The Year That Was: Ghizlan Gunez, Founder, The Modist
"It was not easy to shift overnight from discussing a three-year business plan, to looking at unwinding a business, but like all adversities in life, they bring about learnings."
As one of the most celebrated entrepreneurs on the Middle East’s startup landscape, The Modist founder Ghizlan Gunez sent shockwaves across the region and beyond when she announced in April this year that her modest fashion-focused e-commerce enterprise was going to shut down after having been negatively impacted by the global COVID-19 crisis. It was, by no means, an easy decision for Gunez to make, and it’s pretty evident that her company’s shutdown still weighs heavily on her even now as we come to the close of this year.
“The biggest event for me this year has been having to close my business due to the COVID-19 crisis,” Gunez admits. “The Modist was a high growth business that required investment, and we were at the very last stages of negotiating funding from an investor, who had a change of heart at the last minute due to the impact of the pandemic, and a change in their investment strategy. It was not easy to shift overnight from discussing a three-year business plan, to looking at unwinding a business, but like all adversities in life, they bring about learnings.”
Source: The Modist
And when asked to share what she learned through this experience, Gunez had no qualms about doing just that- her graciousness in this regard is something that all of us would be wise to learn from. “At the outset, one needs to deal with the practicalities of the matter, and then deal with the emotions that ensue with such experiences, but to me personally, the best way to manage these events in life is to take the time to be reflective once you have done ‘mourning’ the loss, and be clear on all the lessons learned: what you would repeat, what you would change, what mistakes you have done and how to learn from them, and how to grow as a person mentally, emotionally, and experience-wise, from it all. It’s not lost on me that this year has taken a lot from me personally (and from many people), but it has given me an invaluable amount of growth, which is worth all the loss. In fact, the biggest loss for all of us this year is to come out of it with no lessons learned and no value-added. In life, failure and adversity teaches us a lot more than comfort and success, and so, this is an opportunity to grow."
Time for introspection: Ghizlan Gunez, founder, The Modist
“My first lesson is to be ‘in the moment’ more often. Most of us live our lives either stuck in the past, or at best, focused on the future, and whilst we hear this all the time, we often find it hard to just be in the present moment. Especially as entrepreneurs and business leaders, the nature of our work revolves around planning for the future and looking forward, but this year has taught me that whilst it is prudent to plan for the future, it is critical to try as much as possible to be in the present moment, and enjoy it.
My second lesson is to not take anything for granted. I’ve always been focused on gratitude in life, and I genuinely believe that it is a beautiful value that enables you to find happiness by focusing on what you have, and being grateful for it. This pandemic showed us how fast and easily our lives can change: we can lose businesses that we worked hard on, we can lose our peace of mind, and we can lose one of our most basic and essential needs, which is our need for freedom: to travel, to move freely, to physically connect, and so on. So, my hope once we go back to the ‘new normal’ post COVID-19 is that we remember all the gifts that we are given in life, and remember that they can be taken at any point- so, never take them for granted.
Finally, this year taught me the importance of slowing down, honoring one’s self and soul, and taking the time to focus on that in a selfish manner. I had spent four years building a business whilst neglecting many aspects that were important for my well-being physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Slowing down is important for all of us, and contrary to what many of us driven entrepreneurs may believe, taking time for yourself makes you more productive. That’s a commitment I made to myself, which is not to neglect what I deem to be important to me personally, beyond my career goals, moving forward.”
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.