Ali Zar moved to the United States from Pakistan when he was 11, intent on following in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps. Several businesses later, Zar has shown that with action and purpose, any dream can come true. With his focus on family, Zar and his brother have set up successful small businesses across Long Island. Their first, a series of gift and greeting card shops, is still running strong. Then, they kicked off their own restaurant, Zar’s Chicken and Burgers, a halal eatery focusing on American favorites that’s racking up excellent online reviews. But most recently is Ali Zar’s passion project come true: A sports equipment store specializing in cricket, an uncommon sport in the United States, but one that is rapidly growing. Zar seeks to cater to this market, regionally in Long Island with his Zar Sports USA storefront, and then on the internet as his website reaches out and finds more customers.
With a bachelor’s degree in business from Baruch College, and a brother with a business degree from St. John’s, the Zars have all the education it takes to succeed, but it’s their relentless drive and broad understanding of various business marketplaces that will put them over the top to stay.
Where did the idea for Zar Sports come from?
Zar Sports is my latest business, and we specialize in selling cricket equipment. It’s a sport I am passionate about on a personal level, playing in a league and traveling to places all across New York, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia to play with other teams. There’s no store on Long Island that sells cricket equipment. It’s an hour’s drive from the nearest store, so I have taken my passion and made a business out of it.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have two little daughters, so when I wake up, I have to take them to school and then I go to work. First, I go to the gift shop where I have two employees that I manage there. Then I go to my restaurant, Zar’s Chicken and Burgers, and make sure that everything is going good there. If they need anything, I will pitch in and help them out. Then I go to Zar Sports.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am very collaborative with ideas. Sometimes I make use of my employees’ ideas and sometimes I come up with my own. We welcome ideas from everyone in the organization, and we work hard together to implement them.
What’s one trend that excites you?
With Zar Sports, there are always new ideas coming around every year. The cricket season is mainly in the summer and lasts for around five months. Every year there are so many companies coming up with new equipment to help improve the game for the players. When a new product comes in, we usually give it a chance, and if we like them, we try to promote it to help improve the players’ game.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Being motivated by other people. Watching my friends succeed gives me the drive to work hard and succeed like them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be patient. Life has its ups and downs. You have to take every day like a new day. When I was young, I was never patient. I wanted to get things done immediately, and I usually ended up making things worse. But now I realize that if you stay patient and keep working hard, you can and will succeed.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
If you look at it in a funny way, I tell everyone I’m always right. And they never agree! But I’m not always right. I’m hit and miss. But you do have to believe in yourself and that your ideas are going to work. You have to promote yourself and your ideas with strong belief.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read books. You learn so many things from reading. Read about all these other entrepreneurs that started with nothing but ended up with so much. If you have an idol, read about them, don’t just follow them. You need somebody to inspire you and knowing about their life and thoughts will help it all come together for you.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Me and my brother, we are a unit. We are a family business, sticking together as a team. Anything we do, we do it together. My father has retired, and he is enjoying his life going back and forth between Pakistan to visit family. He loves it when we come to him and seek advice on running things. His experience is enormous.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When we started, we started in the gift industry. We opened many locations, and some worked but some didn’t. We realized that and had to make adjustments, closing them within 6-7 months of opening. At that time, we didn’t understand certain facts of location and competition. When I look back, though, I realize that we learned so much that helped us become what we are today.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Right now, everything is online because of the pandemic. Even if you have a storefront, I suggest opening an Amazon store. You will succeed much better than having just a storefront. For Zar Sports, we do have a website. There is so much demand for the product online that I will be opening an Amazon store soon.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I took my kids to Target and I bought so many toys for them. It made them super happy which made me happy.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Woo Commerce is a website builder. My website, Zarsportsusa.com, is on that platform and it’s a great service. It makes things very easy for me.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins. Throughout the book he motivates you. He tells you to use your failure as a motivation to drive forward. The whole book was about not giving up and to keep going to do what you love.
What is your favorite quote?
“Success is personal. It’s the result of a series of small disciplines that lead to a pattern of success.” Tony Robbins
• Be humble and be patient.
• Work hard for your goals.
• Help others.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.