When you read about Sarah Hashem, one word appears over and over: passion. “Passionate”, ‘with passion”, a “passionate approach “. And when you meet Sarah, you can see why: passion emanates from her eyes, even from her calm, grounded demeanour, and in her voice, as she speaks about the entrepreneurs she has helped in her career.
A Canadian-Egyptian, Sarah came to Canada with her parents at the young age of 11 in 1995. Speaking only French and Arabic, her first cultural challenge was having to explain[m1] who she was. “In Egypt, I was just like any other student,” says Sarah, “In Canada, this was not the case. My accent, my way of dressing and speaking, all of that stood out. I suddenly found myself having to explain who I was.” Being a stranger in a new land was a new experience for Sarah, and her tool for survival became simple observation. She knew she needed to learn English – and fast. She mastered the language in a single summer, an achievement Sarah is still proud of today. Sarah fully embraced her new Canadian identity and allowed herself, in turn, to be embraced by her new country. But there was more to her story yet to come.
It took unrest in her homeland twenty years later to re-awaken her original identity. 2011 was the year of the revolution in Egypt, and Sarah found herself profoundly moved by Egyptian youths who fought for change and a better future for themselves. As the revolution stretched from weeks into months, the feeling didn’t go away, and Sarah knew she needed to do something. “For me, this wasn’t temporary nostalgia for the old days,” says Sarah. “This was a realization that my Egyptian identity is a profound part of who I am.” Sarah launched a blog, Heart to Heart by an Egyptian Abroad, which aimed to help others understand the motivation of the Egyptian people and what was really happening on the streets. In the struggles of the young Egyptians, she saw the same devotion and passion for change that she herself experienced when she came to Canada, and the desire for transformation. In the process, Sarah was able to completely embrace both identities, Canadian and Egyptian, without feeling the need to apologize for either.
Speaking of change, people, and passion, Sarah found a way to combine her passion for people and transformation into her career. Sarah earned an Honours B.A. at York University in Business and Society, specializing in economics and political science. Her studies took her to Paris, France for International Business, and Sarah eventually earned a Master’s degree in Management of Development at the International Training Centre of the ILO/University of Turin.
Though she initially began her career in the banking and the financial world, Sarah quickly felt constrained by the corporate environment, and she redefined her idea of success. “For me, success isn’t necessarily making a million dollars,” says Sarah. “I don’t measure the success of a business by how much it brings in, but who the entrepreneur becomes in the process of building that business. A single mom with a dream of owning a restaurant who decides to take on the challenge and transforms herself in the process: that is, to me, more important than any amount of money.” This distinction is very clear for Sarah, and has become a way of life. She supports local businesses in every area of her life, from her morning coffee to her own wedding dress.
At Futurpreneur Canada, Sarah continued to epitomize her discovered identity and her commitment to transformation. As Director, Programs Sarah guided the development of new initiatives to support young entrepreneurs in their journeys towards achievement, facilitating future successes. Many have made appearances on CBC's Dragon's Den and many more have made it to the news. She knows the names of every entrepreneur she has helped, their businesses, and what makes each one special. Her philosophy is that the incremental small changes led by individuals will eventually lead to a collective power that can change the world. “I would like to be that bridge for as many people as possible,” says Sarah, “one person at a time.”