Becoming the face of my flatbread business

Not a nine to five kind of woman

I started working at the age of 18 - part-time - immediately after beginning law school back in Tehran, and I have been working for more than 20 years. But never I have been the face of either of them. No matter what I was doing, not as a legal researcher working with UN Special Rapporteur, as a translator with WLUML, nor as a director of a small NGO. Freelancing and being a consultant working remotely for a few years did not help it either. I assume after this introduction; you realise that I have never been a nine to five kind of woman. 


Feel invisible and faceless

Working for myself for more than ten years has offered me the freedom and flexibility that I was always desperate for, and I am grateful for that; however, I became invisible and faceless. As a woman behind that work, my work and I were always represented under other brands or a large team. Even when I was in a radio or TV interview, nothing was about me, who I am, and how I delivered those projects. I only became aware of losing my visibility during my professional life and being self-employed when I set up my own business. Months later, during my weekly routine of listening to Holly Tucker MBE, Conversation of Inspiration, I learnt about Self-Employment Review, an independent review by Julie Deane OBE (The Founder & CEO, The Cambridge Satchel Company). This report shed light on the existing institutional approach towards self-employment, which may add another level to the whole picture. Still, in this blog post, my story is more about the personal and community level. 


Trying to show up and be seen in my new life.

The challenge began when I desperately needed some high-quality photos of myself, my baking and my bread to start putting together my Bake2Explore website. I found it quite challenging to talk about myself, to put my face and personal stories up there. I had two headshots before for my LinkedIn profile, but I never liked my photos and have not publicly used those photos. But this time, I had to. I also had to admit that I was/am in a much better position in practising to embrace my imperfections compared to a few years ago. But still, it was a huge step. 

I was in Athens early this year, spending a much more restricted lockdown than London on my own, and I was lucky enough to find a private chef and food blogger through my Greek friends. So I had no choice but to make the best out of this unique opportunity and put myself in a situation that was not within my comfort zone and go to that meeting to discuss my 1st photoshoot, which turned out to be the filming session. Karolos Michailidis (The Food Architect) and I had a safe-distant meeting in beautiful Athens on a mild eastern Mediterranean winter afternoon. We had a hot discussion about our favourite topic, food, bread, storytelling and creating creative experiences through food and bread. Until the shooting day, we exchanged a few emails but not that much planned and pre-set the details and from the very beginning decided to be spontaneous and natural. Which was not my usual way of doing things, but I am learning by running my own small business. That energy, passion, and Karolos's flexible and freestyle approach helped me dare to be vulnerable and imperfect. 


Daring is contagious and powerful.

On the shooting day, without that much talk, we just worked as a live programme for 6-7 hours non-stop. I had a script that I did not use and made a few mistakes while baking my two flatbreads. My intonation is not correct on a few occasions, and maybe I missed a few 'the' or more while talking about my business and passion. However, now that I am looking back at that experience, I understand this quote of "incredibly brave and daring about showing up and putting your ideas" (Brené Brown, from the transcript of On Being with Krista Tippett). 

I want to finish my last blog post of this year with a quote from her podcast, 'The Courage to Be Vulnerable', which I wrote on my first page of Recipe Journal.


"Whatever your daring is, however you're trying to show up in your life, I think there's something incredibly contagious and powerful about it. I think it makes the people around us a little bit braver and I think it helps us get very clear on the ideals and values that guide our lives."

 

I believe in educating people about food, so in every Bake2Explore journey, I include the story of the people, the culture and the heritage behind the flatbread recipes.

 

Enjoy it!

Leila


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