way she shared her ability to foresee future trends and start thinking and planning around what comes next. Her interests have often driven that talent with a proclivity towards asking herself what the world looks like, and keeping up on what is happening in the technology and business worlds. Being in the trenches working on projects allows her to learn via wide exposure to her clients, which include Fortune 500 executives and independent business owners alike.
Recently, the NY Times published an article stating you could either be a parent, or an entrepreneur but not both. What do you think about that?
Shama and I both immediately agreed that without the help of others, whether it’s family, childcare, or a supportive partner, it is very difficult to do it all. Without a support system to assist with the daily balancing act of raising children, it would be difficult to be an entrepreneur. Having a village of people that reassure her she is doing a good job really helps to relieve the mom guilt that she still occasionally feels. I really relate to that. Mom guilt is real, even when we give it our all. She and her husband prioritize quality time over just quantity of it, understanding that their children’s needs will change as they get older. She also takes solace in knowing that will so much love in their lives via family and friends, everything will turn out fine.
We chatted a little about how we felt proud our children were seeing us accomplish things on our own right, and particularly for daughters, how important it is they see that their mothers, and women in general, are successful and respected in workplaces. Shama is clearly passionate about her work and feels it makes her a better mom to have outlets for her energy. She is proud that the work she does helps other businesses be successful, which in turn supports the families of those employees. She hopes that her children will be proud of the accomplishments she’s achieved.
Shama talks about time management being a critical issue as a working mom. I liked how she worded it as “energy management,” how the quality of one’s thoughts can really influence one’s energy levels and productivity. Shama stated “you get more of what you focus on”. In order to optimize one’s energy, “making peace with life’s limitations is important so you can enjoy whatever is in front of you at the moment. And for many women the opportunity to enjoy their children and family life is what it’s all about. How you show up and how you manage your own thoughts?’ In support of managing her energy, she deleted Facebook off her phone and manages her time carefully to ensure she is living her “real” life and not comparing herself to others. Shama acknowledges “what that looks like for every single person is different and it can differ from day to day. What works best for you is what each person needs to focus on, at the end of the day you have to set your own bar and realize what works for you and your family is what works for you”.
On Jan 8th, your family/business was showcased on HGTV’s new TV series, “Self-Made Mansions.” How did that come to be?
Shama’s initial reaction to being invited on the show was of hesitation. Although she is a well-known and respected business expert that has been featured in dozens of media articles, she and her husband have kept their personal lives relatively private. What inspired her to accept the offer to be on the show was the opportunity to show other young women of color that becoming successful in business is a tangible opportunity for them. Shama is of Indian descent, and was actually born in India. Seeing as how the series is focused on successful entrepreneurs that have reached astronomical levels of success, and are looking for their dream home, the idea of other young women of color potentially seeing her on the show and realizing they could aspire to become entrepreneurs was a significant factor in agreeing to be on the show.
Now that you’ve experienced your 15 minutes of Television Fame, would you have aspirations to do it again?
Shama has a vast amount of experience in television as she has been a guest on national networks throughout the United States. She is always cautious in accepting opportunities that align with her brand. She is receptive to future opportunities to appear on television again for platforms that are positive, inspirational, and aligned with the story she wants to tell.
Tell me more about your children, names? Interests? One trait you would love to pass along and why?
Shama and I laughed about how even a month can make a huge difference in a child’s abilities and behaviors. We both reflected on how sharing a child’s age by number of months was critical in understanding their development levels. The family also has a giant Schnauzer, Georgie, who also made a cameo on ”Self-Made Mansions”. In case you were wondering, yes, Archer has attempted to ride the gentle giant, who has been a really good sport about it!
With regards to traits that she feels are important, Shama takes pride in the resiliency she and her husband possess, a trait that she says is essential for entrepreneurs. Rightly so, the demands on entrepreneurs are endless, and as she mentions, “ I don’t know too many entrepreneurs that do what they do without a certain level of optimism. Everyday is a challenge “ When speaking about her children, she acknowledges the future “the world will knock them down” and she hopes resiliency and optimism are traits her children will both possess.
You are the queen of viral social media marketing, tell me and my audience a little bit about this.
Moment Based Momentum™ is a concept that Zen Media developed. This involves analyzing how information goes viral, the emotions that must be drawn out, events that are happening in society, and what the challenges and issues are in any given industry. To create high visibility for her clients, the dots must all be connected. Zen Media is sought after for their ability to use those variables in determining what value a brand can leverage to the media, and to their current and prospective clients.
In marketing there are certain trends that come and go. Shama has seen over the past year a greater need than ever before for businesses to ensure their messages are authentic. Trust has eroded in traditional paid media, giving rise to influencer marketing, Shama stated that people know when a message has been paid for. She believes nostalgia is currently another strong trend in marketing and will continue to be so for the next year or so. I found this to make a lot of sense, as we all pine for life the way it was prior to the pandemic, and as we reflect on the things that we took for granted. Brands must also make a greater stand on the values they stand for. Shama notes it’s not about making a political statement, though ensuring the brand is on the mark about what is generally happening in society and how the company feels about it.
Any interests in particular you hope to pass along to your child?
Asking Shama about the activities she and her husband enjoy doing together, she laughs and says she “is definitely the more boring of the two of us.” She hopes her children love to read and learn.
Shama shares how her husband, also a successful entrepreneur, is the one with the hobbies like sailing, riding motorcycles and playing the guitar. She does dream about the possibility of her kids having an inclination towards music, and “even a speck of talent would be nice.” It sounds like those musical dreams might become a reality as Shama and her husband have several friends that are musicians and they often come over to the house and play. She hopes the exposure to music sparks a greater interest. Her parents were a strong presence in her life growing up. She recalls them asking her questions that forced her to think about making the world a better place, questions about helping others.
Similar to how her parents raised her, Shama prioritizes her children’s happiness and feels that was a strong message she was always taught. Interests come and go, though how to show up to things is what’s most important, and she credits her parents for molding those metrics into her DNA.
It was truly a pleasure getting to know Shama. She has an electric energy, an intuitive spirit, and a fantastic sense of humor. I appreciated her candor about her experience as a businesswoman, though even more so I enjoyed connecting with her to share the excitement and hacks on her expectations on becoming a mom of two.
Is there anything else you want to know about Shama Hyder or what she has to share? Let me know in a comment below and make sure to leave a comment below with suggestions on who I should interview next!