From selling stationery at 6 to becoming a break-free coach, this entrepreneur is on an mission to impact a million people
Iffat Khan’s first stint with entrepreneurship was simple and successful. At the age of six, when her friends adored her stationery and toys that her uncle brought from abroad, Iffat thought the viable thing to do was sell them.
As sales went smooth with the help of her uncle who sourced more imported stationery and toys, she continued until she was told, “Children your age don’t do business, you must study.”
Iffat remembers failing her first standard exams, and that put a stop to a business that was bringing around 200 percent profit. Her family thought her business was a pastime and wanted her to concentrate on her studies.
Many years later, and despite her first failure, Iffat is a successful entrepreneur and a break free coach helping thousands of individuals and companies with her startup Femipreneur, a YouTube channel named after herself, a podcast titled Breakfree Millions with Iffat Khan, and through the various events and webinars she addresses.
Last year, she published her first book, Break-Free - 30 Ways to Break-free into a life and business you want where she shares strategies to become entrepreneurs, drawing from her own experience.
She is now writing her second book about the role of failure in life.
Hitting the restart button
Born premature, Iffat battled a number of immunity issues as a child. Even though she came across as shy and meek, there was a spark within her to succeed, at whatever she wanted to do in life.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the University of Calcutta in 2010, Iffat led a comfortable corporate life. Even though she was performing well professionally, handling major global projects, Iffat says she was not cut out for corporate life. In 2014, she founded Eccellente Solutions, a side hustle that provided consulting-related services to young startups.
It was an experience to remember, and one she recounts vividly.
“Once, I was the only woman in a group of 20 people selected for a trip to several countries, my company informed me they would like to hold me back for safety as I was the only woman in the group. They said it was for my security but it was unfair as I was looking forward to the trip,” she recalls, adding that was when she decided to quit in 2015 as she did not see any scope for growth.
In the same year, few of her business partners bailed on her and she hit rock bottom with her first startup that provides consulting services to young startups and entrepreneurs. “I was left high and dry and didn’t know what to do. I had put in my time, my energy, everything into it, and lost all my money. I was under severe depression,” she shares.
Iffat now calls this a turning point in her life. In less than in a week of staying at home in Kolkata, she returned to Bengaluru to set up Femipreneur.
Her experiences of having been treated differently as a woman made her think of building a safe and supportive ecosystem for women. However, when she mooted the idea as early as 2013, investors said the platform was not scalable.
She started Feminpreneur despite the naysayers, and to her satisfaction, it was able to help women entrepreneurs set up cafes and online stores for handmade goods and coach them on having a positive and entrepreneurial mindset.
Soon, she began expanding the service to everyone, irrespective of gender through Breakfree Millions Academy and has mentored over 100,000 people across five countries.
“I wanted to share quality content because they need it and I couldn't find any valuable information while starting up years ago,” she adds.
After COVID-19 broke out in India and brought a sense of insecurity in the economy, Iffat’s schedule is busier than ever with many seeking her mentorship online. The price for online courses including live sessions ranges between Rs 10,000 and Rs 2 lakh while personal coaching for one year lies between Rs 5 and Rs 10 lakh.
The entrepreneur delves on topics like happiness, hiring and firing in startups, and progress versus perfection to scale a business, among many others. Besides possessing good communication skills, Iffat believes coaches should not be preachers but a lifelong learner who can impart their learnings from experience. “This way, I am saving years of struggle and lakhs of money,” she adds.
Challenges and the road ahead
While running and managing the company and making money was never a challenge, she says building the right team who shared the same vision as hers was difficult.
At present, Bengaluru-based Femipreneur is a team of 10 employees working on sales and branding and marketing.
In the next five years, Iffat plans on expanding her social network to reach a million followers. Having worked with nearly 100 businesses and individuals so far, she hopes to impact 10,000 businesses by working closely with entrepreneurs and coaching them.
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan