For today’s blog post, I sat down with Alara Karahan, a Grade 10 student living in Toronto. She opens up about her experience founding a company, emphasizes the importance of a balanced perspective, and shares some tips for fellow busy students. Hint: She relies on the principle JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out).
Alara strolled into the Ivy Global headquarters on a deceivingly springlike February morning, sporting a light pink sweatshirt with a small logo in the left hand corner. She confidently extended her hand to me and smiled. This is the girl I wanted to meet.
I asked Alara to come in because I was curious: how does a 15-year-old manage to juggle school with pursuing seemingly dozens of extracurriculars all the while operating a business?
As we nestled into our chairs, Alara and I spoke about her support system, balancing a busy schedule, and She Clothing Co., the company she founded with three of her friends.
Q: What was your family’s outlook on education?
ALARA: My mom tells me that when she was younger, her parents were very eager on her getting good marks. They used to get the answer booklets and she would memorize the answers. Standardized testing is what your life revolves around [in Turkey].
Q: Has this attitude translated to your mom’s expectations of you?
ALARA: My whole family values education, but my mom especially. She moved her life for me. Moving from Turkey to Canada is a big change. She expects [me and my brother] to seize every opportunity.
By sending me to Ivy Global, she’s kind of saying “I did everything in my power for you to have the best education.” I love being part of school and extracurriculars, and sometimes my mom worries that I am getting too stressed or have too much on my plate.
She’s actually the one who tells me to take a step back. Her motto is, “As long as you’re happy in what you do, you’ll succeed no matter what.”
Q: What are you involved with at school?
ALARA: I have a case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). So that is why I end up trying so many things. I’m still trying to figure out what I like, so I’ve been part of a bunch of clubs: DECA, Debate Club, Drama Club, plays, Book Club… I’ve even tried Knitting Club.
It’s all over the place, but there are three themes that I have narrowed it down to: entertainment, law, and business. The things I have stuck with are Math club—I really enjoy math—DECA, Debate, Student Council, and the play. Those are my priorities.
Q: How did you narrow it down to these clubs?
ALARA: I took a step back and asked myself, “Can I live without this, and do I want to live without this?”
For example, Student Council does take up a lot of time, but it is also something that I really enjoy and look forward to. So I stuck with it. Finance Club, on the other hand, is very similar to Math Club, which I found more fun and had more friends in, so I decided to drop Finance Club.
Instead of giving 100 per cent to one passion, I was giving one per cent to 100 passions. Now [that I’ve narrowed it down] it’s a lot easier for me to focus my mental energy on things that I enjoy.
Q: What advice would you give to a student who is in a position similar to the one you were in not so long ago: eager to try things, but it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day? How does this student narrow down what they should focus on?
ALARA: There’s actually a new acronym I found: JOMO. It stands for the Joy Of Missing Out. I think that [this student] should take a step back to think “Why am I doing this?” and “Who is telling me to do this?”
If after [that reflection] they think that what they are doing is truly one of their passions, and that they look forward to it, then it’s worth their time. For things that don’t meet that criteria, it may be worth it to say, “I can drop this and move on to things that I am passionate about.”
Q: You’ve narrowed down your interests, but it still sounds like there is a lot on your plate! How do you find the necessary balance?
ALARA: I’ve definitely gotten better at time management and organization. My new thing is scheduling. I write down everything that I need to do in an agenda.
I number the list off in order from what I want to do the most down to what I want to do the least, and then I complete the tasks in the opposite order. So, I start with whatever it is that I don’t want do and get it over with first.
I also love exercising. I definitely feel more relaxed and ready to take on whatever is on my plate after I exercise.
Q: Could you tell me a bit about She Clothing Co. and what you do?
ALARA: We are Alara, Lara, Laura, and Jordan of She Clothing Co. Our motto is helping girls help the world. We sell sweatshirts and apparel. All the proceeds go to charities that help girls and women. We are currently working with GEM, a mentorship program for girls.
Q: What are some challenges of starting and operating your own business?
ALARA: [The biggest challenge was] becoming an actual business: getting the adequate finances together, building the website, and getting the shipping down. [Another challenge] was battling hate. People would say things like “Why is it called She Clothing Co.?”
There’s always going to be backlash. We understand that. But we try to stay focused on our message. We’re planning an event right now for International Women’s Day, which is open to everyone. We are not trying to alienate anyone and want to facilitate a discussion about feminism.
Me: What do you envision for She Clothing Co. a year from now?
ALARA: We are trying to branch out to people outside of our immediate circle. In one year, we hope to have more products, both apparel and accessories. We also want to host more educational events and sponsor them as well.
Q: Your company supports a girls mentorship program and you maintain a mentorship relationship with Michael Kang, one of Ivy Global’s education consultants. What do you think is the value in having a mentor as a high school student?
ALARA: People [often] say that high school can be the worst years of your life because you are still trying to figure yourself out. And it’s hard. I don’t know who I am going to be and it can be a rough time.
But my parents, Michael—they all just help me find who I am. They guide me. Mentorship is a key aspect to finding who you are and who you want to be. Your mentors can be a role model and you can follow their lead.
Me: What is it like working with Michael?
ALARA: Oh, he’s awesome. He understands that I don’t have just one passion, that one thing. When I tell him I have all these interests I am interested in, Michael finds a connection between them. Often, [that connection] is something that I hadn’t even thought about.
Q: What are some of the goals you are working towards together?
ALARA: We set academic goals at the beginning of the year. He helps me with planning for the future and finding themes, like I talked about before. For me those themes are feminism and business.
Michael also helps me find opportunities. He helps me craft a path for these next four years, so that I can enroll in the best university and program for me.
Alara plans to attend a liberal arts college after graduating high school and pursue a career as an entertainment lawyer (but is open to the latter changing).
For more info on Ivy Global’s education consulting service, visit https://ivyglobal.com/consulting
VIDEO: The importance of having a balanced perspective