Shiraz and Daryan

Alumni story: Shiraz and Daryan – starting a business in Sweden as an international student

Starting a new life in a new country as an international student can be an exciting experience for many, but also filled with challenges in the form of a new culture and language barriers. Many dream of starting a business while studying, which is exactly what Zara Shiraz did in 2017 when she arrived in Sweden from Tehran, Iran to pursue her bachelor’s studies on the Marketing Programme.

When Zara Shiraz met her partner Amir Daryan, they were both involved in art and design. It did not take long before they realised that they had a lot in common and after seeing the potential on the market, they started a business together. Young and passionate about art, design, and photography, they established a simple graphic and photography studio together as freelancers. After having run a successful business in Iran for six years, it was time to move to Sweden.

Moving to Sweden

“We figured that after six years of working with companies and famous designers in Iran, we had the hang of this, we knew what we were doing. What we didn’t know was that when we moved to Sweden we would have to start from scratch. That we would be like newborn babies who need to learn everything from the beginning.” Shortly after moving to Sweden and starting her studies, Zara registered the company as a sole proprietorship, with help from Drivhuset.

“When I decided to continue my business here in Sweden, I started to look for more information. Soon I found out about Drivhuset, as I walked in the university building through the big sign in front of their office in H building, in Växjö Campus. I walked inside and I was immediately faced with welcoming faces. I set up my first meeting with them and the process of registering the new business started. They suggested that I register it as a Sole Proprietorship, to learn about how it works with regulations and the tax system. So, that’s exactly what I did. Last year, in 2020, when I graduated from university, I registered Shiraz and Daryan as a Limited Company and we are now working full-time with this”.

Coming from an entrepreneurial family

Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Zara learned that taking risks and not seeing any limitations is the way to think when dreaming of the future. And that’s how she wanted to live her life, doing the things she loves to do.

“My father and my brothers all started their own businesses. My father is my greatest role model. When he was seven years old, he started working at his uncle’s factory, which meant he had to go to school at night in order to continue his studies. I believe he did all this to build the future he wanted. By the time he was 18 years old, he started his own leather factory. It’s always been such an inspiration to me, that he never sees any limitations, or anything that can stop him. Whenever he wants something, he finds a way. And that’s the basis for my thinking as well.”

Turning passion into a way of life and a career

Zara’s biggest passion and fascination in life is to learn about different cultures and to be able to interact and see how other people live their everyday lives. Now she is following her passion through Shiraz and Daryan, by having clients from all around the world, managing successful projects in various countries. She grew up in an environment were taking risks and not being scared that things won’t work out was a way of life. She was taught to see it as an experience that could help her learn and grow. In this way, she could turn her passion for art and photography into a business idea and develop her skills as she went along.

“At first, we only did graphic design and photography. However, as we went on, whenever there was a project or task that seemed new and challenging to us, we didn’t back down, instead, we learned what we needed so that we could perform and deliver that project. After that, they became a part of our service. This led us to where we are today, when we can say that we are a branding agency, that helps businesses with brand strategy and brand identity design.”

Starting a business as an international student

Zara explains that the biggest challenge involved in starting a business as an international student is the language barrier. Even though everyone in Sweden speaks English and most documents can be found in English, information about details when registering a business is difficult.

“During the first few months after I registered the company in Sweden, all documents we received through mail were in Swedish”.

“People made it much easier than I ever expected. Drivhuset and NyföretagarCentrum were like angels sent from heaven. I never expected to get so much help from strangers, they gave their everything to make this happen and help me move forward with my business idea. When I met with Drivhuset, they didn’t judge whether I had a good business idea or not, I just needed to have the drive within and show them that I wanted to start something, and they were ready to give their all to help me achieve that dream.”

Getting the first client through networking events with Drivhuset

“I made my first client at our first networking event, which was like an open house at Videum. By just going to that networking event and talking to this person and establishing an interest. I couldn’t believe I would be able to get a client, someone who didn’t know about us before, through this event. By just networking and talking to them I caught their interest and had them look at our website, and they saw potential and contacted us directly after the event. Networking is important if you are a new entrepreneur, regardless of whether you are Swedish or an international student.”

Plans and dreams for Shiraz and Daryan

“To build a community of skilled people and small businesses in which we can complement each other’s services and collaborate on bigger projects together. We love meeting new people and networking events. Therefore, we try to establish a connection with others who are as passionate and driven as we are. We want to gather several small companies in different fields so that we can grow together, learn from each other and support each other. That’s the future I see for our company.”

Tips for students at Linnaeus University

Zara shares her top three tips, as well as her view on how to start:
“1. Never underestimate the power of networking, in Sweden it’s the first success factor in terms of professional improvement. 2. Develop your skills, learn about the labor market, the work culture and expand your network by doing an internship. 3. Study and run your business at the same time, apply what you learn during your studies on your business.”

“Look into the things you really love to do, within those there’s always a business idea, something that is lacking, a problem that only You see because you love that special subject so much. It doesn’t have to lead somewhere, approach it like a learning experience. You don’t need to hit 1-million-dollar company to be successful. Just going through the process, failing that process, making mistakes, and then learning from those mistakes. These are the things that make us grow, not getting a lot of revenue or profit. When we gain an understanding of what we are good at and what we are not so good at, then our future becomes clearer to us. That’s the most useful thing you can learn as an entrepreneur.”

Being an entrepreneur in Sweden

“There is a generous support system provided for entrepreneurs in Sweden, which helps the entrepreneur to focus on more important aspects of running a business. If you feel within you that you might want to start a business one day in the future, I think Sweden is a great place to start because the support system brings many possibilities for you to succeed and grow”.