Being a woman in a Middle Eastern culture offers little hope for entrepreneurship or any form of economic independence. Such was the case for Helen Mohsenzadeh, who although born and raised in Tehran, Iran, always had dreams of owning and operating her own business.
These dreams were brought slightly closer to reality when she immigrated to the United States to fulfill her arranged marriage. As a young bride in a promising new country, Helen acclimatized herself to her new surroundings, noting with hope the freedoms afforded to people regardless of gender—including the freedom to found a business. Eventually, Helen Mohsenzadeh divorced her husband and set out on her own, earning a driver’s license, an associate’s degree in nursing (AGN) credential from the state of California, and educating herself regarding personal finance all in the span of a year. But Helen was just getting started; she was determined to pursue the American Dream.
These days, Helen Mohsenzadeh has manifested the life she wanted so badly as a child. Now a highly successful serial entrepreneur, she has purchased a hospice start-up company, a real estate business, and is currently getting ready to launch a combination medical spa and pharmacy business. Helen is also developing a platform to produce an inspirational series meant to train women to overcome adversity and strive to be the best version of themselves.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
My grandfather was an entrepreneur in Iran. I never met him, lamentably. He passed away long before I was born. My father was an engineer and an entrepreneur, but he was not a risk-taker, nor did he have the desire to connect with other people. My father did well for himself, but he did not carry on his own father’s legacy.
At the age of 17, my marriage was arranged for me and I was sent to the United States. Over the next 14 years, my childhood dreams had diminished. I lived the typical Middle Eastern life for women, never learning how to drive or take care of my own finances. By the time I was 28, I couldn’t take it anymore. I convinced the people controlling my life to allow me to go to nursing school, which was a huge cultural change. But it was my first step to freedom and becoming an entrepreneur.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up at 6 am to have coffee, feed my puppies, and meditate. Meditation clears my mind and my soul. It gives me clarity and releases me of any negative energy in my body. The next hour and a half are spent at the gym, exercising and mentally reviewing tasks I want to accomplish before I get home at night. Usually, I have about four hours of conferences before checking in with my offices and then having a look at the progress being made at the construction site for my newest business. Evenings are dedicated to developing new projects—and there are always new projects! Project development is like playing with Lego for me. I put them together one piece at a time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My process for bringing ideas to life is to research profitability, then to use my network to work through the idea. That is when I know I can do it, and can make the idea a reality. I create a business plan and collaborate with my network. When we have a consensus of how to proceed, the hiring process begins. We hire an attorney, researchers, consultants, and marketing staff. If the idea is for a start-up in an industry or sector that I know nothing about, I research everything about the topic until I gain the requisite knowledge. Knowledge is golden, and brings ideas to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Even though I don’t operate in the fashion industry, designers and others within the fashion world helped me get to the next level with my businesses—even if they don’t know it. At one point, nearly half my income went to purchasing exquisite fashions. It was a way for me to gain entrance into a society of extremely wealthy people. I was introduced to a world of VIPs and was invited to events frequented by self-made millionaires. As crazy as it sounds, fashion gave me the ability to network and make the right connections. And I have learned a lot from those who have created their own wealth. So, my answer would have to be that cutting-edge clothing, accessory, and shoe trends excite me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have a habit of being persistent and never giving up under any circumstances which has helped me immensely over the years.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My advice for my younger self would be not to let anyone else create your future for you. Take charge of your own life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe the concept of ‘normal’ is an illusion. There is no such thing as normal.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Put ideas together and follow through with them. It sounds simple, but it is a very difficult thing to do.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
In my experience, it is all about networking. The more I network, the more I learn from people who are much smarter than me. Connecting with professionals who are strong and creative and smart is what helped me the most in my career, without question. It has opened so many doors for me.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges I faced in my life was simply being born as a Middle Eastern female. In the beginning, no one wanted to listen to a 32-year-old woman from Iran. As a consequence, I did not feel very confident in myself. But I learned to overcome my emotions. I saved myself from failure by learning how not to allow other people’s reactions to guide my actions.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
This is not a new idea, but I am creating a model where I can expand my reach and influence within the healthcare industry. Just to illustrate what I mean, I own a hospice agency, a home healthcare agency, a medical spa business, and a pharmacy. Maximizing my network in the healthcare industry will make me more productive and improve the services I can provide in that sphere. It is the model that I have used to create so many businesses in the past, and I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone with similar aspirations follow it.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
On the spiritual side of spending $100, I was at a restaurant recently and I saw there was a woman attendant working very hard. I gave her $100 as a tip and it brought tears to her eyes. I love seeing someone that happy. I love being able to do something positive for someone and feeling the jubilation emanate from their soul. At that moment, it brought me joy to see her happiness.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We use healthcare software to keep us productive. It is important to keep open communication between everyone—nurses, doctors, suppliers, pharmacies, in-office support staff, and remote workers. Healthcare software prevents many things from going wrong.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The book that changed my life is Your Wish Is Your Command. It is a follow-up to The Secret. It is such a simple book that can help to guide you through life, and it provides all the answers you need.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you discover that you’re the smartest person in the room, leave the room.” I believe that quote is attributed to Lorne Michaels.
- Never allow anyone to control your destiny.
- Never settle. Always look for expansion.
- Never stay in a room if you discover that you are the smartest person.
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.