Faces of Entrepreneurship: Fareedah Shaheed, Sekuva

2022-09-06T13:54:18-07:00 September 6th, 2022|Developing a Product/Service, Support/Mentor Networks|

Fareedah Shaheed is the CEO and Founder of Sekuva, where she helps parents and caretakers protect their kids online. She has taught thousands of people online security & safety, has hosted lunch and learns, and has delivered keynotes on the subject. She is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and is currently serving on the Forbes board for the Under 30 community. She has been named Cybersecurity Personality of the Year 2020. And her work has been featured in Cisco, NASA, FOX 25, FOX 46, FOX Carolina, NBC Washington, The Grio, Yahoo!, AfroTech, The Every Mom, StartPage, TripWire, Infosecurity Magazine, and many more.

What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Fareedah Shaheed: Entrepreneurship means the privilege and ability to create a massive impact on your own terms.

Tell us about your first experience with entrepreneurship.
FS: My first experience with entrepreneurship was teaching English to a small group of Saudi children in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My family had moved to the Middle East for my father’s tech job when I was eight, and before I came back to the states for college, my mother and I teamed up to create a space for people who wanted to learn English.

Because I was fluent in Arabic, we decided that I would teach the children and my mother would teach the younger adults. This experience made me realize that teaching had to be the backbone of any career I decided to choose. And because I knew that I wanted to teach independent of any formal school, the seeds of entrepreneurship were planted then.

What is your company’s origin story? What is the biggest reason you started your business? What did those early days look like and teach you?
FS: My cybersecurity career started with me teaching cybersecurity awareness. Almost every workshop would end with people asking if I could do a workshop for their community, organization, or family.

I finally gave in and started Sekuva with the mission to teach small business owners and families internet safety. But with the help of my amazing mentors, I realized that I needed to focus on one audience. And the most natural choice was to pivot to internet safety for families…and even more specifically…parents.

And that’s when my tagline “I help parents protect their kids online.” was born.

During this time, I was very focused on personal and business development and that led me to read many books on the topic. After months of reading, I realized that healing emotional wounds and childhood trauma was at the core of personal and business development.

For years, I thought I didn’t have any childhood trauma because my childhood was “privileged and perfect.” But the pandemic forced me to slow down and sit with myself and I had never done that before. Those silent moments showed me the amazing and not-so-amazing parts of my childhood that I needed to address. And to help with this healing journey, I started to reconnect with my inner child in many ways.

My podcast: “The Accidental Arab” and my new approach to teaching internet safety “Holistic Online Safety” was born from this. The Accidental Arab is a podcast on my experiences growing up as a Black Muslim girl in Saudi Arabia. I also use the podcast to tell stories of other third-culture kids (people who grew up in a culture different than their parents).

Holistic Online Safety is about giving kids the freedom they WANT and the safety they NEED. And its purpose is to empower parents with internet safety awareness while building closer parent-child relationships. Because of this, I talk a lot about how healing emotional wounds and childhood trauma can help protect children online. Both the podcast and my approach to internet safety have the same foundations and core values: healing, connection, family, community, harmony, kindness, and grace.

What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
FS: I wish I knew how important healing emotional wounds and childhood trauma was to entrepreneurship and life in general. I eventually learned its importance but in the very beginning, I was stuck on enhancing my mindset and business skills without understanding how big healing and therapy were within any truly successful person or business.
But despite it all, I’m immensely proud of myself because my hunger to be better led me down this path. And for that, I’m forever grateful.

What does “success” look like for you? We’d love to hear your biggest, boldest dream? What do you think will help you achieve it?
FS: Success looks like internal and external happiness. It means that when I wake up in the morning, I’m immensely proud and happy with myself for making a positive impact in someone’s life. This someone could be a parent in my community, a friend, a family member, a stranger, a business connection, or myself.
It also means building wealth for myself, my loved ones, and the next generation. Because freedom and expansive opportunities are priceless.

I have so many big, bold, and wild dreams! Here are some of them:

  • Build the most impactful and compassionate community of parents discovering how to protect their children online.
  • Travel to at least 100+ countries and stay there for extended periods.
  • Grow The Accidental Arab into a community of third culture kids that meet up and support each other.
  • Partner with more schools to educate on internet safety.
  • Partner with companies that can help raise awareness and enhance internet safety for children worldwide.
    • Here are some that I would love to work with: Scholastic, Norton, Apple, Google, Meta, Disney, PBS Kids, TikTok, Snapchat, Crayola, LastPass, NordVPN, Verizon, UNICEF, Microsoft, Common Sense Media, and many more!
  • Collaborate with parenting/family brands, influencers, and gaming companies to help parents understand internet safety.
  • Develop internet safety content in Arabic.
  • Become a New York Times Bestselling author.
  • Deliver an impactful TED talk.

Crazy enough, this is the short list! But I’m super excited to see all this unfold over the next few years. And I believe that having a deep focus on healing myself, being the best person I can be, and bringing immense value to everyone around me is what will help me achieve every dream imaginable.

What is your superpower as an entrepreneur? What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
FS: My superpower as an entrepreneur is breaking down complex topics into simple and actionable information.
My proudest moment happens every time I consistently show up for myself, my loved ones, and my community. And the darkest moments happen when I don’t fully show up for myself or my community.

What are your personal driving principals, your top values?
FS: My top values are:

  • Community
  • Family
  • Security
  • Kindness
  • Grace
  • Harmony

How have your personal principles and values shaped your company’s values and principles? Give us some examples.
FS: My top values are derived from my personal principles and values. I’ll list how these values came to be below:

  • Community: I wouldn’t be where I am today without a strong community of supporters. To me, a community is the backbone of all successful endeavors.
  • Family: Whether it’s your chosen or blood family, these groups of people are just as integral to your wider community of supporters on your journey. There is no denying the impact that family has on our physical, emotional, and intellectual selves. Family will always be a core focus of mine as we all deserve a safe space.
  • Security: This value comes from being in the cybersecurity field and our deep human need to be safe and secure.
  • Kindness: Growing up in another country and being in cybersecurity showed me how important kindness was. So often people become outcasts because of their different backgrounds or lack of technical knowledge in any given subject.
  • Grace: I learned that giving myself grace and other people grace throughout this journey called life was imperative to any personal or global impact.
  • Harmony: I believe that striving for harmony (and not balance!) helps us appreciate the changing tides of life and give ourselves grace as we work to keep everything running smoothly.

What’s it like to work alone or with your partners?
FS: I grew up as an only child so being an entrepreneur that mostly works alone is amazing and familiar to me. But I will be growing my team soon, and I’m excited about that! I still intend to keep it small and lean. I want just enough amazing people to make the impact I desire.

Do you have a mentor? Tell us about what makes them valuable to you and your business?
FS: I have a couple of mentors who are a part of what I used to call “my support system” but I’m now calling them my “board of directors”. I love the name change because my mentors have been and still are integral to my business and its growth. Their experiences help guide me in the directions I take.

It’s priceless to have people who firmly believe in your business and support you every step of the way. There is no way I would be here today without my amazing board of directors.
I appreciate them greatly.

What role does mentorship play in your world (as a mentor or mentee)?
FS: Being a mentee and mentor plays a huge role in my world! There really isn’t a day where the positive impact of being both a mentee or mentor doesn’t show up in my life.

Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day?
FS: Here are some of the things that I do every day that support my work and greater vision:

  • Pray
  • Meditate
  • Practice gratitude
  • Sit in silence
  • Positive Affirmations
  • Dance
  • Talk to someone I love
  • Practice being a “go-giver”
  • Do something that makes me happy

What are you reading or have read?
FS: I’m currently reading “You are the Placebo” by Joe Dispenza and its blowing me away! So even though I haven’t finished it, it will be in my top 10 favorite non-fiction books.
My other favorite books are:

  • The Tipping Point -Malcolm Gladwell (and any book by him)
  • Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  • David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Gifts of Imperfection – Brené Brown
  • Mindset -Carol Dweck
  • Atomic Habits – James Clear
  • The Go-Giver – Bob Burg and John David Mann
  • Go-Givers Sell More – Bob Burg, John Mann
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • I am Enough – Marisa Peer
  • Tell Yourself a Better Lie – Marisa Peer
  • It Didn’t Start With You – Mark Wolynn
  • The Body Keeps the Score – Bessel A. Van Der Kolk
  • Women Who Love Too Much – Robin Norwood
  • The Big Leap – Gay Hendricks
  • The 1% Rule – Tommy Baker
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson
  • Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
  • Superfans – Pat Flynn
  • Fish! – Stephen C. Lundin, John Christense
  • The 12 Week Year – Brain P. Moran, Michael Lennington
  • The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss

Where do you go for inspiration?
FS: Here is where I go for inspiration:

  • Books/articles
  • Music
  • Nature
  • Talking to someone
  • Moments of silence
  • Traveling
  • Social media
  • Movies/TV Shows
  • Gaming

Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or words of wisdom to get through the tough days?
FS: I have a lot of quotes, words of wisdom, and affirmations that get me through tough days.
Here are some that come to mind:

  • “I am enough”
  • “I am in control”
  • “I can do challenging things”
  • “Simplicity is brilliance”
  • “Breaks are necessary”
  • “It’s okay to not be okay”
  • “What would someone who loves themself do at this moment?”
  • “How can I love and appreciate myself more?”
  • “What’s the next right move?”
  • “Let it go. Let it flow. Watch it grow.”
  • “Give yourself grace”
  • “Take a deep breath. Sit with your emotions.”
  • “What thought did you have that produced this feeling? Let’s change that thought.”

What is a problem that keeps you up at night?
FS: Difficult nights happen but they aren’t often. So, I’m thankful to say that not much keeps me up at night consistently, and I hope it stays that way!

How do you think about helping others through your work?
FS: My work is ALL about helping others! Being of assistance fuels me and I absolutely love every millisecond of it. The fact that I can simplify internet safety and help families find some peace of mind with their children’s digital activities gives me such immense joy. I always knew that no matter what I chose to do in life, it would have a foundational element of helping others.

What advice do you have for fellow (and aspiring) entrepreneurs building and leading teams?
FS: Here are some things I tell aspiring entrepreneurs:

  • Heal your emotional wounds and childhood trauma
  • Go to therapy
  • Listen and create a safe space for yourself so that you can do the same with others
  • Seek out a mentor
  • Invest in one or more business coaches
  • Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs
  • Invest in a business mastermind
  • Invest in your personal development
  • Have more fun
  • Give yourself a lot of grace
  • Ask for help

What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as – as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
FS: I want to be known as someone who created safe spaces filled with grace and kindness within my personal and business life. I want to be known as a powerful and positive force for change in how we approach internet safety for millions of families worldwide.

Do you have someone you’d like to nominate to be profiled in our Faces of Entrepreneurship series? Please let us know by emailing media@thecenter.nasdaq.org or submit your nomination using this form.

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