In Conversation with Fatima Zaidi of Quill Inc.

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Describe your business in a few words?

Quill is the world’s first marketplace and full service agency for podcasters.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I was born and raised in the Middle East to Pakistani parents who invested their life savings into giving their children a world-class education. I feel incredibly lucky for my diverse cultural background. The last four years I was running an agency and one of the biggest requests I kept getting were from companies looking to start their own branded podcasts. So I decided to productize the services that we were offering and that’s how Quill was born.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Tech sales! I’m so fortunate that I had a background in sales as it’s such a transferable skill set, and the backbone of any early stage company.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Yes. I’ve always known I wanted to at least try working for myself. I used to naively think that if I could be my own boss I wouldn’t have to be accountable to anyone but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Through this process I’ve found as the founder of your company you are accountable to your team, your clients, your investors- the stakes and pressure are at its highest.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

Being in sales is always an emotional rollercoaster, especially as an entrepreneur. There are days when I’ve felt on top of the world, and others when I’ve hit rock bottom and become convinced I’m a failure. After the constant grind, doors slammed, and the no’s you get on a daily basis people often struggle from a fear of rejection and an inability to put themselves back out there after having hit a roadblock. It can become a hard pattern to break, so that you end up missing new opportunities over and over again. Good sales people never fear rejection and never take it personally and have the ability to keep putting themselves out there. Instead they approach their sales quota analytically and remind themselves that getting ducks in a row takes more work than simply commanding those ducks to line up. So my advice there would be when you are looking for a salesperson for your small business, find someone with true grit, hustle, and resilience. Those traits matter much more than the fancy resume with bells and whistles.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Like most early stage startups we felt the pain points of covid-19 with our LA conference getting pushed to 2021, and investors pulling out on final days. It’s forced to become creative in keeping the lights on, and we’ve had to prioritize staying cash flow positive from day 1. Nonetheless we feel very fortunate to be in an industry that is on an exponential growth curve, and are looking forward to supporting brands/indie podcasters who are navigating this emerging medium.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

Much like entrepreneurship and entry into the startup world, the barrier to starting a podcast is quite low; however, the resources and support available to podcasters are scattered and limited. Because of this, many podcast hosts enthusiastically launch with a great idea but are soon overwhelmed by the technical aspects of production and post-production. Quill aims to make entry into podcasting more streamlined and to become the go-to platform for help throughout a podcaster’s journey. Just like you had a phone number for you business in the 1980s, a website in the 1990s, social media and an app in 2000s it’s forecasted that most companies have their own podcast or be advertising on them in the next 5-10 years

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Now the pre-existing barriers to business which female founders face are further compounded by the pandemic which is a lack of access to finance, lack of networks and mentors, and competing gendered priorities. Biggest lesson I’ve learnt is how to pivot, adapt and repurpose my company in the immediate short term.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

Your problems will never go away. It’ll just be a whole new set of challenges so get comfortable with the uncertainty as it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

By prioritizing all the things that keep me mindful: Meditation, wine, journaling and my cat Charlie who loves listening to podcasts. His favourite shows are Cattitude and Purrcast.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

First and foremost I’m big on taking care of myself- I need to get my 8 hours of sleep, and disconnect often so when I’m pulling my usual 14 hour days I can be fully productive and engaged. Unfortunately thanks to many business icons who constantly promote the hustle 24/7 mentality that leads to burnout people think they can’t achieve balance or shouldn’t be striving for it. I think one of the ways I manage my time so effectively is because I’m very intentional about making time for my mental health, the gym, travel, my friends and family. And of course there are some weeks where I pull ridiculous hours and I’m okay with that – balance to me is balance over time.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I was on a panel with Beyonce’s dad.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

1. Meditation 2. Routined breaks 3. Surplus of coffee

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It means advocating for yourself, taking credit for your ideas, and unapologetically asking for what you deserve.

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