Learn more about Asif by visiting AsifZamir.com.
1. When, as a young man, did you realize that you wanted to go into business for yourself?
When I was young, around age 6, I would sell candy door to door, and people would buy from me because I was cute. I liked the freedom of managing my finances and setting a schedule. At age 15, I dropped out of high school and started my own business consulting company. To be honest, I didn't have much of a choice; I had to drop out of high school and start a business because I was dirt poor for the majority of my life, and we were struggling to get by financially. So I took a chance at doing something more with my life than just getting by. It's not like traditional jobs were paying big money to teens back then, so I needed to start a business to have a shot at real money.
2. How do you choose the business ventures that you want to pursue?
When I was young and dumb; even 8 years ago it was all about the money, and that gave me nothing but heartache and stress. Now I think about my happiness and my relationship with the client. I'd like to make money, lots of money, but I'd also like to build a friendship. I'd like my client to reach or surpass their goal, but I'd also like to enjoy the entire process. If I can gain a friend, that's ideal, and if we can both make a lot of money, that's even more ideal.
3. What's your advice to other people who want to be self-employed but aren't sure where to invest their time and money?
My honest advice is to not be self-employed. Honestly, it's a lot of hard work before you reach your goals, usually 10 years. Most people can't handle this, and it destroys their marriage and self-esteem. If you understand this fact and still want to do it, have a vision for the long term. I see so many people fail because they think, "I'll start a business today and be successful tomorrow, and if not, then I'll quit!" And those people always fail every time. But people who have a vision for 10-20-30 years always succeed. Always. Take a look at any success story: the person worked for many years to achieve what they wanted. Go ahead and read 100 success stories online, and you'll see that it usually averages out to more than 10 years of hard work. People who think it takes a few weeks or months are mentally insane. Go ahead and invest in your education. If you're going into a business, know everything about that business. When I was 15, I read every book available in the library and bookstore. I find if people won't even read a book on a subject, they aren't really interested.
4. How do you find time to do all the philanthropic work that you do?
That's where my life gets tough. Typically people want financial freedom for the purpose of gaining time, and so I've gained time, and now I use up all my time by giving it away. It's tough for me to balance it out because everyone wants an hour, or a hundred people want ten minutes, and I'm learning to say no to a lot of people and a lot of invites. I try my best to take it as it comes to me. A few days ago I had a relaxing evening planned for myself but instead spent it visiting someone in the hospital who specifically requested my visit. I won't get another relaxing evening in for a while, but I'm trying my best to keep my life balanced; like I said it's a struggle for me.
5. What projects are you currently working on, both business and charitable endeavors?
I'm working on one of the most interesting business ideas ever with a lady who wanted to run errands for strangers. She's very rich now and has a full staff. I helped her set up her website, and draw up a plan and structure, and most importantly I helped her set realistic goals and gain her first 250 clients and hire her first employees. Gosh, she's basically more successful than me now. She charges anywhere from $50-$200/hour to do any errand for you. She's been asked to wait at a person's house for the cable man, to pretend to be a friend to an executive at a dinner, and everything in between; usually it's dropping off dry cleaning and picking up groceries, things along those lines. She makes a fortune, and I really enjoy this project; I'll be sad when my contract is finished.
I'm also participating in a beta-stage project which involves having churchwomen go to the streets, and paying prostitutes to attend church services so that they can connect with God, people, and social workers who will help them get out of the sex industry permanently. The project has been mostly successful, and I find that it's sustainable. Changing one life each week, helping one person at a time, it really adds up. Actually this one lady, she was really young when we met her in downtown Toronto years back, and she's graduated college now and you would never tell she worked the streets. She's brilliant and she's reaching her life goals.