Close to six years ago, I was dealing with getting rejection after rejection for a book project that I had spent years on.
Up until then, I’d been the straight A, overachiever personality type, and I’d never faced that volume of rejection.
School had always been easy for me, and after graduating college with a degree in Marketing & Sales, I joined my family business.
Alongside my mother and father, I helped open a new location for our preschool business, and I found myself in the position of managing about 120 employees straight out of college.
It was anything but easy, but I enjoyed it.
I learned so much about entrepreneurship managing our schools, but deep down inside, my passion had always been writing and content creation.
I continued to pursue it on the side, but when all those rejection letters came pouring in, I knew I needed to pivot.
I needed to become so “big” that publishers would come to me–not the other way around– and so began my social media journey.
The first account I created on Instagram was called “How Great People Think” aka @howgr8pplthink on Instagram, and it was focused on motivation, entrepreneurship and self development.
I consumed so much self-help content at this time that I began to see exponential growth in myself.
Furthermore, I began to gain tens of thousands of followers, which was something I had never achieved before.
I realized two things during this time:
First, I learned how much I loved social media marketing.
Second, I learned how powerful it could be, so I want all in.
The next account I created was called @bumblebrainbox which later turned into my first e-commerce company. Bumble Brain Box was a subscription box for baby brain development. It featured monthly curriculum and materials for children 0-3 years old, and it was a project my husband and I worked on together. We scaled the company to over 6 figures in a year, but we burned ourselves out in the process.
I was running my schools, managing my social media accounts, and growing an extremely fast paced subscription box business.
I realized I couldn’t do it all, and my husband was not willing to walk away from his career as a geophysicist either. We ended up selling the company, which led to my next move.
I transitioned @howgr8pplthink into @saniakhiljee, my personal brand.
I did not realize it at the time, but this would be one of the best moves I’d ever made on social media.
I was inspired by legends such as Gary Vaynerchuk, Russell Brunson, Foundr Magazine, and more, and I know there was more to my story than running schools and subscription businesses.
Bumble Brain Box told me the value of “slow and steady” versus building something so quickly that I burned out, so I vowed to take my time with my personal brand to build something I was truly passionate about.
I was going to build a business that I loved–no matter how much work it took.
This was in 2017, and in 2018, my husband and I made the decision to start a family. Our beautiful baby girl Lily was born in May 10, 2019, and once again, my world changed.
I love being a mother more than any other role in my life, but I was not prepared for the mental health challenges that came my way: severe postpartum depression and borderline personality disorder.
I began to stop posting on social media and focused all my strength and energy on surviving the postpartum period.
It took me close to 6 months to stabilize my mental health, but right around that 6 month mark is when Covid-19 hit the USA.
Like everyone else, I was quarantined and unsure about the fate of my school as well as the safety of my loved ones.
I turned to TikTok as an “escape” from reality.
I started posting my typical content–motivation, entrepreneurship, self-development, and social media marketing–but then, I tried something I’d never done before…
I started sharing my story and everything I’d been through over the last few years.
Within a year and a half, I went from zero to 500,000 followers.
This changed my life in many ways.
My family and I were beginning to get recognized when we went out, several companies wanted to work with me for sponsored content, I self-published a book called “Brown Girls are Beautiful” with readers all around the world, and more.
At the time of writing this post–August 26th–I made a big decision.
It wasn’t impulsive by any means. In fact, I’d say that I have been working up to this for the last 6 years.
I hired a manager to take over my position at the school, so I can focus on content creation full time.
So what’s next for me now that I’m doing this full time?
- Becoming a business, self development, and social media coach to help others achieve the same
- 10x-ing the effort on my blog with daily blog posts, products, services, advertisements, and affiliate marketing
- Daily blog posts, Tiktok videos, Instagram posts, Pinterest pins, stories on Quora, and more
- More networking via an audio and video Podcast
- Spending more time with my Lily Puffs <3
I appreciate all the prayers I can get as I embark on this new chapter.