CO - HR Innovation

Being a Business Woman was Never My Plan

Being a Business Woman was Never My Plan

I never wanted my own business. It was never in my plans. Sure, I have an MBA. And, yes I have a family business back in Boston. But, I never wanted a business of my own. I even retired from the corporate and business world nearly a decade ago.

So, why am I now the Co-Founder of a growing Islamic Venture Builder with a portfolio companies? It wasn't my plan but it was Planned for me.

In Steve Job's famous speech on connecting the dots, he notes that only in hindsight do we see how the seemingly random events in our lives connect and carry us to the point we are now. Well, my first dot began with a trip to Cambodia with my father when I was 14.

Dot #1. Growing up my dad taught me that the best kind of life is one that's spent in the service of others. But it wasn't till I was 14 years old sitting in the back of a car in Phnom Penh that I understood that being in the service of others didn't just mean just helping out. It was much more than that. It meant doing what you can to take a person out of hardship and enabling them to live a better life. The first place my father took me to see when we arrived in Cambodia was the 'Red Light District'. It wasn't a place for a 14 year old girl but what I saw changed me forever. I saw girls younger than me...many years younger than me...working there in indescribable jobs.

When we finally turned out of that street, my father turned to me and said, "Remember what you've seen. There's a lot of hardship in the world. So in your life, whenever you're given the opportunity to serve someone...do it." Since that day, I've done my best to do exactly that.

Dot #2. I was a bright young MBA graduate at 23 years old (so I was told) but I wasn't really supposed to be a business student. I got a Double BA in Sociology and Economics and I was supposed to get a Masters in Social Work. I wanted to save those women and children in the Red Light Districts of the world. To be completely honest, when I finished college, I changed because I met a guy who convince me to not only get an MBA but to move from Boston to Denver to attend the same school as him.

Upon graduation from the MBA, I was then supposed to get back on track and begin my PhD in Diplomacy. But, then I had my heart broken. Yeah...you guessed it. By the same guy who convinced me to move to Denver. Sigh. No longer able to concentrate on my studies I dropped out from the program and took a flight to Thailand for a vacation. What began as a vacation led to a decision to move to Bangkok. And, I've been in Asia ever since.

Dot #3. Thailand was like riding a rollercoaster with plenty of extra loop-the-loops. I ran out of money after about 2 months and decided to do what I could to make sure I could live and stay in the country. Here are all the things I did...in order...Miss Thailand Pageant, Contract Negotiator, Senior Business Development Manager, International Liaison, Commercial Talent, TV Drama Actress, Business Consultant, Personal Assistant to a Politician, Model, and Military Interpreter for Counter-Terrorism Intelligence Exchange. Erm...yeah...it was a big messy rollercoaster. But I learned a lot during that time about people, all sorts of people.

I think I learned 3 very important lessons being exposed to so much during those crazy years. First, I learned to always look beyond titles and ranks to the human behind the suit, brand, or badge. Under everything, there is just a human who is just trying to get through life. Second, I learned how to present my true self in all situations. I learned to make my mark and represent my personal brand well. Third, I learned how to use words to touch lives and make an impact, and how to communicate with purpose.

Dot #4. I moved to Malaysia due to a personal crisis and quickly picked up where I left off as an Actress and Model. But as I became more and more successful in front of the camera, my heart also became more and more empty. I desperately longed to fill the inner emptiness and felt myself slipping into Depression. I looked many places for fulfillment...parties, partners...and eventually when these did not help, I looked to my old fail-safe...my religion. Somehow I knew that if I pleased my Maker, He (?) would make everything ok. I opened my heart in my search for the truth and eventually found my peace in Islam.

[Find out why I became a Muslim at https://www.facebook.com/notes/aliza-kim/the-truth-that-found-me-why-i-accepted-islam/641091745955586/]

Dot #5. As a New Muslim, I knew that I had to make changes in my thought processes and my lifestyle. I stopped partying, hanging around the wrong people, and I gave up my career in modelling and acting because I knew there were aspects of each that were displeasing to Allah (?). Then, I dedicated my first 2 years of being a Muslim to intense study of the religion and eventually got a Diploma in Islamic Studies. At the same time, Allah (?) blessed me with opportunities to share my journey as a New Muslim on public stages and in private gatherings. The more I shared, the more I fell in love with my new life and the more addicted I became to sharing the beauty of Islam with others. I remember the first time someone called me a "daie" (someone who conveys the message of Islam). I was quite taken a-back and rejected it in fact. And then, I remember the first time I called myself a "daie" because I had made the decision to dedicate my life to helping others find the same peace and fulfilment I had found in Islam.

Dot #6. After making a bit of a name for myself as an Islamic speaker, I was offered the chance to create my own digital TV series about the basics of Islam. I was actively avoiding all TV work at that time because I was afraid I would displease Allah (?) and somehow the peace I had would be taken away. But, the more I made Dua (supplications) about it, the more Allah (?) put video work, video producers, all sorts of things having to do with video production in front of me. And the beautiful things was, all of the offers were Islamic. So I thought to myself...maybe Allah (?) is giving me a sign. Maybe He (?) knows that words and speech have always been my special talent and now He (?) wants me to use it for Him (?).

So, I offered Istiqarah (supplication for divine guidance) and began. I recorded a full digital series in 2 days. And, what I can say is Alhamdulillaah (All praises, All thanks is for Allah). All the Islamic video content I have had the pleasure of recording in the past 4-5 years have brought me blessings beyond bounds. It has also given an online family of followers who benefit me as much as they say I benefit them. Alhamdulillaah.

[Watch my first series "Finding Him" here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqws0xxknx00DDTFNNJr9FhA64etGd8av]

Dot #7 And then, I got married. As I was learning to become more domesticated my appearances on stage stopped, my videos stopped, and my social media presence dipped. I had dedicated my life to sharing the message of Islam but now, I was doing very little of it and I felt devastated. Every day I made Dua for Allah (?) to allow me to keep sharing about Islam, to keep serving others through my religious work. But weeks went by and then month where all I could do was share the occasional Islamic quote or reminder through my social media pages.

One day my husband told me that he was planning to make Hijrah (Islamic Migration) with his business. He wanted to create a new business from his legacy company that would develop solutions through the Islamic Digital Economy. It would be a big project that could help people now and in the future. The more I listened, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I realised that Allah (?) was answering my Dua not in the way I wanted but rather in the way He (?) had Planned for me.

It was all starting to make sense. All the significant event in my life - every dot came rushing back to me.

  • Instead of going to Graduate School for Social Work Allah (?) rerouted me to Business School (dot #2).
  • Instead of giving me a steady corporate job with a linear career path in America, Allah (?) threw me into the chaos of living, working, thriving, and surviving in a still developing country with constantly new situations to handle. I knew how to change when situations changed and adapted quickly (dot #3).
  • When I had learned everything I could, I was put into a crisis that gave me no choice but to move to Malaysia - a Muslim country - where I had my heart emptied then refilled with Islam (dot #4 & #5).
  • As a Muslim I built upon and beautified every thought, every skill, every feeling, everything I knew with the teachings of Islam. And most importantly, I learned how to give back and benefit others on a much bigger scale than I ever imagine ( dot #6).
  • And finally, my last dot, I married a professional Entrepreneur. Someone who is not only an Entrepreneur himself but someone who helps other Entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. He taught me the difference between a Business Person and an Entrepreneur. The former...well they do business...while the latter use their ability to thrive, survive, adapt and be true to themselves to push boundaries in order to create solutions for the myriad of problems that people and companies have.

MashaAllaah. So, it seems that Allah (?) has been grooming me to be a Entrepreneur all this time. Maybe He (?) just needed me to understand His (?) new plan for me first before allowing me to return to creating video content and speaking at Islamic events...which Alhamdulillaah He (?) has finally allowed me to continue doing.

So, you see, I've come full circle. Through my Startup - my Islamic Venture Builder - I am taking every opportunity I can to serve others, to serve the Ummah and beyond. I use my skills to understand pain points and create solutions that take a people out of hardship and enable them to live a better life (Point #1). Alhamdulillaah.

And now my hope and Dua now is for Allah (?) to send the right people to cheer me on, to support me, and inshaAllaah exceptional people to work with me on my new journey, my newest mission to serve others.

We plan but Allah (?) also Plans. And, His (?) Plans are always better. Your dots will connect and make sense one day, just have faith in the Greater Plan of Allah (?).

  • Aliza Kim
    Aliza Kim
    Islamic Influencer & Speaker • Women's Empowerment Specialist • Host of "After the Rain" Podcast • TV Personality

    Aliza Kim is an American-Thai Islamic Influencer and Inspirational Speaker currently living in Malaysia. She is also an advocate for the Mental Health Community and Impoverished (Underprivileged) Communities. Aliza Kim is a graduate of Boston College in economics and sociology. She completed her Master's in International Business at the University of Denver. Before making her hijrah, she was an international model, actress, and TV host. Currently, she is an inspirational speaker and active in da'wah for not-yet Muslims, new Muslims, and born Muslims getting back in touch with Islam. 

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