Profile - Farnaz Khan: 'World domination' is next step in Farnaz's remarkable career

IS Farnaz Khan Yorkshire's answer to Superwoman?

By the age of 30 she has a successful career in sales behind her, has set up her own direct marketing agency, won several business awards, got married and had four children.

She also managed to keep increasing her firm's turnover during the recession, helped save her mother's business and has become an iconic figure for young entrepreneurs, particularly female ones, in her home town of Bradford, and across the West Riding.

Surely it's time to take a step back, relax, and maybe go part-time? After all, with two boys and two girls between the ages of one and 12, wouldn't you be – dare one say it – a bit tired?

"My aim is world domination," she says. "My plans are to grow the business and go international. I want to be an example to other young people and to women and to anybody who is interested in entrepreneurship. I am a proud Yorkshire businesswoman and I want to put Bradford on the map."

Farnaz means what she says. A practising Muslim whose family hail from Pakistan, she has challenged cultural and gender barriers from the age of 16, when she got a Saturday job in a local clothes shop, to setting up eResponse Media nearly four years ago. Now her firm is on target to turn over 300,000 in only its fourth year.

Not bad for a woman whose career was almost brought to a halt on its first day, when her mother turned up at the clothes shop in which the teenage Farnaz had just got a job and, much to her embarrassment, demanded she go home.

"When you are setting up in business, if you believe in your dreams and ambition then nothing can stop you. Risks should not stand in the way. I have the experience and the knowledge I have built up. You don't have to come from an academic background. You have to have the passion and the drive for it."

Farnaz set up eResponse, which collects email addresses of people interested in a particular company, as well as their lifestyle tastes, address and income bracket, after learning her trade in telesales for double-glazing and unsecured loans. Her task was to convert leads into business and she was so successful that she was headhunted by an insurance litigation firm.

"I thought the loans I gained contributed 10 per cent of their turnover. It was the loans boom when everybody was shoving loans in their faces."

For most people who are successful in business, however, there comes a point when a choice has to be made between carrying on making money for someone else and deciding to work for oneself.

For Farnaz, however, it was about more than just her bank balance, she wanted to do something that allowed her to see more of her children, who then numbered three.

This was important because her two boys, now aged eight and 11, both suffered from a kidney condition and one of them needed to have an operation, although the problem is now under control.

"That was one of the advantages of working from home. They motivated me. They are so happy with what I do. They have got everything they want and they even say, 'how did your meeting go?'

"There is still that pressure on Asian women to stay in their home. As I child I was told my place was in the home. The way I did it (going to work) was by working around my family's needs. You have got to compromise and look at what your family and business needs."

Although she jokes about being only 5ft 1in and having "a big gob", her brain is clearly working pretty well too.

Her business has grown quickly, despite the recession and she said some rival firms have gone out of business while others have struggled after relying on banks for funding.

Farnaz said she is debt-free and wants to use this as a platform for going public.

"I want to float on the stock market within three to five years and exit the business. Then I can get into charities and social entrepreneurship and ambassador programmes.

"When I left school, I did not know about VAT or HM Revenue & Customs. I did not know the value of money. Kids should know where money comes from and I want to be on Dragons' Den next to Mr Caan."

Farnaz may not have known the value of money as a child but she was familiar with a lack of it. Her parents came close to having their house repossessed and she still remembers the pain they went through.

Farnaz and her husband don't look like they will have the same worries and, in fact, she helped her mother's fabric business when it was threatened with closure – she bought the property in which it was based.

She is, however, keen to acknowledge the positive impact her mother had on her life – despite the earful she gave her as a teenage shopworker – because her mother was among the early generation of British Asian women to go to work.

Much as Farnaz looked up to her mother, it seems she is now well on the way to becoming a role model herself – for her faith, her family and her friends.


Title: Founder, eResponse Media.

Lives: Allerton, Bradford.

Date of birth: 12.10.79.

Education: Walshaw High School, Burnley.

Last book read: Can we change this to song? As I don't have time to read books everything is online now, so I read blogs, magazines and papers online but I do have a passion for music. My favourite song is Aretha Franklin's Deeper Love.

Favourite film: White Chicks.

Favourite holiday destination: Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Car driven: Audi Q7.

Most proud of: my business.