“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” –Albert Einstein
Ida obtained three degrees from OSU. After graduation, she accepted a job with P&G in Brand Management. After a few years, she decided to take a break and travel to Africa. When Ida returned, she realized that she wanted something else out of life and turned in her resignation letter. Ida then went on to travel to 50 countries in eight months. Now she runs her own company, Ability to Engage.
That’s a sneak preview, now let’s dive into the details…
- Entrepreneur: Ida Abdalkhani
- Company: Ability to Engage
- Location: Ohio & Michigan
- Launch Date: 2012
Ida Abdalkhani taught my Personal Creativity & Innovation Class at Ohio State this past semester. It’s an optional class that meets the requirements for my Entrepreneurship Minor…and it’s also my absolute favorite class that I’ve ever taken. Honestly, ask anyone that knows me, I won’t. stop. talking. about. it. period. (and of course, I decided to take it my last semester before graduation). Likewise, this is pretty much a grand shout out to the professor that inspired everything this blog stands for.
Ida obtained three degrees from THE Ohio State University; an MBA in Marketing & Strategy, a BSBA in Entrepreneurship, and a BA in Interpersonal Communications
She had a very diverse set of interests. Her strategy in figuring out what she wanted to do was through a constant process of elimination – which she still utilizes today. Her involvement in college included everything from a Buckeye Recruiting Hostess in the Athletics Department to writing for the Journalism School, and the Diversity Committee Chair for the Undergraduate Student Government (just to name a few). She was also a founding member of Ohio State’s SIFE organization (Students in Free Enterprise).
President of Business Builders Club (BBC): When interviewing Ida this was the first thing she talked about in regards to college and something that she kept going back to during our talk as well. Through BBC, she met respectable entrepreneurs and built a supportive network and community that has stayed with her to this day. In fact, one of the other entrepreneurs that I interviewed was a result of Ida connecting me with a fellow member and friend of hers from BBC!
PROCTER & GAMBLE (P&G)
After college, Ida accepted a full-time position in brand management with P&G where she was a joint inventor on six patents (one of which was a windowed package used on dryer sheets). After a few years, she decided to take some time off and go on a short exploration trip to Africa to visit three or four countries.
Why did you travel to Africa specifically, among all other countries?
She said “this actually was more happenstance than a purposeful endeavor. I love soccer, so I had applied for tickets to the World Cup in Africa. I was lucky enough to be able to buy tickets and therefore formed a trip around the world cup to explore Africa while I was there for the soccer games.”
…When Ida returned, her perspectives had changed. She turned in her resignation letter and packed up her bags.
Ida went on to travel to 50 countries in eight months! (She’s been to over 100 now in her life).
What were your top three favorite countries visited?
First, MONTENEGRO, because she went to a small town their called Budva that she heard about while traveling to a less touristy part of Croatia. She wanted to get out of the tourist attractions and this was an excellent outlet. Then, URUGUAY, because of the hostel experience. She met really cool travelers that cooked and visited attractions with her. Lastly, PETRA, JORDAN, because she sincerely connected with nature there.
…The part that mainly stood out to her the most after visiting all of these places was the connections she made there, specifically the people.
ABILITY TO ENGAGE
Ability to Engage is a strategy and insight catalyzer that helps you meet your company’s objectives through business strategy development, consumer insights, and marketing
Ida started this venture in 2012 after returning from her trip. The idea came from a mixture of passion with exploration, observing people, and discovering new products. Again, she used a process of elimination to focus on what she liked.
Why did you choose to start your own company?
She answered, “happiness is more important to me than a paycheck.”
Has anyone ever told you that you couldn’t do it?
People were skeptical about her leaving P&G to start her own company. However, there were just as many supporters as combaters.
What’s your biggest piece of advice you could give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
“DEVELOP MENTAL TOUGHNESS.” This makes or breaks entrepreneurs. Through the process of pivoting something negative and flipping it to your advantage, this can be achieved. A personal example from Ida was when she was not initially achieving her business development goals for her company, Ability to Engage. So, she started to educate herself by reading and learning more on the topic until it finally became a strength. As a result, she was able to grow her business 300%!
When you were 10 years old did you picture yourself doing anything like this?
“Never.” She wanted to be a singer or writer (like Babysitter’s Club) during her teenage years. Maybe even a Broadcast Journalist. She said it was odd she was even thinking this strategically at the time, but she chose Marketing because there was a better chance it would provide stability in her life.
What would you say your greatest asset as an entrepreneur is?
Being strategic and having a good eye for problem-solving. She is really good at identifying a market need and developing a marketing and brand strategy around it.
Do you experience any challenges being a female in the business world?
“ABSOLUTELY,” she expressed. There is a glass ceiling, and although she’s not actively “put in a box,” it’s shown in subtle things like “female role” versus “male role.” “Guys sometimes have less trouble boasting about business, and they get more face time. There’s not as much nurturing space. It’s silent but pervasive. Assertive females are looked at negatively.” How do you combat this? “I just work through it,” Ida said. She also said that she’s lucky to have not overtly encountered obstacles as a female entrepreneur. Also, that it helps to have female mentors.
What do you want to be written on your tombstone when you die?
“I’m better for having known her.” She talks about being impactful and making a difference with ideas, people, and other parts of her life.
Do you have a role model?
“Not one particular role model”, Ida said, but she does have a lot of mentors to go to when she has important questions about her career, life, or when she experiences blocks and needs advice. However, she said if she did have one role model, their characteristics would include integrity and willingness – by this, she means someone who’s a compass to her in her business and personal life and someone relatable, who actually has time to talk and learn.
What made you choose to teach on top of everything else you’re currently doing?
“Both my parents are professors and I’ve always loved learning and the academic environment. I always feel a great energy on campuses. I’ve always thought that it would be a great adventure to try teaching so when the opportunity presented itself, I went for it!”
What’s your favorite book you’ve read and why?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because it was recommended by her father. It was inspiring to her, as it talks about the meaning of life and finding purpose.
What are some hobbies you enjoy outside of work?
She likes reading, dancing, and exercising outdoors (i.e., biking, running, and swimming). Ida is also a Laughter Yoga Instructor. What’s this? Check out the video to learn more: