With 60 Day Startups, Nida Sumar and Mashal Waqar Want To Help Female Entrepreneurs Turn Their Early-Stage Ideas Into Revenue-Generating Businesses In 60 Days
"We want to see a future where women entrepreneurs are running sustainable, revenue-generating businesses."
As a program that helps female entrepreneurs turn their early-stage ideas into revenue-generating businesses in 60 days, 60 Day Startups sounds like a great idea, sure- but the fact that this premise has been actually put into practice is what makes this a really great idea.
Founded by Nida Sumar and Mashal Waqar, both of whom have run businesses of their own in the MENA region, 60 Day Startups came into being over the course of the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. Sumar originally conceived the idea, then reached out to Waqar in September, one thing led to another, and the two ended up putting together the whole program, overview, and planning for 60 Day Startups in one sitting- albeit a full day of it.
Nida Sumar, co-founder, 60 Day Startups
At this point, it's safe to wonder why they did all of this, and the two women are very clear about the reasons behind their venture. "We felt a huge gap when it came to non-tech heavy startups (and that's not to say that they're not tech-enabled) and access that female founders have in terms of resources and mentors," Sumar and Waqar explain. "We built 60 Day Startups to change that- we want to see a future where women entrepreneurs are running sustainable, revenue-generating businesses. Our program equips founders with practical advice, toolkits, resources, and mentors, and every aspect focuses on revenue growth in the program. There's also a huge community aspect to the program, because we understand how lonely the entrepreneurship path can be. This program is what we wish we'd had when we were starting off. We're antithetical to the typical mindset of raising investment too early on, and we want to ensure female founders can grow their businesses, regardless of funding."
Note here that Sumar and Waqar don't have a particular vendetta against fundraising- on the contrary, it's the systemic bias against female founders in the investment landscape that is making them want to equip their program participants better. "Because funding is not available on an equal basis, opportunity and support must be offered within the ecosystem on an unequal basis (i.e. more of it) until there is a shift," they explain. "Who knows how long that will take- so, in the meantime, we have removed focus from fundraising completely, and moved it to creating the best kind of capital for any business: revenue. Conscious decisions need to be made by those who care to change the numbers. We do, and that is why this program exists."
The program's focus on businesses that are not necessarily centered on tech is also purposely done, note Sumar and Waqar. "There's a huge chunk of women entrepreneurs who are in their early stages, and may be on the track to building solid businesses, yet don't get the kind of exciting response that tech startups do. We felt this gap, and so we decided to tackle it by building a program."
Mashal Waqar, co-founder, 60 Day Startups
Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so, perhaps the greatest validation of 60 Day Startups' offering is in what it has been able to do with its first cohort of entrepreneurs, as an entirely virtual program. "The response from the community and the ecosystem has been absolutely amazing," Sumar and Waqar say. "Word of mouth quickly spread, and we got close to 100 applications, despite being a completely new program. As we went full swing, so many folks in the ecosystem stepped up to partner and support us and our startups, because they believe in the mission, and in giving back. That's been the most incredible part of it."
Six female founders were selected to be a part of this first cohort- Sumar and Waqar intentionally kept the number of participants low for the program this time around, but they confirm that its future editions, done twice a year, will be larger. And what happened at the end of it all? "Our founders spent 60 days working day in and day out to build their revenue and reach solid numbers," Sumar and Waqar reveal. "Five of them reached their revenue goals by the end of the program- the last one wasn't able to do so owing to the scale of the business she's trying to build, but she too is well on her way to realizing her own revenue goals as well." But perhaps the beauty of 60 Day Startups is that its success cannot be defined in just a monetary aspect- and that ties in to what Sumar and Waqar has as a long-term vision for 60 Day Startups. "Ultimately, the goal is to have a thriving, active, and supportive community of women entrepreneurs running sustainable businesses- a strong ecosystem of female founded businesses that are not only active contributors to the economics of the region, but also built on the values of giving back to the community in general and supporting each other."
Put Your Thinking Cap On
60 Day Startups Co-Founders Nida Sumar And Mashal Waqar On How To Spark A Great Idea
1. Find a problem "Maybe it's one you've experienced, maybe others have, maybe it's one that folks have yet to realize they will experience. Is this something others have tried to tackle, or are already tackling? This is an interesting phase, because the canvas is blank, and you can brainstorm different approaches, and tweak as you go along. When ideating, it can sometimes be helpful to start with areas and spaces you're familiar with, versus completely new spaces and industries.
2. Figure out your why "Building a business is hard work, and often, the nights are long, and money is tight. It is easier to find a job that pays well at the end of each month. That is why figuring out your why, which is often bigger than money or fame, is important. It allows one to persevere in the face of the challenges on this journey- not giving up is easier when you know what is driving you."
3. Get to work "Too often entrepreneurs get stuck in the promise of perfection, putting things off at every point of decision-making, refining and re-refining until their idea of perfect is met. Inaction and procrastination is the enemy of success- set yourself tight deadlines, and get disciplined about meeting them, and staying accountable. Get to work as soon as possible, talk to a lot of people to get feedback on the problem you want to solve, ask questions, seek mentors, figure out your finances, start that social media page, get that logo sorted, set up a call with a lawyer to discuss licensing options, get samples ready, and start selling very quickly. The sooner you start, the sooner you will know how you need to tweak your product or service. While you focus on starting quickly, you also need to get creative, and learn to do things very, very inexpensively."
4. Back yourself up "Surround yourself with people who want to support you, and have a positive and encouraging approach. As an entrepreneur, your greatest resources are your time and energy, care for those two things really well, and having people that don't add positive value to your life is a really bad investment of time and energy."