When Shama Hyder searched for her first job after she got her master’s, she talked up the potential of social media with every employer she met. No one was interested. “They didn’t see social media as a long-term platform,” she says. In 2009, after being rejected by 18 companies, she started her own.
Hyder borrowed $1,500 from her father, moved back in with her parents, and launched—from her parents’ spare bedroom—her own social media consulting firm, the Marketing Zen Group.
At the University of Texas at Austin, Hyder had been an early user of Facebook. And she’d written her thesis on the then tiny new network called Twitter. “I couldn’t believe all the implications,” she says. “There were all these connections happening, people discovering things—my sense was that it would take off.”
Hyder’s willingness to gamble on that insight has paid off. Five years later, her Dallas-based company has grown into a full-service web marketing agency that employs 30 people; its revenues jumped more than 400 percent last year alone. Her book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, has become one of the top-selling web marketing books on Amazon, and she’s been invited to speak all over the world.
Looking back, Hyder realizes that being an entrepreneur comes naturally to her. “I was always a little hustler kid, always up to something,” she says. “But no one ever looked at me and said, ‘You’re an entrepreneur.’ No one told me that was an option.”
Hyder has made it part of her mission to encourage young people to consider starting their own businesses. She speaks at high schools whenever she can, and two years ago she went to Cairo as part of an international delegation to encourage entrepreneurship.
“I love being an entrepreneur,” she says. “By sharing my story, I’m letting people know that it’s a viable career choice.”