Community & Current Events

Seema Pabari: Entrepreneur

Seema Pabari: Entrepreneur

Photography by John Hryniuk Image by: Photography by John Hryniuk Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

Seema Pabari: Entrepreneur

Name: Seema Pabari
Location: Toronto, Ont.
Job: Entrepreneur

Seema Pabari walked away from a successful career as a marketing executive – and the six-figure salary that went with it – in order to launch Tiffinday, an Indian vegan food business specializing in delivering litterless lunches in tiffins (reusable stainless steel containers).

"I wasn't enjoying my experience in the corporate world much," Seema recalls. "I was working very long hours, I had gone through a separation that left me a single parent and my father had recently passed away. All this made me stop in my tracks and re-evaluate my life. I decided that something had to give."

The inspiration for Tiffinday came to Seema one evening while she was preparing her son's lunch. "I was packing it in a little tiffin for him to take to school and I thought, I love doing this. Let's see if there's a business to be had here."

Her dream
Seema had a clear vision for her business. She wanted to serve healthy, delicious food; to minimize her impact on the environment; and to make socially responsible hiring decisions (offering employment to people for whom English is a second language and to parents who need flexible work schedules).

Tiffinday launched in the summer of 2010. Three years later, the business is at a turning point. Should Seema turn the business into a full-time operation by acquiring her own kitchen (a $100,000 to $150,000 investment that would take at least 10 years to pay back), or should she consider yet another career change?

Whatever she decides, one thing's for certain: She won't be returning to pre-Tiffinday life. "I have come to believe that the art of earning a living takes up so much of our time that it needs to matter. If it doesn't make a difference in the world, the time spent is useless. And I don't want to be part of that."

Her secret
Businesses like Tiffinday are the way of the future, at least according to social innovation adviser Allyson Hewitt of MaRS (a business and social entrepreneurship incubator in Toronto) who notes that many up-and-coming entrepreneurs are likely to try to combine business with social change.

The new generation can't in good conscience "just make a living," says Hewitt. "They want to find new ways of doing good and of making an impact."

How can you achieve your dream: use your voice
Strategist and business mentor Michela Quilici was a young child, she was so afraid of speaking that she began to lose her voice.

"I was terrified of judgment and shame," she recalls. "I didn't feel I had anything worthwhile to say. I didn't feel like I was nurtured and accepted for who I was. I was so terrified of speaking my truth that I began, at the age of eight, to stutter and stammer. It got to the point that I couldn't even say my own name.

"Even at such a young age, I knew the stuttering was a symptom of a bigger problem. I just didn't know what. I spent many years in speech therapy and psychotherapy, and then moved to other forms of healing to dismantle my old belief system and rebuild healthy thought patterns. I needed to find a way to be myself and be okay with that.

"I believe, looking back, that my greatest wound became my biggest gift. It challenged me to face the issue – to figure out what was happening and to do what I could to fix it."

We have more stories of extraordinary Canadians.
This story was originally titled "Meet the Dreamers" in the December 2013 issue.
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Seema Pabari: Entrepreneur