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Jazz Shaper: Sahar Hashemi OBE

Posted on 20 May 2023

Lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, Sahar Hashemi has used her deep knowledge of both the corporate and start up worlds to become an internationally recognised thought leader on entrepreneurial mindset.

A founder of two disruptive businesses and the author of a bestselling book on entrepreneurship, she understands entrepreneurial behaviour to the core.  

Sahar left her legal career in a top London law firm to start Coffee Republic, the UK’s first US style coffee bar chain with her brother Bobby. In 5 years, they built it into one of the UK’s most recognised high street brands with 110 bars and a turnover of £30m. 

She left the day-to-day management of Coffee Republic and published a bestselling book about her journey, Anyone Can Do It. She then founded Skinny Candy, a market-segment defining brand of sugar free sweets. 

Sahar is currently working on her exciting new project Buy Women Built launched in March 2022 to boost economic recovery. She sits on the board of the Scale Up Institute and on theadvisory board of Digital Boost, Change Please Coffee and The Hundred Cricket. Sahar was also named “Pioneer to the life of the Nation” by Her Majesty The Queen and Young Global leader by the World Economic Forum. 


I was really blessed with having parents who made everything easier, they had such a positive attitude. 

We went to UK and were very much alone – my parents made me build up from the ground in a way. 

I’m grateful to my parents because I think the expression they always used is, "you have to leave the shore to find new oceans". 

I feel like I really belong in Britain, this is my country, it is my daughter’s country but I absolutely love it and just my roots are here and that means a lot. 

I remember when I sold Coffee Republic after five years and I made myself completely redundant - it was almost like the worst time in my life. I just literally remember suddenly I had nothing to do. 

For me purpose is knowing that every day when you’re there, you’re making a difference, making a contribution. 

I’m mentioning my parents a lot but I remember they used to always say: "we have to be 10% better than the best here because we’re not from here." 

I wasn’t a very good lawyer … it just didn't suit me. 

I believe there somewhere in the world there is something that everyone’s a star at. Our whole life is finding where we shine at and sticking to it. 

Sometimes you look for something and what actually manifests is actually completely different than what you could have ever imagined. 

I don’t believe in big ideas. People go on about people having big ideas - I think the worst thing people should have are big ideas. 

We were lucky that we happened to hit the zeitgeist of the coffee movement in the UK –  

Coffee Republic was a successful brand and people loved it and by walking away and giving it to the professionals to run I think was incredibly naïve. 

If I could do it all again, from what I’ve learned, I would have stayed at Coffee Republic and I would have looked after the company. 

I think companies have souls and the soul is the connection of what you are selling with the customer. Founders are because they are the ones that imbue the company with a soul. 

You are most weak when it’s you and an idea - everyone’s going to be like rolling their eyes, dissing you, and it’s just about working your way through that stage until there’s something concrete happening. 

If anyone ever asks me for advice, the biggest advice I give is: don’t overthink, just do. 

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