Episode 11

Sophia attributes the growing pains as a 'Misfit' and a '3rd Parent' to shaping her skill and spirit

Episode Notes

Join Roksana Hussein (Personal Power Boost) and Sophia K. Choudry (Rotibox) as they chat about growing as a “Misfit” and her experience of being an entrepreneur. Sophia gives her story of growing up in an environment where she’s alienated and in a family that had a severe lack of communication. Sophia also shares the development of her leadership skills by becoming the “Third Parent” for her siblings. They touch on discovering life outside the nine to five and shifting her mindset as she created Rotibox.

By the end of this episode, you will learn to keep moving forward, live a positive life, and understand you can make a change. Enjoy!

About Rotibox:

Rotibox is the new modern solution for making traditional homemade rotis, without the mess. Hassle free, convenient, and more hygienic – with rotibox, you will spend less time cleaning, and more time on the things you love.

You can find Sophia Choudry on…

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sophia-k-choudry-376a829b/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rotiboxofficial/


[Roksana] My guest today has undergone the most extraordinary personal transformation. Just like me, my guest is from a British Pakistani family and like many of us born into immigrant families, she encountered the many challenges of straddling two cultures, two identities, and the daily challenges of feeling like an outsider. Today she has 1 foot in the corporate world holding down a successful career, and over the past four years she has invented/developed a product and actually launched it successfully. She’s a mother to two young children, originally from the North East of England and now living in the South. Today she shares her step-by-step journey of how she went from a misfit to knowing that she can do anything she puts her mind to. Welcome back Sophia!

[Sophia] Thank you very much!

[Roksana] So I had you on the show not so long ago and we talked about success and satisfaction… and your answer was amazing and I thought I must have you back because I want to know a lot more about you and I know my listeners will really benefit from hearing about your personal transformation story. How you became this Sophia that you are today.

[Sophia] Thank you, thank you for inviting me back.

[Roksana] You’re welcome! Now Sophia, let’s go straight into it. I want to know about your back story. What kind of town or city did you grow up in? What was your childhood like?

[Sophia] So I grew up in Sunderland which is in the North East. If you haven’t heard of Sunderland the best way to describe it is it’s next door to Newcastle… and so yeah grew up- I was an only child actually for the first seven years of my life so I would describe it as being a little bit lonely… and in the- in Sunderland at that time growing up in the 80s, it wasn’t very multicultural at all so at school I was… I was going to- I was gonna say pretty much, but it’s not pretty much, I was the brown girl in primary school and secondary school.

[Roksana] You were the only Asian girl?

[Sophia] Yeah, yeah.

[Roksana] Oh, my God, what was that like?

[Sophia] You know what? I just- I tried my best. I think back now and now I kind of acknowledge like, that’s crazy. How could I have been the only Asian girl in school? But at the time you know you just kind of try and fit in and go along with everything. I remember certain the things like there being assembly and there was a hymn that we used to sing, and the first line of the hymn was you know, “a child is black and a child is white”, I still remember the whole school turning around and looking at me everytime that line came and I just remember hating everybody looking at me. And on top of that, because I’m from a Muslim family, I had to wear trousers to school. It’s pretty- it’s pretty common now, but back then it wasn’t really, I’m going to say allowed, but yeah so I was the only girl on top of that who wore trousers as well… so I must have really stuck out like a sore thumb. But yeah I mean I’m lucky I had some nice friends, and just kind of- kind of got through it but I always deep down inside you know there was always something there about never fitting in and it didn’t matter what I did, I did always feel like an outsider, gotta be honest with myself. Sadly, you know, going home and telling your mum and dad about it, you didn’t really get any empathy or words of assurance. You know parenting back then was a lot different to what it is now, and you know I kind of was a little bit angry at my parents, if I’m honest. Now that I’ve kind of dealt with my demons a little bit I understand that at that time, they were doing the best that they could. It wasn’t like they were intentionally not comforting me or being empathetic or encouraging me… they, you know, they didn’t know. They didn’t know how to kind of be there for us and I guess they had their own problems to deal with.

[Roksana] Well it’s interesting that you mention this because I’ve obviously had lots of Asian clients over time. One of the common things I hear about is the issue around emotional support. The lack of emotional support for children from our parents’ generation, so people who would now be probably in their 60s and 70s and – not that it’s- not that it’s obviously every single person, but quite a few of the clients I’ve worked with have brought it up as a real issue that affected them. The fact that they couldn’t access that emotional and social support that they needed at home to be able to say this is what it’s like, this is why I feel like a misfit or why I stand out, and to be met with empathy and to be met with understanding and to be- to help figure out a kind of a middle ground which is I think what we would probably do nowadays with our children, I would like to- I would like to think.

[Sophia] Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I never- I never thought about it with that kind of terminology but you’re absolutely right. There was no emotional support, to be honest there wasn’t even for me any physical support either. I remember, to this day you know it sounds crazy. but I miss not getting hugs and kisses from my mother… and it’s crazy ‘coz you know I’m a grown woman now, but I remember being a child and sometimes just wanting a hug and a kiss and somebody to say like you know it’s going to be alright, don’t worry… but just hearing you saying what you’ve just described about being a misfit, it just made me realise it was the same for my own mother. You know she came here when she was 18, she left everything that she had knew, she married a stranger and entered a new family. My dad had ten siblings, so she entered a household of 12 strangers which she was then expected to run. She didn’t know the language here, she didn’t know the culture, and so you know obviously she was trying to do her best to fit into this completely different world.

[Roksana] And it sounds really extraordinary, doesn’t it today? 2020, sitting here thinking about an 18 year old girl leaving her country, marrying a man she doesn’t know, entering into a family that she doesn’t know, and then having to run that household in a way that is probably subservient as well. You know I don’t think there’s probably- I don’t know if this is this was true for her but I know for my mum, you know she was expected to do the graft and the work, but she didn’t have a say in how things would go.

[Sophia] It was the same, it was the same. I think, you know, I think it’s pretty much across the board sadly.

[Roksana] So that was your mum. Your mum was living that experience and then how old was she when you were born?

[Sophia] I was born when she was twenty.

[Roksana] Wow, so she was still quite young.

[Sophia] Yeah, yeah. I mean I know for like other family members they were married at 16 and they had their children a year later. You know I think for all second generation British born Asians, this is a very common theme, and I do believe our generation’s had it the toughest, you know I really do.

[Roksana] Yeah I think that we- well we were a product of immigrant families, weren’t we? So they’re trying to figure out who they are and how to function and how to preserve their culture, and this idea that you talk about- well it wasn’t an idea, it was a reality for you- that you had to wear trousers to school, and I guess all of that was to preserve the culture and the religion without necessarily understanding where you’re coming from.

[Sophia] I mean not just wasn’t- that just wasn’t the done thing back then you know, understanding your child and their needs and their insecurities. There was very much this culture, there was very much this relationship between you and your parents where what your parents said was signed sealed and delivered, no questions asked. Part of that was culturally because we are brought up to respect our parents at such a high level, but also I mean, yeah you just didn’t question it. You just- you know, otherwise you know, I think back in the day I think it’s very common to say you’d get the brown shoe.

[Roksana] Get the shoe.

[Sophia] You’d get the shoe, you would! And it was you know, it was standard. You’d get some beats and if you questioned anything, so it was either put up or you know, you know you’ll get the shoe.

[Roksana] Yeah, gosh I know. And it sounds really- like when we’re saying it in 2020, it sounds like Oh my God, but it was a reality for all of us growing up in the in the late 70s and 80s. This is- this is just how it was.

[Sophia] All I remember from my childhood is being a peacekeeper, to be honest. I mean don’t get me wrong, they’ve had a good relationship but they’ve also had a lot of ups and downs… and what I particularly remember about the downs, unfortunately, is the lack of communication. There was none of this sitting down, talking about your problems, figuring out what happened, why it happened, what’s the resolve, right let’s let’s resolve this let’s put it behind us and let’s move on. There was none of that. It was silent treatments, using me as the Messenger, you know I remember sometimes sitting them down and getting them to talk things out.

[Roksana] How old were you when you were doing that?

[Sophia] It’s ridiculous I must have been, six or seven.

[Roksana] Oh my days.

[Sophia] Absolutely crazy. Yeah now I think back to that and I’m like, how could they do that? I look at my kids when they were six, seven, and I just can’t even imagine putting them through that kind of emotional stress and pressure. Another thing they would do is you know if they have another argument in the future, they’d always bring up the previous one, so there was none of this dealing with things and moving on. Yeah it wasn’t great. By the time my siblings came along, I was the third parent. There’s no other way to describe it. I was the eldest, I did have a lot of responsibility.

[Roksana] Is that, is that- what do you mean by the third parent? That you were you were involved in raising your siblings?

[Sophia] Yeah I mean I wouldn’t say that I was you know cleaning nappies and things like that, and I know some siblings who have had to do that. It wasn’t that extreme, but things like you know, because my mum- my mum didn’t know the language, I’d have to make phone calls to you know why is the gas bill this high… and you know when you’re a kid yourself you don’t even know what you’re saying and what you’re doing. I remember having to go to parents evenings and having to like translate what the teacher was saying about my siblings to my mum and yeah. I remember my worst thing was everytime we had to return something to a shop. It would be me who would have to explain to the person what happened, and why we’re returning it, all that kind of thing and you know… and yeah I think I’ll I learnt from a very young age how to take the lead and take control of situations. When I say I learned, I guess I didn’t have a choice, I had do.

[Roksana] You had to be the leader. You really sounded like you were not only the third parent, you were also a relationship coach.

[Sophia] Yeah, definitely, definitely.

[Roksana] Wow, that’s extraordinary. Sophia, that sounds I mean it to people listening in 2020, kids that are growing up, you know millennials if you like, probably listening to that thinking what, that’s a bit shocking… but actually that was reality for quite a lot of us, wasn’t it, in the 70s and 80s, and I think we made- we’re making peace with it, some of us are, and some of us are still feeling a little bit like it was an unfair childhood. But what I’m hearing from you is that it’s actually made you from a young age it made you become a leader. It helped you to become a critical thinker, it helped you to figure out how to solve problems, and how to figure out life- figure things out on the go, spontaneously. You know, how to return things when you don’t know what to say, having to speak to electrical companies to talk about the bill, when you’re a kid it’s like you are just winging it right?

[Sophia] Yeah that’s why I was just winging it. And I’m saying all this to you now when I’m listening it sounds absolutely crazy and I can’t believe my mum and dad did that to me. But at the time, obviously you don’t know anything different, so I’m saying the same things to you now because I’m looking at how my children are being brought up and I’m like, God, I remember when I was seven. I have had to think about the positives because I’ve had to make peace with kind of what my childhood was like, because once I did realise that the consequences of what my childhood was, I obviously had do some work on myself to kind of make peace with it all… and part of the work that I did was to understand what the benefits were of my childhood, of those experiences.

[Roksana] So those life lessons.

[Sophia] Yes, yes, exactly.

[Roksana] Sophia, I’d love to know: so you’ve launched your business- you launched your product, rather, and it’s called RotiBox, and for anybody who doesn’t understand what that means, it’s- so roti is another word for chapati- you should explain this. Tell our listeners what you’ve created.

[Sophia] Okay, okay. So in the- in the South Asian culture, so with Indians and Pakistanis, roti or chapati which is a Indian flat bread is part of our staple diet. We, you know we have it for almost every meal and what that involves is making dough and rolling it out into a circle before you cook it. The rolling out process of that can be very messy, in terms of you have to dust your work top with flour to stop it from sticking, and then you’ve got to roll it out out. Now, the worst part is when you’ve finished, you’ve gotta clean up all the flour, so let’s just say you’ve done that for lunch. By the time the afternoons here, you’ve gotta repeat that process again. Get the flour out, dust it down, make your roti, clean it up again. So if you’re doing that two to three times a day that’s a lot of back and forth it’s a lot of cleaning… so RotiBox has been designed to basically eliminate that step. So you can make your roti in the box, all the flour’s in the box, you roll it in there and when you’ve finished, all you’ve gotta do is basically close the lid and put it away until the next time where you just open it up. Your rolling pin’s in there, the flour’s in there, and you just- you just basically start from there. It’s got some other added benefits, as well in terms of it’s got a non-stick surface so the rolling process of the roti is a lot smoother, easier. I’ve had a lot of customers say they’re actually using lesss flour because of the non-stick surface, and it’s making their rotis more fluffy and soft which is a great thing. And it’s also made with biomaster anti-microbial additives, which inhibits the growth of bacteria. That’s what I always call the science bit, but what that means is it’s going to be more hygienic than your kitchen worktop or a chopping board or a wooden box that some people use, but yeah that’s it in a nutshell.

[Roksana] I wanted you to go back four years ago, or maybe it was five years ago, so the moment that you decided that you wanted to do something. So you had a career, you were working in your career, the children came along, you were carrying on working, but at what point did you think I’ve got this idea and I want to see if it can become something? Talk me through what was going on in your head and how you started to develop your thinking.

[Sophia] I have had the idea for 20 years which makes it even worse. So yeah it was always in the back of my mind, never did anything with it, and then it was actually about four years ago… and you know you’re asking me what was the turning point. I have to give the credit to my friend, one of my best friends who’s called Jo, we were having dinner and it was my birthday, and she had very recently been on her own journey of leaving her corporate job and she had started getting into property and while she was doing that she had discovered personal development and during dinner, she asked me a very simple question, and that was my turning point. The question she asked was where do you see yourself in 10 years? Sorry, that was one of the questions she asked me, but the question was what are your dreams?

[Roksana] Wow, big question.

[Sophia] When she said “where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I was like I don’t know. And she was like, come on, Soph, she’s like I wanna know, she’s like what are you dreams? When she asked me that I was just silent, which is not like me, and I do remember some things that I said which- this was like number one on the list, was to pay off my mortgage. And she just looked at us like, that’s your dream? And I was like, yeah, I wanna pay off mortgage, wanna save money for the kids to go to uni, and then maybe we’ll go on a cruise after we’re retired, and she just kept saying what about you? What do you want to do? I couldn’t answer the question basically, she kind of opened my eyes to this thing that there’s a world outside of nine to five… and it sounds ridiculous but I didn’t know. I didn’t know that there was something outside of nine to five, because I had accepted brought up to believe that that was life and even my husband you know that that was our that was our plan was going to work until over 60-65, and then we’ll retire, and then we’ll go on a cruise, that was the plan. I mean, you’re laughing, but it’s what I really, truly believed. So when she told me that you know there’s ways of making income where you don’t have to go to work everyday, there’s ways of investing or doing this or doing that, and you know she started saying like imagine- she’s like you know, imagine being able to do what you really want to do, and she was more kind of talking about her own journey and story, and I was just so intrigued.

[Roksana] So what kind of mindset shifts did you need to have in order to think that you could do this?

[Sophia] When I started focusing on what I can do and because I was thinking differently, and this bit you know it sounds really cheesy but it’s the truth, I watched a movie called Joy and it’s a true story about the inventor of the Super Mop. I was home alone that weekend, I watched that movie, finished at 1:00 in the morning and that was it. That was when I decided, if she can do it, I can do it and I wrote my product brief that night. I didn’t go to sleep until I think 4:00 AM cause I was that excited, I was that buzzing, because I made the decision. I am going to launch RotiBox, it’s done. This is day one. Because of all the personal development and because my mindset shifted, for once you know it felt like I can do it and it is possible. Everything had kind of aligned. Deep down inside I always had this belief that there is going to be more to life.

[Roksana] Sophie, along the journey of creating, inventing, designing, creating and developing your RotiBox, when you – yo must have faced obstacles and when you did, what did you say to yourself and how did you keep yourself moving forward?

[Sophia] Because I felt so strongly that I was going to do this I had this goal, and now I know- I know that in life whether it works or personal, things aren’t easy… obviously you always have obstacles in your way. I mean I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting this many obstacles, but I knew it wasn’t going to be a smooth road. I don’t know, I just had a one track mind, I just had one track mind, I was focused and I just thought I’m being tested. I’m being tested, how badly do you want this? You know, I spent a year working with China, and after a year the product that they sent me… I couldn’t- I couldn’t launch with that. I mean I could have, but I made the decision it wasn’t- it wasn’t my vision and then and then when I started working with the new company, they told me it was going to take three days in design. Those three days turned into two years because I couldn’t compromise on my vision. I just couldn’t compromise and at one point they even said, this is over, we can’t give you what you want.

[Roksana] What did you say? So when you got that news, it’s over, can’t continue, what went on in your head and what were the voices that propelled you to keep moving forward?

[Sophia] You know that- that was a face to face meeting, and it took absolutely every strength that I had not to cry in that meeting. It was in Wales and you know when you’ve got a shaky voice but you just want to get out of there, I I just left that room. I said right OK thanks, cause I really talked everything through and my engineer who’s called Clive just said, I’m sorry Sophie I just can’t do it. So then I left. When I got in the car, I had a good cry, and I remember driving all the way back and just feeling really numb… because previously when it all went wrong with China, like I moped about for a week but then I was like right, take two, we’ll go again, take what I’ve learned and start again. But this time, I had worked with this- this guy really closely, he’s an expert, he is really good… that just made me think what am I gonna do now? And I think eventually, eventually I would have found somebody else, I would have… but when I was in that car, I was just like, I just felt numb, I couldn’t believe it. But you know what, a lot of my journey, Roksana, has been a lot of faith. There’s been a lot of faith there, I’m a very spiritual person, I do believe in God… and I can only- I can only thank God really for certain things that have happened which sometimes you can’t explain. A bit like- a bit like how I did start working with these with these guys in Wales. That was a phone call out of the blue. They got hold of my brief somehow from China, and just like that was you know a stroke a luck or God, God watching over me. That same guy who told me I can’t do it, he was in the shower and he had an epiphany moment. He rang me a week later and he went, I’ve cracked it, the project is back on.

[Roksana] Oh wow, that’s a- that’s almost like a miracle.

[Sophia] There you go! I mean I’ve seen loads of miracles, Roksana, you know honestly. Yeah that’s how it all kick started again.

[Roksana] Wow, that sounds amazing. So the product has been in the process of being produced for the best part of four years, and I know that in January this year you finally launched your product, and it’s been met with a lot of success. How does it feel to finally be in a position where you finished your product- not necessarily finished, I’m sure you’ll evolve it and continue to think about how you can improve it, but how does it just- how does it feel to finally be there at a point where people can buy your product?

[Sophia] I launched on January the 17th and I remember when I had to upload my advert onto YouTube cause that to me was, that’s it I’m out there now in the world, this is it, and I remember physically shaking cause I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe after all this time, that it was actually happening. Can’t even describe it, it just felt unbelievable cause I thought that day would never come. Despite always being persistent, for that day to actually come was just unreal and it took a while for it to sink in. In terms of how it feels now, I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. I feel like there’s not enough hours in the day. I feel like there’s still so much that I need to do and that I want to do, challenging to try and fit it all in. I feel like a balloon that has still got so much more to do and give, and I’m just ready to burst. I need to do like a slow release and you know I- like I said I just feel like I haven’t even got started.

[Roksana] That’s amazing. But I guess that- I’m trying to get to understand what it’s done for your confidence, what it’s done for your mindset now.

[Sophia] Actually it’s quite interesting that you bring that up, because I launched in January but it was around Nov- I think it was around November/December time, but I had hit more roadblocks and things weren’t working out, and then I did this exercise. I thought, am I creating some blocks myself? You know what’s the problem here, why aren’t things moving, why do the factory keep getting these problems, why are the machines keep breaking down, why has this happened, why has that happened, and I- you know that the thing with personal development and working on myself and you know this sounds like you know, I had this idea and then I worked hard and I didn’t give up, and you know look at me now… but the stuff that was going on in the background, no one’s ever going to know or see. I spent a week writing down every single reason why I believed that I didn’t deserve success.

[Roksana] Wow, okay.

[Sophia] I spent a whole week doing that work and there were blocks which I had… blocks about you know obviously it’s all it all did stem from my childhood, and it was kind of festering inside me in my subconscious mind but you know I did that work, I’ve been on courses, I’ve done NLP, I’ve had therapy- I mean you’ve heard my childhood, it does have a knock on effect on how you think and what you believe. I have had to do a lot of work and my thing now is talking about the future and how you’re going to run things, is the business side is one thing but goes on inside honestly is equally important if not more. And I’ve got to consciously make an effort to keep my mind right, because now that I’m out there, I’ve opened myself up, I’ve already been trolled- I was trolled so bad that I didn’t want to get out of bed for three days. I had to, you know, now somebody says anything to me it just bounces off me I couldn’t care less… but I’ve got to keep doing that work and keep my mind in the right place if I want to keep moving forward.

[Roksana] What does keeping your mind in the right place look like for you? What is that- what rituals or routines do you have that help you keep your mind where you need it and want it to be?

[Sophia] Well I pray, obviously I pray five times a day, and for me praying is gratitude. That is my gratitude, that is my meditation, and that is my affirmations… you know affirming what do I want. In addition to that I have got affirmations as well which I read before I got to sleep and first thing in the morning. I do meditation with the app Headspace app, I read, I like to watch Les Brown, I find him very inspiring.

[Roksana] Oh, he’s amazing.

[Sophia] And so basically I read this book called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, so I try to have an hour everyday in the morning where I do all those things… which is the silence, whether it’s meditating or saying your prayers, your affirmations, visualising what you want, doing a bit of exercise. Well I’ll be honest with you since the lockdown I’m struggling with the exercise bit… reading, inscribing, but yeah it’s important to keep reading those affirmations and believing them and visualising because if I don’t, I go back to my default settings. My default settings sadly like I said, which stemmed from my childhood, are that you know you don’t belong, you don’t fit in, you know nothing, whatever you do is never good enough, who do you think you are, you think you can do this, you can’t do this, you can’t do this, you can’t- always can’t can’t can’t… so I have to have to do the work to keep my mind right.

[Roksana] Absolutely. I think that so many of my listeners will relate to you’ve just said. The default position of most people tend to be the negative… that I can’t or it won’t work for me, or that I can’t- you know that it feels impossible, and I think that once you’ve been through a journey of personal development and you learn some techniques and you learn some ways to override that negative thoughtfulness that’s primitive within all of us. It’s easier to be negative, it’s much harder to stay not just positive but to be able to feel wholesome. To feel whole and feel joyful but it’s been amazing. Thank you so much for your time today, I think it’s just extraordinary, the journey that you’ve been on, and the ups and downs of your childhood that I feel have really shaped you to become the woman that you are today. The driven, ambitious, confident, problem-solving individual that you are, and it’s apparent to me and I’m sure to many of your customers and people in your life that you are going to keep growing and just become more and more of who you are.

[Sophia] Thank you, I hope so. And you know one of the reasons why I wanted to share this with you, Roksana, was because it’s not about, you know me and you know RotiBox. I just- when I was growing up, there was no-one- there were no like female Asian role models. We’re a lot more fortunate now obviously with Internet and social media where we’re exposed to that, but I just wanted to share that you know I’m nothing special. My childhood is pretty much like everyone else growing up in the 70s and the 80s, all I’ve done is acknowledged that there’s a different way of thinking and a different way of living in a more positive world, in a more in a more possible world as well… and that that’s all I’ve done and I just want to encourage other people as well to do that you know that just because things are a certain way right now, it doesn’t mean that they’re always going to be like that. You can make a change and I honestly feel like I’m living proof of that… I mean my story, you know you need another few hours if I told you what my character and my personality was like… you know I was miserable and negative, but I have honestly truly transformed and it has been through coaching and therapy and I’m not ashamed to admit that, and I wish that more people would embrace it and understand like how life changing it is. So for me if there’s even one person listening to this who thinks, wow I want to look into this, maybe I’ve got some blocks that I need help with or I’d love to be able to think like that, then I feel like you know this is been this is been a worthwhile exercise.

[Roksana] Sophia, your story is going to inspire so many of my listeners and it’s not only because of what you’ve become but it’s also because of the trials and tribulations that you faced and how you overcame those, and I think the thing that really stands out to me from you is that before you even knew how as a child, you were already figuring life out. And you’re living proof of somebody who had a dream and took one step after another, developed a fighting spirit, and launched in a way that is only going to propel you to greater heights.

[Sophia] I hope so.

[Roksana] I’m so pleased you came on the show today, thank you so much for your time.

[Sophia] Thank you for having me.