Through the power of Twitter I was fortunate enough to meet Tara Agacayak. We started a conversation and before you know it we were Skyping.
She’s led a pretty fascinating life thanks to a chain of events and life changes. She’s gone from a corporate career in IT to selling goods from a Turkish Bazaar on eBay to business coaching and inspiring women to start their own business.
Expatriating to a small Turkish town in 2002, Tara found her options for career advancement were really limited and as she puts it “without work I was miserable”.
Her saving grace? eBay and the worldwide web. Since then Tara has worked with a myriad of creative entrepreneurs to develop, sell, and promote projects, products, people, and micro-enterprise. The amount of projects she’s working on is baffling.
I think you’ll enjoy learning more about this truly creative entrepreneur who is still learning about business and leading others to do the same.
Tell me how you went from a career in IT, to being out of work and into selling Turkish Bazaar products on eBay?
There were no promising career opportunities for me in the small Turkish town where I moved for my husband’s job in 2002. It was a difficult adjustment and not only was I depressed and missing my family, but I had this nagging feeling that I had unrealized potential I should be using.
Shortly afterward my stepmom sent me an article from People magazine about a woman making a living on eBay. I decided to give it a try and started by selling pashminas and scarves that I sourced from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul through eBay auctions.
It solved several problems for me including keeping myself occupied, turning a small profit, and being a mobile business I could run either from Turkey or California when I returned there to visit my family.
What three lessons learned can you share with others wishing to grow their business online?
It is so easy to do what other people are doing. Let their successes be your inspiration, but don’t copy others – craft a way to make what you do unique.
In a venue like eBay or Etsy, standing out is about doing something differently so that it becomes your signature. And it’s not enough just to open shop, you must constantly think up ways to stay relevant, current and visible so that people find you and stick around.
Sometimes what makes you different isn’t what you do or what you make, but the difference in the customer service you provide. This can set you apart just as much as your product.
What inspired you to take your business further and become a globally responsible entrepreneur?
In 2006 I attended a women’s leadership program called Women Leaders for the World. They stressed two things – the idea of global citizenship and the value of social responsibility in business.
When I returned to Turkey, I decided I could still use ecommerce as my business platform, but that I could also support my local community by selling handmade Turkish products.
I could fulfill my responsibility as global citizen by being a bridge between cultures through commercial enterprise. The idea is to build a business that serves others; to create a win-win-win model where everyone benefits.
You now help other women in Turkey and around the world to grow their business. Tell us more?
My undergraduate degree is in Psychology and my graduate degree is in IT so I was clueless when it came to running a business and learned as I went along.
Eventually I realized that I could help more people not by selling their stuff for them, but by teaching them how to do it themselves by sharing what I was learning on my own journey.
There are so many platforms now for selling over the web, it’s easy enough to open your own online storefront. I’ve worked with a few partners to develop a couple small business training programs, run an e-course, and most recently work with groups to mastermind their creative professional projects into shape.
It has all come as a result of having to make the most of suboptimal circumstances; finding my way, and then working with others to find theirs.
What’s been the best aspect of setting up a Mastermind Group through LinkedIn for creative entrepreneurs and social media enthusiasts?
The best part is what diversity brings to that group. We are novelists, writers, filmmakers, designers, innkeepers, aromatherapists, artists, curators, editors, treasure hunters, producers, researchers, copywriters, brand strategists, bloggers, spiritualists, and marketers.
Not to mention we are from countless different cultures living in various different countries. What we share is that we are all building creative business projects and social media is one of our vehicles.
Our mastermind case studies provide such a wealth of feedback because everyone looks through a different lens when they participate. It has become a very valuable aspect of our group. I am really enjoying that medium.
You’re very honest in admitting you’re still learning about building a business online, what do you find the most challenging aspect?
For me personally, it’s that I have difficulty focusing on one thing. I have a handful of projects on my plate which means none of them get my full attention. Another thing I feel challenged by is working from home and all the distractions that brings.
Working independently really suits my cross-cultural bi-continental creative lifestyle, but it means I have to work harder to create balance and stay focused.
On the flipside, what’s been the most rewarding part of moving into running a location independent business?
FREEDOM! Freedom to do things how I want, when I want, where I want. I definitely work more hours for less pay than I was in my conventional job, but I get way more joy working for myself.
And the way I work now brings together the eclectic background I have – it lets me use my training in Psychology and IT and merge it together with my love of writing, my desire to help people, and my previous experience designing databases and analyzing information.
Working for myself on the web has had a huge part in my own personal discovery and development.
Have you found any major differences in the way business women in the near east vs North America or Europe for example?
How much time do you have for me to answer this question? As a woman who grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the biggest differences I see is around the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
An entrepreneur will look for a way to do something differently – to solve a problem (and create a business) by innovating a solution. This often involves taking risks and working against the grain which is a characteristic of American culture – the value of being independent.
The Turkish culture is much more group-oriented than individually-oriented, and they are more risk-averse, so business opportunities are more mainstream and safe. I’m not saying one is better or worse, but cultural values definitely affect the business culture as well.
Do you have any daily habits that propel you to success?
Exercise in some form – I like doing yoga in the morning because it helps me get centered and focused. I also find it helpful to check email only two or three times a day otherwise I get distracted.
My life coach taught us the value of building in white space to our daily schedules so that we have room for the unexpected. I find having unscheduled time each day allows me more space to be creative and reduces stress.
What is the top book you’ve read that made a personal difference to you and influenced you and why?
Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – That The Poor And Middle Class Do Not! was very influential in terms of making the case for working for myself. The way he explained the value of passive income made a lot of sense to me and shapes many of the business decisions I make. Besides freedom, it’s another reason I prefer to work on my own terms.
[For more books I recommend check out: Must Read Books. – Natalie]
What’s the most exciting thing that’s happening right now?
Our Creative Entrepreneurs & Social Media mastermind group on LinkedIn is a huge hit which thrills me. It proves the power of community and the importance of creative thinking.
I’m also excited about a series I’m working on for expat+HAREM where I’ll be featuring how various creative entrepreneurs developed their businesses from the most unconventional and challenging circumstances.
What is your key piece of advice to any female considering becoming an entrepreneur?
Be who you are. Do what you love. Change the world. If you are stuck in a situation that you hate, you are no good to anyone. But if you are connected with the thing that you love and create a way to have that be your life’s work, there is no telling how that work can impact the world. I assert that it is our obligation to do what we love for a living because that’s when we’re at our best.
To contact Tara or learn more visit her site.