We often talk about positivity, perception and perseverance but very few seem to walk the talk. Having met Mahwash Syed, President Panache Global and CEO of Stonehenge Communications, we found her a strong advocate of positivity and resilience; she credits her success to the alacrity she practices in her life.
After acquiring a Masters in Marketing and Advertising, Mahwash started her career by serving in the corporate. Later, she launched her own design studio alongside Panache Global.
All about Panache’ Global…
NIS: What made you think of founding Panache?
MS: At one moment in time, I was a full-time stay-at-home mom and was occupied with the normal routine when I realised that what outlet do we as housewives or stay at moms have to connect to the world. 6 years back, I couldn’t find any, so I thought of creating one myself. When I started Panache, there was hardly any concept of support groups in Karachi, so initially, I started as a support group for women and later formulated it into the societies we have.
Also, during the same time, a friend of mine moved to Poland and she had language barriers, no friends, no support system in setting up the house etc. She went into depression. Seeing her, I thought of introducing a network, that operates to support women irrespective of the culture, colour or country. Now we work around the agenda of facilitating Panache woman around the world.
NIS: What exactly is Panache and whom is it for?
MS: Panache’ Global is a forum to connect, educate and empower women from across the globe. Aiming to spread over 120 countries, Panache Global stands tall in 8 different countries today. We have 5 members in the core committee, 8 ambassadors and several representatives around the world.
When we talk about connecting women, we mean to provide the right set of knowledge, powerful connections and inclusive environment to enable women to foster their skills accordingly. Say for instance, if someone is stuck in a legal problem, Panache’ has a legal wing to guide and facilitate them.
Women under Panache’ umbrella can opt for any assistance or help from any of our wings.
NIS: What do you mean by wings?
MS: Since we have a large number of women from different walks of life with interests coming from diverse facets, we have divided Panache into wings. Currently, we have 4 wings – Art & Literature Society, Legal Aid Society, Business Council and Training Wing.
Women who have interest in Art and Literature can take maximum use of our books review/launch sessions. Panache has a Business Women Council for businesswomen and entrepreneurs. Then we have a Legal Aid Society and so on. We are looking forward to launching a ‘Tech Society’ very soon.
The most important thing is, once one becomes a Panache Member, she can be a part of more than one society.
NIS: Any turning moment that has considerably helped you in shaping Panache?
MS: Haha, Many! One of them is a horrible road accident I met, where I had brain injuries, I was hospitalised in intensive care for many days. Doctors were ambiguous that I may lose my eyesight, creative thought process or may experience speech impediment. The first thing I told myself, nothing has gone wrong to me. I decided to prove the doctor wrong. If I had fallen for those statements, it would have come true
“A lot of my childhood memories, people and frames have gone after the accident. I also sometimes face short term memory loss but I believe, past has gone – whatever is happening now, I have to make the most out of it.”
As soon as I gained my consciousness, the whole time, I was thinking of founding Panache’. I curated everything while I was on the bed in the hospital. Rather than crying over the injuries, I formulated things and promised that I will start executing my plans and I did it right after I was back to normal. I set up a design agency and started Panache.
I strongly believe that one can control the conditions through positive thought process and strong will.
MS: The biggest challenge that I often come across is when people mistake Panache as any other women platform. Without undermining any of those, I want people to understand that this is genuinely designed for result driven activities.
All other groups are brilliant, however, Panache Global stands out for connectivity across the globe with designated wings under it. When people join Panache for kitty only, I think that’s when we’re taken for what we are not. We’re on a lookout for genuine talent, passionate women and positive thinkers so that whatever the ripple effect is, it is only constructive, positive and powerful.
NIS: What part of the process in Panache excites you the most?
MS: I love it when Panache as
Also, when an individual opts and contributes to the cause, it looks they are involved in the process. I don’t centralise the power to a few, in fact, whoever wants to take the lead, I give them the opportunity to make it happen. I want every member to own this forum. We as a core committee empower and facilitate all the wing holders to carry on purposeful workshops.
There are a lot of women who are struggling with their personal or professional lives and when we are able to help or bring improvement, we love it.
NIS: What makes Panache different/ unique from other women support groups?
MS: It is different for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is global. We have ambassadors in 8 different countries to build a network in their respective countries and carry out activities through a certain protocol. We also have representatives to guide, so if anyone from Panache is looking for support, they are bound to help them. Further, we’ve plans to spread across 120 countries.
Second, Panache is not just a virtual network, we have physical sessions happening around. We’ve wings to support women in multiple avenues. Even a housewife can come in and get a lot of motivation, literary knowledge and other kinds of support from Panache’.
NIS: Where do you see Panache in the next 5 years?
MS: I see it as a global phenomenon. Aiming to make it a powerful network of multicultural women across the globe. By this, I don’t mean to bring a power show only. With this, I mean it has to offer value, substance and take home to every Panache Woman. We’re developing a directory divided into B2B and B2C categories, where women can leverage according to their needs and wants. There are a lot of things in the making, I think I shall only disclose when its launched. *laughs*
NIS: How do you see failures?
MS: I don’t see any failure as a setback, rather it’s a lesson through which one can improve. I have been through a lot of ups and downs but I worked through them as an opportunity. Failures are there to shape us and help us realise our true potential.
NIS: Are there any regrets in life? Or is there any specific thing that you would never want to face again?
MS: No regrets at all. Everything happens for a reason and that’s what has shaped me into the person I’m today. *Smile*
NIS: How do you balance your work with your personal life?
MS: It’s not easy of course, but it’s all about priorities. I plan and schedule my time in a way that everything gets done within my working hours, prefer multitask and try my best to perform as per the need of time. I don’t micromanage, I dedicate authority and power to my team so it becomes a collective benefit for all of us and the work we do.
NIS: What do you regard as your greatest success in your career till date?
MS: The change in myself is the biggest and the greatest achievement. In a course of 4 years’ time, I have changed as a person, I have started thinking in a different way, no matter how bad the situation gets, I think of the brighter side. I look for positivity and even if there’s any low moment, I would rather move on, leaving it behind. I’ve learned to fight my own demons and that’s how I’ve achieved whatever I have today.
NIS: What’s one thing you closely watch as a Panache Leader?
MS: I strongly believe that energy trickles down from the leader. I have heard women telling me about the power they feel when we are together, its all about the positivity and gratitude we practice. I don’t tolerate gossip mongers, backbiting and any kind of negativity in Panache. The membership gets cancelled if anyone badmouths or spreads negativity about any other member.
The women we have are goal oriented, talk substance and not just about people. I must thank them all that they have never been into any controversial stuff. We’re a group of positive thinkers and we attract the same.
NIS: What shortfalls do you see in the startup ecosystem in Pakistan?
MS: If we look at the situation we had 10 years back, there was no support. Thanks to all the incubators and accelerators that our youth has got direction. I’m pretty hopeful and positive about the current situation however, startups must realise the power of resilience. They mostly give up in the first year because they aren’t able to generate revenues and that stress makes them quit. However, its about perseverance and resilience.
I love what Steve Jobs said,
“99% of the people work for the 1% who didn’t give up on their dreams.”
NIS: How do you see your family in your journey, supportive, neutral or moved?
MS: I’ve been very lucky that my family has always been supportive. Whatever I do, my family has my back. They encourage me for Panache and I think, it would be great if any of my deserving
NIS: Any advise you would like to offer to women in Pakistan?
MS: I would say, women must learn to address the challenges they face. They must speak about their rights, needs and must not accept victimization as fate. There are a lot of opportunities and help available, only if they are ready to believe and act accordingly. They must take the charge and do the needful to see the change you want to see in your life.
It was pleasure having Mahwash over an interview, she is cool about almost anything and everything in life!
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