MARRIUM SOHAIL: FEMALE PRESENCE IN THE INSURANCE LINE
Every day, women are fighting against gender biases and barriers, which remains a persistent problem in our social society. Despite the challenges, women face every day, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners 2017, more than 11 million U.S. businesses were owned by women, and things have never looked better for female entrepreneurs.
But these numbers only tell part of the story. Women-owned businesses are still in the minority, and the hurdles faced by women who have embraced entrepreneurship are vast and often very different from those experienced by their male counterparts. To shed light on some of these disparities, HELLO! talked to Marrium Sohail, A 36-year-old business enthusiast living in the USA with her husband and stepdaughters, about her work and the key challenges she faced being a women entrepreneurs face, and how she overcomes them.
Born and raised into a Pakistani military family, Sohail was amongst those lucky few who had a chance to spend their youth experiencing all of the different cultures across the nation. Also, being all sisters siblings, her parents made sure they were taught to fight back for the same respect and equal rights, and opportunities like a man would get.
Nothing has been easy in life for Marrium, she's been through some stumbling block of early marriage and divorce. Her separation was a difficult decision, and people adding their two cents over it, telling her she had no future, making it more tricky for her to survive. But what makes her influential is she knew how to handle the situation.
Who has been your strongest influence in life?
Definitely, after my faith in Allah SWT, my strongest influence has been my father. Whenever I'm considering doing something I always think about him and imagine how he would act and respond, and that always makes me stop, reflect and think twice before I make a decision or embark on any course of action. So yes, he has always been a wonderful influence on me, and I'm very grateful for that.
How did you come up with the idea for your business? Who inspired you to get into this line of work?
I've always been a homebody, preferring to stay in the house. I never knew that I had the potential of making a businesswoman. I was an undergraduate at the time of my separation, and this initially brought slim job opportunities. I was adamant about not taking a single penny from anyone, not even my father, so he came up with the idea of loaning me a small amount on a profit-share basis. I used that to buy and sell designer clothes from home at that time. I then also volunteered at a hospital in Pakistan and soon was offered a job. My director there, Brigadier Rizwan, often commented on my leadership qualities, and when I eventually re-married and moved to the USA, I took that as an encouragement to start my own business and never looked back. The USA is, after all, the land of opportunity.
What services do you offer in your business? How does your work benefit your clientele?
I run my insurance agency called Marrium Insurance. We serve businesses and individuals in various States with auto, homeowner, recreational, life, and other types of insurance cover. Insurance is an integral part of business and professional life. So, I see myself as facilitating peoples' ambitions and offering them the best solutions for their commercial needs. I previously mentioned leadership qualities, and I think I'm a people-oriented business person (as opposed to task-oriented). and, I think this comes across in the supportive way in which I deal with my clients. If they succeed, then I succeed.
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
I think my proudest accomplishment was the time: when I felt like giving up and not wanting to carry on but somehow always managed to find the strength and determination to lift myself out of the mental hole that I was stuck in. We all have this secret willpower, telling us never to be a quitter. And that undoubtedly is my biggest accomplishment.
What was most difficult or challenging? What did you do to deal with these challenges?
It’s quite funny, but the most challenging thing was to learn to become deaf towards the toxic opinion of others, particularly strangers, whenever they'd give their unwanted opinions about me or my life. My generation was raised under the shadow of “log kya kahain gy?" To unlearn this and have to have the courage to do something for yourself and what I wanted was the most difficult. In life, you should try to do things that make you happy. It might not always have value to others, but as long as it has value to you, then everything is fine.
Describe a scene of your vision for the future.
I have this vision of seeing every child of Pakistan receiving proper education and the opportunity to go to school without worrying about food and fees. I am planning and investing in this purpose and InshAllah one day, I hope every child be able to study and I will see my dream coming true.
What experiences have you had that are unusual or unique?
I'm always making lemonade whenever life throws lemons at me (perhaps I should start a lemonade business!). Within twenty days of my second marriage, my husband was diagnosed with cancer! Being a stranger in the USA, I was lost, not knowing what to do. However, with time my husband got rid of the disease, but that one year taught me a lot about myself and what I can achieve
What is next for you in your work? What are you looking forward to?
Parallel with the expansion of my insurance business, I am looking forward to exhibiting some of my artwork and paintings. I also plan to invest in real estate (I recently completed some studies for that). And I want to get back to traveling too, which for obvious reasons, few of us got to do last year.
What are the lessons for someone who might embark on a journey similar to yours?
You have to try to become your own best friend. You have to learn self-love. Be your own motivator, value your dreams and make decisions for yourself. If a person comes to me for any sort of advice, I tell them that they are worthy of better things. And they should value the time they have and move on from the negativity and worries for a better tomorrow.