Take your time to really understand who you are. That’s critical. Then understand what you want.
Binish Qureshi was born in Karachi, Pakistan. Her family moved to England when she was around the age of three. Qureshi grew up in the suburbs just outside of London and attended private school. She received her LLB Law degree from Middlesex University.
After spending six months at a reputable law firm, Qureshi realized this wasn’t the career for her. She took an extended holiday in Pakistan, where she met her husband. After they married, Qureshi had her first child and left the corporate world to spend time with her son. After she had a second child, and they were both in day care and school, Qureshi began working on starting her own company real estate company, FJ Corporation Ltd.
Binish Qureshi loves to travel. She has been fortunate enough to visit nearly half the world, from the remote wilderness of the Masai Mara to the bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur, to the serene mountains of Bali. This dedicated mother of four also enjoys scuba diving, skydiving, reading, cooking, and collecting Persian and Pakistani arts. She has a collection of rare silk Persian rugs.
In the span of seven years, FJ Corporation has grown to a value of £27 million. Qureshi has also recently begun focusing on starting her own fashion brand.
Where did the idea for FJ Corporation come from?
The idea came about in 2011. My son was four, and in full-time education, and my two-year-old daughter was in full-day nursery. As you can imagine, I had vast amounts of time on my hands. So, the concept came up in my mind of establishing a real estate company, which became FJ Corporation. I began studying market trends, market strategies and looking at commercial assets. I noticed that nobody was touching the commercial assets that were up for auction. By that time, I had made up my mind that real estate fascinated me. Real estate is fast-paced. I could provide a lot more, and essentially you’re your own boss. I wanted to work around my own schedule, where I could give time to my children as well.
After a year and a half of research, I bought my first commercial asset in 2013 with a small sum that I had inherited. It was a 50,000 sq. ft., half-empty, commercial office space. I was told it would be a crazy investment and that it wouldn’t work. However, I started working on that asset, managing it in a very proficient way. I began advertising for tenants. I got the building fully up and running and fully let out. I remember in 2014, we had a fantastic year. The building was full, and we started generating an income of half a million. Today, I think it’s probably worth around 27 million.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I now have four children, so a typical day for me is very hectic. I try to spend as much time as I can with my kids. I wake them up at six, and they’re all off to school by about 7:30 a.m. After they’re all dropped off, I head back home. I either work out with a personal trainer, or I go into the gym. I give myself that one hour. That’s the only thing I think you do for yourself, apart from constantly giving to your kids. So I work out, shower, get dressed, and after breakfast, by about 10:30 or 11 a.m., my workday starts.
The next three to four hours are spent on phone calls and in several meetings. We study which properties are available on the market. We study, plan, and research. It’s predominantly a lot of office and site work. We go and identify projects that are available in the market, what is good, what is not bad, what is going to sell. Then we have meetings with finances and banking because you need finances to fund it. I work a lot from home, but I do have two or three site meetings a week. This gives me a lot of flexibility to do other things while I’m maneuvering between sites.
Then at 3 p.m., I wrap everything up. From 3 p.m. onwards, it’s school pickups and after school activities. One plays hockey, one plays tennis, and one plays cricket. Some do rowing, and some do horse riding. We get home around 6 p.m. After homework, we spend a very good one hour at dinner. We make a conscious effort that we’re all at the table and have dinner together as a family.
After the kids have showered and gone to bed, that’s when I sit down and work on my fashion brand. I’m into aesthetics, and I want to develop something different and creative. I work on reading, acquiring more knowledge and ideas, and brainstorming.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I don’t sleep on them. Whenever I have an idea, I try to improvise, and I try to make it as real as I can. I launch it. Whether it’s picking up a commercial asset or whether it’s an idea for the fashion brand I’m currently working on, if an idea comes to my mind, I try to launch it. You’ll never know whether your idea is a success or a failure until it’s out there on the market. I also never regret and learn from my mistakes. If it fails, it fails. If it doesn’t, then that’s excellent.
What’s one trend that excites you?
E-commerce. When I was growing up, we had no platforms. What really excites me with e-commerce is how young entrepreneurs, like students and young adults, have access to tremendous amounts of knowledge, and they can use this knowledge to capitalize on their businesses, concepts, and ideas. I think that’s a very positive trend in the market. Sites like Shopify, YouTube, Etsy. These entrepreneurs don’t have to go and necessarily read a book or work somewhere to learn anything these days. Everything is social media and e-commerce. There’s so much information available, and I think that’s exciting for the future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I believe it’s punctuality and perseverance. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m extremely punctual, and I just persevere.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell a younger Binish Qureshi to pursue her dreams without fear. Take your time to really understand who you are. That’s critical. Then understand what you want.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m actually quite innocent and naive. If I say this to people, nobody would agree with me, but it’s quite true. For example, if I’m in a meeting or if I’m going and seeing somebody for a business venture or a joint venture, the first impression they would get from me is that I’m a very sharp person. However, it’s not like that. The people closest to me know that I’m actually quite naive. I follow my heart. It isn’t always big business. It isn’t always numbers that I follow when I make a business decision.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Research, research, and more research. Just research the market, research trends, read, educate, and take advantage of all the resources that are available online. Then you won’t be scared to take a risk. Everything is not always about numbers; sometimes, you have to follow your gut.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Taking risks and picking up assets that nobody else was willing to touch. I would be the only person in an auction house whose hand was up because no one else wanted to pick up that asset or site, or piece of land. However, because you’ve done your research, that ultimately is what helps you grow in your career. So, whether it’s buying the right assets, developing the right asset, I think it’s the nature of luck that I’m in real estate. It’s just all about risk-taking. That’s the Warren Buffett strategy, and I believe in that. Pick up assets that are at their worst, lowest, bottom state, and if you have the knowledge and expertise, you can turn them around.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure in my career, I was too trusting of people. I think that was when I’d had joint venture partnerships that hadn’t materialized because you’d trust people for face value. I think, over the years, you have to prove yourself. If you’re doing business, not everybody is thinking the same way as you are thinking. So I believe you have to be very shrewd. You have to be very critical. Not in your analysis of necessarily a property or an asset, but of people. People hurt you more than buildings. Don’t trust everybody and try not to work in JV partnerships.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Business-wise, I don’t have a specific business idea. However, I think every teenager, every person who is in university or college, in an organic phase, I even believe middle-aged women — they should get in the habit of using e-commerce and selling. Do your own business. Don’t get me wrong; it’s good to study. I believe in education. I believe there’s a fallback, but there’s nothing like being your own boss or being an entrepreneur.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
This isn’t career-related per se. I remember this one incident when I was in Chicago. I had just come out of a seminar and this little boy, no more than five, came up to me and asked me for $100. I said that’s a lot of money, why do you need $100? And he told me he wanted to buy a fish tank. I asked him why a fish tank, and he said he wanted to make the fish have babies and then sell those fish. He was only four or five, and I just fell in love with that idea because he was such an entrepreneur even at that age. It wasn’t about the money, but about the concept that he’d picked up, the vision he had.
Professionally, I recently paid $100 for an online course called Fashion Startup Tech. I think it’s amazing what you can learn from online resources about starting your own fashion brand.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use YouTube all the time, and it’s productive in the sense that every single resource in this world is on YouTube in the form of a tutorial. Whether it’s how to do business or whether it’s learning how to be a fashion illustrator. It’s endless. The resources on YouTube, whether it’s just makeup goals, you can learn everything on YouTube. I think that’s what I watch and use the most in my spare time. Documentaries, tutorials, etc.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I read it quite a while back, and I think that was a fabulous book. I believe it’s the most descriptive book about enduring love, friendship, and above all else, the transformative power of forgiveness. You learned values, and I think that’s terrific.
What is your favorite quote?
“The grass doesn’t grow under the banyan tree.” – Anonymous.
● E-commerce is the future. Anything that’s out there that hasn’t been put on a platform yet should be picked up and sold by somebody who has the knowledge.
● Always do a lot of research before making any big decisions. Once you have all the research, you’ll know whether the decision will be worthwhile.
● Don’t be afraid to take risks.
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.