My guest on today’s episode of Period Story podcast is Sharn Khaira, the founder of Asian Female Entrepreneur Collective, who shares a powerful story of transformation across many aspects of her life – her health, her business and her personal life.
In this episode, Sharn shares:
- What happened when she thought she might have ovarian cancer
- What she did to manage her symptoms once she was diagnosed with PCOS
- How she challenged the Asian cultural norms she grew up to build two successful businesses
- How she helps other Asian women overcome cultural mindset blocks that get in their way of becoming entrepreneurs
- What she did when she was faced with bullying
- And of course, the story of her first period
Sharn says that on an entrepreneurial journey, it’s so important to let go of judgement and stop caring about what other people think. This will help you claim your true voice and power.
Thank you, Sharn!
Get in touch with Sharn:
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Le’Nise: Thank you so much Sharn for coming on the show today. I’m really excited to speak to you. But let’s get started with the first question I ask all my guests, which is tell me the story of your very first period.
Sharn: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. So my first period was literally I think I was like ten years old. And it was during like I think it was like Easter holidays. And I remember just being with my brother, like playing around. It was like really warm. And then all of a sudden he was like, Oh my God, Like, I think I was still in my like nightie because it’s like early in the morning. And my brother was like, Oh my God, you’ve got so much blood, like, on your dress, you know, your nightie. And I was like, Oh, my God, like. And I’d known obviously about periods that I’m like, an eighties child, born in the eighties. But actually what happened after that was I was because I was coming from an Indian culture and like periods are seen as like a little bit shameful. And I remember just being really scared and I was like, oh my God, like, how am I going to tell my mum about this? I know I’m really young. So I was only ten years old. And then I remember I had to, like, tell my my mom’s friend who was our neighbour, and she kind of like broke the news to my mum and like my mum, I just don’t think she, like, spoke to me properly about it.
And she was just really disappointed that I’d started early because in the Indian culture they have this thing like it might be like a, you know, more of a cultural thing, but basically they think that if a girl starts their period early, she’s not going to grow so, like, completely nuts. So I felt like I was like, yeah, I just found like it was quite a bit of a shameful thing that I’d started really early and my mum was like, Oh my God, you’re not going to grow. And, you know, all of the emotions that follow that. So it wasn’t it wasn’t the best experience.
Le’Nise: So there’s a lot to kind of unpack there. Can you talk a little bit more about the shame, like the cultural shame and then the shame that you kind of felt, which made you hesitant to tell your mom about what had happened?
Sharn: Yeah. So I think in the culture that I’m brought up in, it’s very much about what other people think. You know, judgement is such a big issue in our culture because that because of the family dynamics and the way, you know, especially like the Asian cultures, is all based on what other people think. You know, it’s never really based on, you know, your own happiness. And I’ve found that throughout my life with various different things.
So I think with my period, I think my mom was just, a. concerned that it started so early and b. like, how am I going to manage this as a young child? And I think historically, Asian parents have been very supportive. Like I know when I have my daughter, like she starts her period, I’ll be so, like comforting and supportive. But I didn’t really have that support. It was just kind of like it’s like you started your period and, you know, my mom’s very lovely. I have a really great relationship with that. But at that age, like obviously you filter and my memory of it is very much like I had to kind of get on with that. And I just remember feeling like really, really scared because I think I was like one of the first people in my year to start my period. I was still and it was before secondary. It was the last year of like junior school, so it was like a really scary time.
Like, you know, at the time, like, you know, they used to have these, like huge sanitary towels that were like massive. They weren’t discreet. So I remember like, taking them to like school and trying to hide them. And it was just yeah, it was just a really I just remember feeling like dirty and again, like that’s what we believe in our culture. Like we’re not allowed we weren’t really allowed to like if you’re on your period, not allowed to go to the temple because it’s like a dirty thing. So I remember all those feelings really of like shame and guilt and feeling like, Oh my God, why is there something wrong with me? I’m like going to grow, you know? You believe all of these things at the time because I was only ten. So yeah, it was pretty tough.
Le’Nise: Yeah. And ten is it’s quite young. So you would have been in year five, year six.
Sharn: Yeah, I was in year six. I just remember like I remember having like loads of incidents with my periods as well because I think I was so young and you don’t really understand like the flow of your periods and you don’t really understand like day one versus day four or five. So I remember like I was at this, I think it was like my cousin’s like pre-party and I was wearing like a white top and, oh my God, like again, I had this incident where, like, I leaked, right? And it went through to my top. And I remember like, it just being like, again, really shameful. And then I had to, like, go to like my aunties house, change my talk, but I remember like, myself, like lying about it because I was so ashamed. I was like, Oh, I think I’ve just had like a cut. And I remember like my cousin and my other auntie just like, whispering about it. And again, it was like no one ever said, like, Oh, it’s okay. Like, it’s fine. You know, it was all very, very like, shame ridden I would say.
Le’Nise: And then as you got older, so as you moved into your I love, like being a tween to actually being a teenager. Did your relationship with your your period change at all?
Sharn: I think like when I first started, I remember like my mum used to kind of force me, even though like I wasn’t meant to be going to the temple, if I was like, kind of like on day one or something, she would like still take me to the temple. And I think, like, I think looking back, that was like, you know, not good, you know, because I think it was is really hard in Indian suits as well because you’ve got like bottoms and then you’ve got like a top. And I think it’s not the most comfortable clothing to be in.
But I think as Yeah, definitely as I got through like secondary school and like obviously then everyone was starting their periods, it felt like so much better because you’re just in the same boat as everyone else. And then afterwards I just didn’t. I was very much like, Yeah, then it was fine. As I got older, I think it was those early years when I was in junior school, probably early secondary school. But then I think like after that, like it was, you know, it was a good thing because my periods were actually quite regular. And then no one really questions that because everyone’s in the same boat, you know, it’s absolutely fine.
Le’Nise: Yeah, it’s so interesting that kind of that cultural shame and that religious shame that comes through with having a period and how that can really change your experience of something that just, you know, it happens. It’s in natural bodily, Yeah. And you experience this every month for like 40 years. But if you start it with this kind of like imprint of shame, it can really change your perspective on your body.
Sharn: Yeah, absolutely. And because it was this whole thing that I’m not going to grow because I think I was, you know, quite tall for my, like, you know, year six and then because because my mum kept saying like, oh, you’re not going to grow. You’re not going to grow. And then obviously it had nothing to do with the period. But actually that ended up happening. But that’s because, you know, my genetics, my DNA and, you know, not because my period came early, that I was like thinking, oh, like the reason why I can because again, like in our culture is not good. You know, the standard of beauty is tall, fair and slim. You know, that’s the that’s the standard of beauty that everyone subscribes to. It’s definitely changed now, I think. But back then it was like, Oh I’m so short. And then my mum would always remind me like, Oh, you’re short because you started your period early.
And then I remember having this like complex about my height as well. Like, you know, when I was at school, not so much when I was at school, but I remember like kind of early teens, I would just be constantly wearing heels, like even if it would kill me, like I’d go to college in heels, like if it was a night out, I’d go in heels, like I was obsessed, like with my height then as well, because my mum had made it such a thing. And again, of course, it turned into kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy because she kept reminding me.
So I think, yeah, I just remember like just feeling like really alone and just again, like, you don’t want to tell too many people at school because, you know, I think one of my friends found out and she told a few people and and again, I was like, instead of just being like, yeah, it’s like my period. It was like Oh I can’t believe you started your period. Oh my God. Like it was made into like, such a big thing. And, you know, at that age, you just you already feel like I felt like as an Asian child already felt like, you know, I had a weird name and I looked different and, you know, and then it was like another thing to make me feel different, you know?
Le’Nise: Did you go to a predominantly Asian school or was it mixed?
Sharn: So my junior school was pretty mixed, but my secondary school was I think I was like one I think one of two Asian girls in my year, So everyone was predominantly like why I was, I would say that middle to upper class because the secondary school I went to. So yeah, I think it was like really tough as well. Yeah.
Le’Nise Right. And you had, you said that your periods, they kind of like regulated and you know they were fairly, were they easy as a teenager?
Sharn: I think like if looking back I think I had I don’t remember them being painful. I think sometimes that the flow would be quite heavy, but I don’t really remember them being painful like and obviously as I’ve gotten older and starting them early, I’ve gone through my own journey with like PCOS, so now I really notice my periods. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m working from home a little bit older. I think at the time I just used to kind of get on with it and I was very like, I don’t ever remember them bothering me.
I think when I first started it was definitely like, Oh my God, like, like there’s no trackers or anything. So I just remember like I trying to navigate like, you know, when you first start, you, you don’t really realise what your flow is like. I think that part was I found that quite challenging, especially when I had to go to these like Indian parties or the temple. And that is the whole thing of like having your pads, like how you’re going to carry and if you’re like really young, like not necessarily going to take a handbag. And I remember like school as well, like trying to put them in my bag because it’s just so huge. I remember once Oh my God, got like I wanted to die, I came home from school and my granddad, so I empty my rucksack and like, wash my lunchbox. He’s so sweet, but he like, found them and he was like, What are these? And then I was like, Oh my God, Like, I just wanted to die of shame. And then he was called These are like ladies things. And then he bless him, just put them back in. But then I think afterwards, yeah, absolutely fine. I think then I think in your life then it’s kind of seen as a cool thing, like ooh, you’ve like started your period but yeah I definitely notice a difference now for sure. Yeah.
Le’Nise: Can you talk a little bit more about your PCOS journey?
Sharn: Yeah. So basically my periods were always they’ve always been really regular throughout my life and I did notice them getting a bit heavier and then having like pain, like on the left hand side, like the lower back. I remember in 2019, like the pain was really, really bad. And I was like, okay, like this time it’s been very painful. Didn’t really think anything of it. This was like in the summer, that August 2019.
And then I kind of I think maybe I left my appointment to like September, and then I went to the doctors and they were like, okay, we’re just going to like, book you in for a scan. And I was thinking, Well, it hasn’t hurt like since. So, you know, everything’s fine. I didn’t think I needed a scan and obviously because of them, I think they have like because ovarian cancer has been undetected through the NHS, they’ve obviously any kind of inkling to do with like ovaries or cysts. I think they’re very hot on it now and because I think I read a report actually online where they weren’t doing enough referrals like a decade previously and ovarian cancer obviously goes so undetected because it could just, the symptoms could just be anything period related, right.
And then I remember like my appointment was in November and I missed it stupidly because I had this massive event in London that I was doing. And then I went in December and it was like, I think it was like nine days before Christmas or something. And then I went for my scan and they were like, I remember just being at the hospital and they were like, Oh, it looks like you’ve got some cysts. And I was like, oh, I remember like just being so, like, upset that I had cysts. Like I was like, Oh my God, like, I’ve got cysts. I remember going home crying to my husband saying, Oh, they’re going to right a letter. I was really upset. And then the next day it was Friday evening and it was like 7:00, 8:00 it was really late. And the doctor rings me and I’m like, This is really weird because it’s like 7:00 in the evening. And I was like, Oh, like, you know, is everything okay, doctor? Because, you know, they told me I’ve got cysts. So I’ll just wait for a letter. And then she was like, Yes, like we found some cysts, we found a fibroid we think, but we also found something else. And I was like, okay, like, what is this something else then?
And then she was like, Oh, like, we don’t quite know what the other thing is. I was like, Fine, we can do some more tests. And she was just literally like, you know, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But she goes, I do have to tell you this because, you know, maybe like ten, 15 years ago we wouldn’t have to tell you. But we we do have an obligation to tell you now. But I’m going to put you on the fast track list for ovarian cancer. And I was like. What. I was, like, so shocked and obviously so scared. She was like, you know, just don’t know what this other thing is. And I was like, Oh my God. Like, obviously I was like, completely distraught. I was just like, crying. I was so upset. And then you start having crazy thoughts like, am I going to be here next year, have I got ovarian cancer? Like, what the hell is going on? I remember the next day I had to go and see my cousins because they had this like Christmas party thing booked and I had to act all normal.
But basically the process, I think it was a blood test. And then the other process was an MRI scan. I think it was it was at the time. So I had my blood test the following week, which was like the week before Christmas. And then I rang up the receptionist at the doctor’s and she was like, your blood test results are back. And I’m like, I don’t know why she said this to me, but she was like, they’re abnormal. And I’m like, again, just like, I was like, literally, like crying my eyes out. I was like, This is it. I’ve got cancer. Like it’s abnormal. And I was and then I was like, Can I, like, speak to the doctor? Can you get him to call me back? I remember that being like, such an excruciating afternoon. It took like 4 hours for the doctor to call me, and I just remember thinking, What? This is it, like I’m dying? Like, my. The blood test is not right. And then I remember, like me and my husband, because I think it’s called the, what it’s called. Not like that C-A something. And we Googled it, which obviously we shouldn’t, but basically said that it could be abnormal if you’re on your period.
Le’Nise: It’s the CA 125.
Sharn: CA 125. Yeah. And, and then it was exactly that it was abnormal because I was on my period and I don’t know what until this day like why the receptionist would just say that without any context. But then the doctor was like, you know, it is because of your period. We just have to wait for the MRI scan. And then obviously, like and then what happened was because I think I was so stressed out. I it just after Christmas I basically like came on my period again and like I just had my period the week before I’d finished and then it came on again. I think that was really like stress. And then I was like, Oh my God, I’ve definitely got cancer like this. This is the start. It was just crazy. And then I went for my MRI and then, like, they took ages to get back to me. But I took it as a good sign because I was like, if it was anything serious, it would have told me. But they just said like, it’s nothing like cancerous.
This is like 2020. So just before lockdown. But they did say like you have PCOS and potentially the start of endometriosis and then they said like you’ve obviously got fibroids and cysts and this is like 2020. And I think that year, I just kind of went into denial and they were like, oh, like classic, like, oh, you need to lose some weight, but it’s going to be really hard for you to lose weight. That, yeah, that’s what they said. Like at the hospital, they were like, You’ll need to lose some weight, but it’d be really hard for you to lose weight. And I was like, great.
And then I was just kind of in denial. Then in lockdown, the PCOS, kind of like was the least of my concerns. Like, I just wasn’t very I just was just kind of like, I’ve got it, but I’m not really going to do anything about it. My periods aren’t too painful. Yes, they’re a bit heavy, but I’m just going to be fine. And then I did cut out gluten and dairy and then it was only last year. And then I started to doing a few things, but I wasn’t, I was just like just trying to read books and YouTube stuff, like to get it under control. But then last year, I remember around this time last year I was getting so tired and I was constantly exhausted. Like I had to take naps during the day. I was so tired. And then I finally decided to work with like a health coach and get like all my tests done because I wanted like scientifically backed data. Like, I think, you know, when you’ve got it in front of you, like in black and white and, I’ve kind of started this journey of my weight loss, getting my periods under control, getting my tiredness under control.
And I found out I had loads of things wrong with me, like an underactive thyroid, really low vitamin D, obviously my blood sugar levels were a bit elevated and then I obviously have PCOS of course. So yeah, I just been on this like I feel like on this journey for like eight, nine months properly. But yeah, definitely like getting there now, which is, which is good.
Le’Nise: So when you had the MRI originally, so like late 2019, 2020, did they do blood tests as well to confirm the PCOS?
Sharn: So I think they didn’t do a blood test. They only did the CA125 I think.
Sharn: Yeah. And they didn’t. They didn’t. Yeah. They didn’t really do much background so they were kind of like, oh it looks like you’ve got PCOS. One of the factors is cysts, right? I think I can’t remember.
Le’Nise: It is, but this is something I see a lot in my clinic where women, they get diagnosed with PCOS just based on an ultrasound or an MRI. Yeah. And it cause it’s actually normal to have some cysts, because…
Sharn: It is, yeah.
Le’Nise: And then some of my clients, it turns out they don’t actually have PCOS because we do blood work and we kind of dig into all of it. And they just had this diagnosis based on an ultrasound. So that’s why I am. I’m curious. And then once you worked with a health coach, were they able to verify the diagnosis through the blood work?
Sharn: Yeah, they were. They were. So I did have PCOS. Yeah. So I think I remember the report being like 50 pages long. So I was just taking it all in. But yeah, definitely like PCOS, not so much endometriosis, and I’ve had loads of scans since then. But then it was so funny because I went for a scan last last year and the cysts had gone, and then they were like, Oh, there’s no cysts. And all that was like, Where did it go? But then they said that, which I didn’t know, apparently the cysts can come and go each month, depending on the period. And I was like what? How long been fighting this? Not like two years later.
Le’Nise: Right. Yeah. It’s I actually find this so mad because you have these women getting these diagnoses and then being told you have PCOS and it’s a very serious condition because it affects so many aspects of your health. But based on like seeing cysts. But like I say, it’s normal to have cysts. It’s just that the different, the different eggs, the mature eggs, some actually don’t they don’t leave the ovaries so they’re at different stages of of growth and some they just don’t break through the ovary. Um yeah. And that is sometimes what is seen on the on the ultrasound. Yeah. That’s just so it’s really it’s fascinating because you got this diagnosis which obviously played on your mind so much and then to have the scan to say, Oh well actually we don’t see any cysts.
Sharn: It’s wild. I just think. I think like I would never got anywhere with and this is why Le’Nise your work is so important in life. If I didn’t have my health coach making sense of all of this, like, I would just be like, What the hell? I just think it’s such a mind field. And I think especially with PCOS, I find it really complicated, like, especially with the blood sugar stuff. Like, it’s just it is really hard to navigate. If you’re like, my recommendation would always be just work with the health coach, because reading the books, YouTubing, like I was for two years, it’s not specific to your body. Yes, there’s some generic advice now. Like, I don’t know, like cut out sugar. You know, try and go gluten and dairy free. One thing I did was I stopped doing like HIIT exercises. So I do more toning stuff now and stopped going for my crazy runs that I was doing during lockdown and that I think all that advice is probably good advice. But then your body is so you know, everyone’s body is different. And I actually got diagnosed with SIBO as well, which is the got the got small intestine, small intestine.
Le’Nise: Small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Sharn: Yeah. So I had to then go on a protocol for that which I healed actually, which I mean SIBO could come back but is just, is really hard like when you don’t this is why getting results and blood work is so important. So if anyone’s listening to this, like, please work with someone like Le’Nise because seriously, like, I dunno how I would have done it without my health coach, I would just would have been in the same situation. Just yeah, like my periods are much more regulated. They’re not as heavy now.
And food is so important as well because I think in January it was like my birthday and I was away and I like, went off the wagon a little bit, like fell off the wagon, ate like a lot of crap, like drank a little bit. And immediately that same month I noticed an impact on my period and I was like, This is crazy. But people don’t. They don’t tell you that. And obviously the NHS, bless them, they’re not, you know, they’re not equipped to deal with PCOS like they don’t they don’t have the knowledge. It’s a very specialist area and they just don’t have the knowledge and just saying lose weight. But you’re going to find it hard because it is hard for women who have got PCOS to lose weight. While that’s what I’ve found is not as simple as like, you know, just calorie counting. And for me has a lot where they say I’ve definitely lost weight, but I’ve had to do it in different ways. Yeah, blood sugar control, that kind of stuff. But this is why you need to have what, the health coach, because it is just wild if you know. Yeah.
Le’Nise: I want to shift gears a little bit and talk a little bit more about the work you do and the kind of transformative element that you kind of bring to your clients, but also to your own life. Because I, I read about, you know, some of the things that you said around challenging Asian culture and this kind of ties into your experience of your period a little bit. And then how when you challenged your Asian culture, how you should transform yourself. Can you talk a little bit more about that.?
Sharn: Yeah, so I think so. Do you mean how I challenged it? And then the transformation, right?
Le’Nise: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Sharn: So I grew up in a really strict Asian family. My obviously I’m Sikh, so a Punjabi cultural family and my mum and dad, especially my mum was very, very strict and they are actually more strict normally on girls anyway. And I had like all my, all my cousins on my dad’s side are boys. So I found that really difficult and challenging anyway, because everyone, all my cousins are boys and it would always be like double standards for me and my cousins. Like if we go to the temple, they’d be allowed to play outside and I’d have to be inside and they’d all go out and I wasn’t allowed to go. And I learnt a lot like led a very sheltered life, you know, I wasn’t really allowed to go out. I wasn’t allowed to like play with people that much wasn’t allowed sleepovers go around people’s friends, houses not really allowed to like, go to town with, like my friends. I wasn’t allowed to cut my hair. I wasn’t allowed to wear make up. All these like, crazy things. I guess my parents still like they were figuring it out because they’re first generation here. So I think they didn’t know how to like, have us mixed into the British culture. So they were just trying to preserve their culture, I guess. But they went to, I mean, all Asian parents are the same. Like my husband’s parents are exactly the same. It’s not just my parents. They didn’t really know how to do that.
And then I think it was like when I was kind of turning like 13, 14 and I’d like lived this sheltered life, like, literally was not allowed to do anything. Like, it was crazy. Like going to the cinema was really frowned upon. Going to sleepovers was like a dirty thing because you’re sleeping around someone’s house. Like, I don’t know what they think of that, but they think it’s really bad. And then I think when we so I used to again, like live on like my home town was like the roughest. I lived on the roughest street in my home town as well. So I wasn’t really I mean, I never had friends over to our house because it was just horrible. But then when we finally moved out, like 14 into like a nicer house, I just thought to myself, like, this can’t be my life. Like, I can’t, you know, just stick out like a sore thumb. Like my hair was really curly, which I loved, but like, I wasn’t allowed to, like, even wear my hair down, Like, I always had to have it up because, again, that’s because that was seen as a really bad thing. Like things like that. Your hair down, just wild. But then I was just like, You know what? Like my life can’t just be like this.
Because if I think of prescribed to my parents, like. Structure for my life, I would have literally never gone to uni. I would have got married off pretty young. Then I would have like, just have kids, no career, and that would have been the end of me type of thing. And then I was like, You know what? Like there’s more to life than this. And I just started to like rebel a little bit. So I started like, I think at 15, like going out clubbing because I just I think when you don’t give your kids freedom and they, I think they rebel more. I definitely think it’s a thing. And then it just started like I remember like going out 15,making new friends. I went through my own little mini transformation. I remember like going to House of Fraser at the time and like saying, I want new makeup, like got my hair chemically straightened and got new clothes. So when I was like going to college, I’d like completely transformed that summer. Like people were like, Oh my God, like, you look so different. And then I just didn’t really. I know sounds terrible, but I just didn’t really listen to my parents because I was like, They’re not living in this culture. Like, you know, I want to go out, I wanna make friends, I want to party.
And then, like, if you know, my mum, my relationship, my mum wasn’t great because obviously she didn’t approve of me, cut my hair wearing makeup, wearing like, you know, tight jeans and that that kind of stuff. But then through that rebellion, I think I found freedom. And then I remember like at 18 I went travelling, which was like, what, like maybe 20 years ago now, which was completely unheard of at the time, like for an Asian girl. Like, I didn’t know anyone who’d been travelling who was Asian. I was probably the first person in my hometown of our Asian community to do that. None of my cousins have been travelling. No one had done it. And then again, the whole like my mum got shamed by like my uncles and aunts is like, Why are you sending her? She shouldn’t, she shouldn’t be going by herself, like, blah, blah, blah. And then I think after that, I just, just just did my own thing.
And I think my mum realised like, there’s no point trying to control me because then I think it was a bit easier because as other people in my hometown kind of grew up and started cutting their hair and, you know, like going out, then it wasn’t so bad. But then when I went to uni it was great because I got my freedom. And I think a lot of Asian kids actually get that freedom back then got that freedom at uni, you know, and then my mum and dad actually have been like, now my mum really looks up to me, she’s like all, you know, you got, you’ve got a successful business like you’ve achieved so much. And now she can I think, see like I was always right because I’ve become my own person and become really independent, like strong. And now she’s just like, yeah, like Sharn knows best that like whatever she thinks goes. And it’s so funny because I made my own choices like they were true.
And then there was this whole thing in my late twenties, like they wanted to get me married because again, I was in my late twenties, wasn’t married. And again, that was like getting a bit shameful because I’m still sat on the shelf and potentially past my sell by date and they were kind of trying to pressurise me like they were like, you know, let’s do like a bit of an arranged marriage, Like you can meet this guy or you know, you can meet so-and-so. And I was like, No, like I’m not going to get pressurised into like getting married for the sake of having a big Asian wedding. So I really held my nerve into like, I met my husband and I was like, This is the right person for me because I didn’t want to get married tolike a typical kind of Asian guy in a typical Asian family. And then it’s so weird because then my my brother had an arranged marriage and it didn’t work out. And it was really, really messy. It was a girl from India, horrific, it was a really bad experience. And like, again, like my mum can now see that like my choices were the right choices, you know, even though it was painful for her at this time. So I think that has definitely been my transformation. And I think that if I just followed my parents. What they their path for me, I genuinely don’t know. I would be like. Like, I just hate to think what it would have been like.
Le’Nise: It’s so interesting because when you’re young, you you just think your parents, they know everything and they’re kind of like you look up to them, you don’t agree with everything they’re telling you to do. But then it’s like when you get into your teenage years, it’s like something switches in your brain and you kind of, Yeah. Like I went through a bit of rebellion myself, more like when I was in my twenties. But it’s just that this switch where you kind of are like, actually just let me find my own way, you know, you can’t keep pushing me.
And I just find that the transformation that you’ve gone through so fascinating, especially the cultural side of it, and I’m really curious about, you know, your journey into entrepreneurship. You know, you had your bridal business and now you have your kind of coaching business and you know, this this is so, you know, kind of different. So parallel to the path that your parents wanted you to go on. Talk about that side of it, you know, your the transition to entrepreneurship and the kind of cultural barriers you had to overcome there.
Sharn: Yeah. So it’s really interesting actually, because my parents, like, they aren’t, bless them, they’re not very educated. By the way, I have a really great relationship with my parents, like even I think they’re lot, but they are so sweet now.
But yeah, they, they had manual labour jobs. So my, my parents were kind of factory workers back in the day. They’re retired now actually. But so I think from a, from like a job career perspective for me they weren’t, they weren’t ever like, you have to be a doctor or you have to be a barrister or a dentist, because I think that’s a lot a lot of Asian parents do put that pressure on their kids like, so they weren’t very much like that. And I suppose they always were quite supportive of me doing what I wanted to do.
But I think because everyone in my family, so my uncles and aunts, my dad’s brothers and sisters, that side of the family, they are all self-made millionaires, actually, except for my parents. And I think I had always had this thing when I was younger. Like I was never like really jealous of them or anything, but like, I could see, like the value of having your own business because my parents, bless them, like, you know, they never they never kind of reached that like status. But whereas like my aunts and uncles had like a lot of property and they had like lot of businesses and obviously, like the difference was huge.
So I think that seed got planted in me very early that I don’t want to like work for someone else? My earning potential could be capped and I think like one of my biggest values is freedom, because obviously I didn’t have it as I was young. So I think the idea of me having a business has always been there, but obviously I got a degree in business as well. So I think that like in terms of me starting my business, it was really weird because I think that like I initially just started it for freedom. I set, I would say, and just knowing that I’m in charge because every time I had a job, I just didn’t it just didn’t work for me. Like the whole what I found really crazy was like, someone else is in charge of like my promotion. And it all depends on if they like you and they like your style of working, they like your personality. And that always jarred with me. So I’m like, Well, just a couple of people are in charge of like how much money I earn and how I progressed in my career.
So I think after I got married, I was just like, I’m just going to explore this. And I mean, that was 2015. So yes, people are having online businesses, but it wasn’t like a huge thing as it is now. Like everyone can kind of start a business, it feels like. But then, yeah, I just took that plunge and I just went for it. And my wedding planning business was really successful. Like I was doing destination weddings within 18 months of launching my business, which was really unheard of. Like I was doing weddings in Italy and Switzerland. But then I just felt like with my wedding business and the wedding world, I think. I mean, I loved weddings, but I feel I felt I felt like, again, that was a bit of a cap on what I could do. I mean, you can do anything you want to be really honest, but I just felt like the wedding world was a bit like, like superficial, maybe. Like a little bit like.
And then I just with my Asian coaching business,the Asian Female Entrepreneur collective, it wasn’t meant to actually be like like so many of us. Like, I just set up a Facebook group in 2017 just to I was like, Oh, this will be really great to like network with, you know, fellow entrepreneurs and see like how this. But I never had any desire to do workshops, masterminds, coaching. It didn’t even cross my mind. Like I was just like, no. But then because I, because I was doing so well in my wedding business and because my background used to be online marketing in my corporate job, everyone was that, Oh, can you like just do a workshop? Like how to get more clients or marketing or whatever? And I was like, okay, like I’ll do that, that I know so much about marketing and planning and blah blah, blah. I think it was like maybe two years into my business and I did my first London workshop in 2017 and there was like 19 people, which was great, my first workshop. And then I started doing more workshops, but they didn’t really take off like, the ones after that first one were back. There was like seven or eight people, sometimes ten people, I think like not many people at all.
And then the following year I just started, I decided to launch a mastermind. I was living in Canada at the time because my husband was working there, so I was in between Canada and the UK. I literally had this like I remember it was like on a Saturday, just like this, download that I should do a mastermind. I don’t know what it was, but something in me was like just a mastermind. And my husband at the time was like, Sure, because you’ve got like your wedding season coming up, Destination weddings come up. I was like, No, I’m just going to do it. And then I did it. I had a really successful launch, but the results of my mastermind were just incredible to a point where I think like 70 or 80% of the group, like re-signed for another three months, so everyone wanted to stay.
And then, yeah, it just kind of led from that. Like I think that in twin, I think it was the start of 2019, I decided that I’m going to stop doing weddings because it just wasn’t aligned. And then my coaching business was doing really well. I was getting lots of clients, selling out my masterminds. And then and then of course lockdown happened, which was really good because I decided I think my last wedding was August 2019 and I decided at the beginning of the year that I was going to leave weddings. And then it’s just kind of gone from strength to strength, really. I hope that answers your question.
Le’Nise: Yeah, it is really interesting hearing your journey and I wonder, you know, talking going back to the idea of culture and the conversation that we’ve been having about it, when you have because it’s Asian female, entrepreneur, entrepreneur, collective, if there is any sort of mindset hurdles that you have to help your clients get over or around being an Asian female entrepreneur?
Sharn: Yeah, definitely. So I think the biggest ones that come up are judgement and being scared of being judged and also judging ourselves because our culture is all steeped in judgement. It’s like we’re like on autopilot to think what will other people think. And it’s, it’s just so ingrained in us from such a young age. And I still catch myself doing it. Like, you know, like if I want to, something might be going on in my life and then I’ll be like, Oh my God, like what will my aunts and uncles think. And I really have to stop myself. So I think that’s a really big one.
And then of course, that plays then into visibility because I think if you’ve been really visible online, you have to let go of judgement and you do have to stop caring about what the people think, especially when you’re stepping into your truest self online. I think that people then want to water themselves down because they want to be liked. And I think the trend we’re seeing online is it’s not about being like brash or bold, but I think people that claim their true voice and their true power are more successful, and especially if they’re an embodiment of that. So I think that’s a really big one.
And I think also, I think support as well. I think that’s why my masterminds, you know, do incredibly well because we just don’t really get that much support, I think. I’m really lucky. I’ve got a really supportive husband. I think I found more confidence after getting married to him because he really encouraged me to be myself and express myself. But I think in general, we don’t have that much support when it comes to potentially partners, family members. So I think that’s another big one.
And self-belief as well is a really big one as well, because again, it ties in to not having the support people not believing in us. So I think it all has to come within. Especially for me, like I’ve had to really cultivate my own self-belief because I think also like I think it’s just I think it is difficult as well like when you’re in the coaching space, it’s sometimes I found it difficult to work with like, say for example, like, you know, coaches not from a similar background because I think our blocks are so unique. And sometimes you feel like people, other people don’t understand it unless they’re Asian. So I think that’s why a lot of my clients come to me, because cultural blocks is a thing like it’s not just some trivial thing that we’re making up. It’s very real. And I think it is a great thing, you have to overcome them in order to have a successful business. But I think those are like the main things. I think judgement is such a big one and I think Asian women do judge themselves a lot as well.
And we never see really like Asian women, like on a global stage, like breaking through either, which I think is really sad. Like if I think about, you know, the big kind of influencers in the coaching space like worldwide, I, you know, I really struggle to think about Asian women, you know, because again, it’s those blocks and barriers that often block us from stepping into the next level. Yeah.
Le’Nise: You’ve used some really interesting words there, like judgement and like self-belief. And I just want to ask you a little bit more around your experience of being judged by others. It’s something you talk a lot on your Instagram was the experience of bullying you had to face early in your kind of entrepreneurship journey? Can you tell us a little bit what happened and how you overcame that?
Sharn: Yeah, So it was actually is so weird because the first day I actually launched my Asian wedding planning business and I had I worked with like kind of a coordinator for my wedding and she got really weird that I’d launched an Asian wedding planning business and there were like some comments left on my Facebook page from her team and her and obviously I just deleted them and left her voice note saying, You know, I told you I was starting an Asian wedding planning business, but now you’re commenting like on if you comment again I will take further action. I mean, at the time, in 2015, I didn’t really know what taking further action meant, but that was like my first experience and my big experience was in 2020.
And, you know, I don’t want to go into too much specifics, but I’ll share what happened. So basically, I think I think sometimes there’s like an Asian sisterhood wound where I think sometimes it’s not in my family, actually, but in certain families, it’s it’s really competitive. And I think sometimes that the Asian culture is very like pretentious. And it it can be about like, who’s doing the best, like who’s doing really well and like kind of like competitive. I’ve never really been like that because my parents have come from a really normal background. And I think what happened was that like because I was doing so well in 2020, like my launches were selling out, my client results were amazing. Everything I was putting out was does and still does really, really well. And I think there was like a few select people like again. Asian women, which was the sad part of it, like they were part of the wedding industry. And because obviously the wedding industry was on hold, there were like a couple of people who clearly just got very jealous and then kind of fuelled this like lying fake rumour about me and my wok and then decided to basically lie about me and distribute it in some specific Asian groups on Facebook, which obviously was very traumatic, especially when you post something in a group which has got four thousand Asian female entrepreneurs, which wasn’t my group.
And then bless my clients. Like I remember it just came out of nowhere Le’Nise, it just literally just came out of nowhere. It was June in lockdown. I hadn’t done anything specifically huge. Like it was just really random. And then basically I found out like one of my clients were like, Oh, this, this post in this group, and it looks like it’s about you. So they weren’t naming me, but it was, it was it was about me. Like she used to be a wedding planner, blah, blah, blah. And they sent me screenshots and then I kind of didn’t think anything of that. But my husband was like, Just leave it, just leave it. And then it then stuff got posted into another group and then one of my clients was like, Look, I can get on a zoom call with you. I love my clients. I can show you the whole thread and oh my God, when she showed me the whole thread, I was like shaking. I wanted to be sick. Like there was so many nasty comments about me. Like said, this is how we met that like, I’d like copied someone’s work, which was just a complete lie because I’d never I’d never done that obviously, it was it was all a lie, basically. And this person that also lied about other things to do with me and some other people and I wasn’t the only one. She unfortunately believed there was lots of other people as well which transpired.
And then basically I was like, This is not okay and these people aren’t going to get away with that because if I you know, I’m going to continue to get bigger and bigger. And there’s just, you know, next, if I don’t put a close to it now, I’m just going to continue. So I decided to hire like an incredible legal firm from London, like the leading ones they like they deal with like Dubai sheikhs and lots of celebrities, Elton John and I decided to hire them and it cost me quite a lot. But I was like, I found it really empowering. So I’m like, I’m an Asian woman. I can pay for this. I don’t really need to, like, claim it on my insurance. I’ll just go through them. And obviously some letters them went out about slander and defamation? And then obviously, like my lawyers literally wouldn’t have taken me on if I was lying. So they were like, could’ve been any way that something could have been copied. I was like, Absolutely not. And I’m happy to take this to court because they were like, You know, if it gets to court, then they’ll go through your laptop and they’ll compare materials. And I was like, This did not happen. It was a lie. Like it genuinely did not happen. It was all fabricated.
And then obviously the letters went out to a couple of people, and then as soon as the letters then got dropped, it was brilliant. They got dropped to one of them on like a Friday evening at like 5:00. So it ruined their weekend, like they ruined mine and then it was like we were in a bit of a legal kind of back and forth. And through that the lawyers were dealing with their lawyers and I mean, they didn’t really have lawyers. I think they were just it we found out one person like was basically using someone who was like a fake, so pretending to be that person. And she wasn’t even registered by the Solicitors Association. It was just shows you these people are just complete liars.
But it was a really traumatic experience and it had me on edge for quite a few months, but everything got deleted. I didn’t really get an apology, which I was happy about. I never shared about it on socials at the time because my lawyers were like, Don’t do it because, you know, you don’t want to do that. That was the advice at the time. And because of that experience, I then decided to train as a mindset coach. So something really great came out of it. I was really hot on mindset before that anyway. But then I was like, I’m actually going to get certified as a mindset coach because I found it really the whole experience really fascinating and how I dealt with that.
And then yeah, since then they’ve just kept kept quiet because I think they know that, you know, you don’t want to obviously, I think when you’re in that situation, you have to take action. You can’t let people get away with that. But then it’s so funny because I recently did an event in January, February, started with 200 Asian female entrepreneurs. And again, that was the other kind of Asian coach whose in kind of the same space, just like then sharing something on her Instagram about like, you know, it just comparing her event to mine and being like, oh, basically that my event was better because it was smaller and I’m just like, This is just ridiculous. Like.
But I think when you do get bigger, I think you are open because the numbers get bigger, you’re open to more judgement, you’re open to more criticism. But I think if you are getting bullied and trolled and like actually the signs are in defamation, that’s like serious, you know, because I’ve that out of that experience in 2020 like people, you know, cancelled their membership. We had a membership site so people would yeah, there was some event refund tickets like people wanted refunds and people did some, some people did believe the lies. So if it ever gone to court I could have showed like loss of earnings. But I think that like because it all got deleted and because I rose above it and I didn’t like, obviously, my natural instinct was like, shut my business and just lie in bed. And this is exactly what they wanted. I think one of them actually commented saying, Oh, I don’t know how she’ll survive this. She’ll probably just disappear. And like, this is exactly what they wanted. They wanted me to go away. But I was like, No, I’m because I think my community saw that like I rose above it and I didn’t really speak about it.
And it’s funny, the people that asked refunds I. They were. I think when you’re supporting those kind of people, it’s just like what you call them, like. There’s a word for them. I forgotten now, but like that. Just like. Like felt like they were kind of like sidekicks. Or maybe they were quite easily influenced. They all had very similar traits, so they were quite negative in general. So, you know, the clients I completely loved obviously were on my side, but the clients that I didn’t really align with, they were the ones that kind of dropped away. And I think it was a really good experience. Me just having a cleanse. One of the girls who chimed in on the comments, I just had a really bad feeling about her. She was my husband’s friend’s wife and I had a bad feeling about her for months and months because she was watching what I was doing. Obviously I was doing really well and she chimed in and I was like, I just I just knew some people that were going to chime in that they didn’t like me. I just felt that energy. So it was a really good experience, just cleansing a lot of people. And then because I think my community saw me rise above it, they were obviously really inspired and and now some my clients go through it as well. I just think it’s a really natural thing, especially when you get bigger. So you’ve just got to be ready to deal with like. And now I know like the legals inside out, like if that was to happen to me, it wouldn’t faze me. I’d be like, Right, okay, need send out a letter and most people wouldn’t take it to court. And then these people like begging me to drop it. They were like, Can you just please drop this? Like, we don’t want to go to court. Like, we don’t we don’t want to spend any more money on this. So you’ve got to be really careful online. Like if you’re saying stuff about people and if they’re even though they didn’t use my name, it was obvious that they were talking about me. My lawyers had put proven that in the letters like you had talked about Sharn, because of X, Y, and Z. You know, you would then have to get a lawyer to then respond. It’s just not worth it. So people should just be kind and be nice.
Le’Nise: But I think that people don’t realise how you know that, you know, they say sticks and stones will break my bones, but words never hurt me. But they, you know, words do hurt. And it’s funny, my son was learning about the online disinhibition effect in school, you know, the idea that you have to be careful what you say online just because you think you’re anonymous and no one, you know, it does matter. And, you know, this is proof of that. You can’t just say anything you want because it matters. And it makes a difference to not only people’s livelihoods but the way that they feel about themselves. It really has an impact. But it really I think your story is really empowering how you rose above it and you’ve just gone from strength to strength. It’s just very, very inspiring.
Sharn: Oh, thank you. Yeah, you absolutely have to. And I think at the time, like I remember it was actually like because I remember like basically like going to therapy as well because I was like, I need I’d never even considered therapy before then. And I was like, This experience has left me really on edge, Like I hate my own Facebook group and didn’t I had this whole thing around Facebook. I remember at one point I got really paranoid about stuff as well, like I’d have anxiety going on to Instagram and my DMs and if someone if I still with someone tags me in a big group, I’m like the, you know, sometimes like my face and things are so different. You have this like a little not so much at all now, but a little bit of anxiety around Facebook groups. But then I closed my Facebook group, started a new one that really helped me. But I think, yeah, I really because I remember that happened in June and by like and then I had to pause like my launch. We just started running Facebook ads. So that was my launch because I couldn’t do a launch when that was all going on. But then I decided to do my launch like a month later and like, that was like the best thing, like and I just came from a place of service. I was like, I don’t care about this launch, like numbers. Like I’m just here to, like, be of service. And that launch went really well. And it just goes to show, I think that like people, yeah, people can be really harmful, but the truth will always prevail.
And I think that if if you are deliberately. Because they clearly were triggered and they should have really worked on themselves rather than taking it out on me. And I always think when I see people like cancel culture so big now, and I think I don’t really subscribe to that because I think things can get taken out of context so much online. But I think that, like, you have to rise above it. And I’m so glad I did, because I think my community now can see that. And it is part of the story, you know, but it does take resilience. I had to go therapy for a few months. I had to really. And because we’re in lockdown, I couldn’t see anyone. It was really hard. So it was really difficult. So I just wanted to actually see my friends. And the sad thing about it was actually like one of my, like, extended family members, bless her, she’d committed suicide. So I was like, dealing with that. And I think they knew that I was going to be offline for a few days because I’d put on my stories like, I’m going to be offline. I am watching the funeral virtually like I need some space. But then that just really shows you about their character enlightened. And then I think now I look at most of the majority of them haven’t even got a business. Like, I think one person out of the clan is doing quite, quite well, but the rest of them, they don’t even have a business really in that coaching space. So I’m just like, that just says everything. Really.
Le’Nise: Yeah, Yeah. I mean, because reputation is everything. And when you’re as a coach, especially because you’re, you know, you’re helping other people transform. Yeah. And if people seeing see you behaving like this, you know, what does it say about your reputation? Yeah. I think in terms of your story, you know, you’ve had this amazing transformation, you know, in many aspects of your life, your health, your business. If someone for someone listening to today’s episode, what’s the one thing that you want them to take out of everything that you’ve shared today?
Sharn: That’s such a hard question. And I think that like I think a lot of people don’t realise that, like challenges are part of the journey, whether it’s your health, whether it’s your business, whether it’s an experience I had with my bullying. And I think a lot of people just think is everything’s easy. Like they have this misconception because obviously what we see online, like when your new healing journey, everything’s like pretty and unicorns and butterflies, but actually like I think what really makes you is how you overcome these challenges. So always be prepared for the challenges and the quicker you can overcome challenges and not take things personally and just come from a mindset of solutions. So like last year, for example, there were like a couple of launches we had that didn’t do as well because of the cost of living crisis.
And I had a launch right in the middle of when the Queen died and the whole Liz Truss stuff and the whole Rishi Sunak, it was the worst on top of launch because there was so much uncertainty. But then rather than like me just being really sad and just being like, Right, I’m never launching this program again. Like, forget it. Like everyone hates my program, no one wants to buy blah, blah, blah. I just took a mindset of like, what can we learn from that? Yeah, what do we need to change? Why didn’t it? Wow, what are we going to do next time? And if you’re coming from that kind of growth mindset and just letting your challenges just alchemising them into power, I think that like that is like the best advice I could give anyone.
Le’Nise: That is so powerful. Resilience, growth mindset, beautiful. Where can people find you?
Sharn: Yes, so I am on Instagram. My handle is Asian Female Entrepreneur. And I’ve also got a Facebook group which is called the Asian Female Entrepreneur Club. So yeah, people can find me there.
Le’Nise: Brilliant. Thank you so much for coming on to the show today.
Sharn: Thank you so much for having me, Le’Nise.