Hitting The Restart Button: The Expat Woman Entrepreneur Series

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In keeping with our series discovering expat women entrepreneurs, today, I take the opportunity to introduce another woman, Anila Hussain, who comes with a keen business mindset and a strong streak of compassion. It was a pleasure to speak with Anila and learn about her business SHENANNZ. Her story is two-phased – it’s not just motivational but also leaves you feeling humbled. Anila’s story resonated with me on many levels; one of them relies on the strong bond of sisterhood – read on, and you’ll know what I mean.

About Anila

Anila comes from Karachi, Pakistan and has now lived in Geneva, Switzerland for over 17 years with her family and three children. She is a national level gymnast, an AMI Montessori Educator, and a social impact entrepreneur. Having strong roots in the East, she is aware of the challenges that a girl comes across in more traditional societies and is committed to using her western education and free thought to support and empower women all over.

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The Expat Woman Entrepreneur: Meet Anila Hussain

Her business

Her fashion brand SHENANNZ was founded in partnership with her sister and is in the process of showcasing East-West fusion couture collection internationally with a deeper message of women’s emancipation and empowerment. Anila currently oversees the showcase of SHENANNZ’s couture collection in Europe across fashion events and platforms such as Montreux Moda Switzerland, London Fashion week, Swiss Fashion week as well as Pakistan Fashion week. Anila is committed to creating sustainable livelihoods for underprivileged women through her platform; her dream is to spread the message of gender equality through entrepreneurship and education, across the world.

The Expat Woman Entrepreneur: Meet Anila Hussain

Her Story

“I believe that everyone has a story. The journey of SHENANNZ is a combination of eastern roots and western wings.”

Anila was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan – also known as the heart of Pakistan; it still makes Anila’s heart beat since most of her family resides in Karachi. Anila has 3 siblings – one older sister and two younger brothers. She’s always loved them dearly but her childhood had societal pressures to deal with. She was the dark-skinned girl among her siblings – while this might seem like unnecessary information; this was a real “issue” when Anila was growing up. To make matters worse, her parents would often worry about finding her a suitable match!

Anila took this entire challenge very positively and always looked forward – she wanted to be a trendsetter, she wasn’t sure how she was going to do it but she remained determined! Amidst all this, she got married to a wonderful man Nauman and moved to Switzerland, a diverse western country was going to change everything; and how!

How SHENANNZ Came Into Being

Anila’s sister and she had their own parallel journeys; while her sister pursued a career in fashion back home in Pakistan against all odds; Anila earned a Montessori diploma. They had originally coined the name “SHENANNZ” back in 2002 in their mother’s lounge; however, it was not until 2014 that the brand was officially born! The path was challenging but their persistence got them to where they are! An idea of creating ethical “east meets west” designer wear got the highest number of votes at a start-up workshop and that was the PUSH they needed!

Their vision to empower women by providing them a steady-state was and still remains to be the backbone of their business.


A Typical Day In Her Life

What does this entrepreneur’s day look like? Let’s find out. “I usually wake up at 5 AM; I use this time to practice yoga and also to meditate. Whilst having a look at my to-do list of the day, I try and check my emails prepare breakfast for my children. Once the children are off to school, I sit in my newly opened boutique in Etoy (Vaud) I meet other designers and creators and share ideas on how we can support each other. This is a conscious effort and it keeps me going! I usually have lunch with my daughter mid-day; post which I’m juggling between Zumba classes, coordination with folks back home and responding to messages is what fills up my day. I really value my family time and we love talking about our day post-dinner. I am usually off to bed by 10 pm.”

Her Advise To Fellow Expat Entrepreneurs

“I have not just believed my dreams, but I have followed them. My dream took shape when I moved to Switzerland in 2002 with nothing but positivity. If there’s one thing that I would like to say to women, to mothers, to girls and boys, it is to take imperfect actions. The right time is never going to come if you continuously wait for it; there is no perfect time, place or decision. My sister and I started our project with almost nothing; what we had was a clear vision, a zest to move forward and passion for education and fashion!”

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The Expat Woman Entrepreneur: Meet Anila Hussain

I really hope you enjoyed this article, in case you are an expat entrepreneur woman with an inspirational story – we are looking for you.

If you’ve liked this piece, we’d love to know in the comments section!

Stay tuned for more expat stories, we have a ton lined up!

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