Zahra Al-Harazi


Zahra Al-Harazi

Entrepreneur and Leadership Expert

The road to real leadership is rarely a straight one, and among Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs, few have traveled a route with more obstacles overcome than Zahra Al-Harazi. Sharing her no-holds-barred attitude and passion for success, Zahra discusses her unique approach to entrepreneurship and leadership, as well as her personal experience as a pioneering woman and immigrant in the business world.

A mere 18 years ago, Zahra was a new immigrant to Canada. She was a young mother with three children. A survivor of two civil wars. She had no higher education or connections to the business community. Today, Zahra is the CEO and creative director of Foundry Communications.  In just eight years, the company she founded has been recognized as Canada’s seventh-most awarded agency for international design awards, one of Profit magazine’s Top 10 up-and-coming entrepreneurial companies in 2010, and one of their W100 companies in 2011.

Zahra has received multiple accolades. She was named one of Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 (2009); Business in Calgary’s “Leader of Tomorrow” (2010); Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year from Chatelaine magazine (2011); one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women by WXN (2012); and she has also received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for contributions to Canada (2012) and the RBC Top 25 Immigrants to Canada Award (2013).

Zahra’s talks have influenced audiences at leading institutions such as RBC, London Life Financial, Women of Influence, Freedom 55, Ace Nationals, Ernest and Young, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Board of Trade, Mount Royal University, Women’s Executive Network, and the Entrepreneurs Organization. She has spoken throughout North America, India, Germany, Turkey, and has also completed a seven-city speaking tour across Australia and New Zealand.

She sits on the Board of Directors for Entrepreneurs Organization as the Communications Chair, and on the EO Global Communications Committee, The National Make-a-Wish Foundation Board and The OGM Editorial Advisory Board. Zahra is also Chair of the Fund Development Committee for the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. She has also recently signed a deal with HarperCollins to publish a book in early 2016, and was also recently named as a Canadian Ambassador to UNICEF.

Finding Your Voice: A Story of Resilience

Zahra Al-Harazi is a passionate entrepreneur, an internationally-recognized designer and creative director, a sought after inspiring public speaker, a loud crusader for women, youth and equality, and a mother that beams with pride when you ask about her three kids.

Today, her voice is clear and confident, a powerful tool of commerce and philanthropy, and an inspiration to eager audiences. But this was not always the case.

Raised in a country where women didn’t have a voice, Zahra’s early search for her identity became about standing out as little as possible. 16 years ago she moved to Canada and quietly hid away from what she didn’t understand.  As a new immigrant and young mother with no understanding of  the culture or business world and no higher education on which to build a life in her new country, she had little confidence then in what she had to say.

She found her voice – and a new sense of belonging.  Her voice is a voice of inspiration.  A voice of entrepreneurship admired across Canada.  A voice of understanding.  A voice of confidence. A voice that has captivated audiences across the globe.

In this inspiring presentation, Zahra will show you how she channelled frustration into defiance, the mistakes she wishes she hadn’t made, the milestones that propelled her, and how a clear and powerful voice can help anyone get what they want most in life.

Diversity in the Workplace

An immigrant, a minority, a woman, and a successful business leader. Who better than Zahra Al-Harazi to explain the importance of harnessing diversity when it comes to attracting and retaining talent and customers?

Zahra discusses transforming diversity and inclusion from being “the right thing to do” into “the most important business imperative” of our time. Improving ethnic and gender diversity in the workplace represents a massive economic opportunity.

Audiences learn the success stories of companies that have evolved beyond “doing diversity well” to leveraging inclusion as a powerful business advantage. These inclusive cultures increase employee creativity and productivity, develop new products and product categories, and far outpace their peers in innovation, marketplace growth, and business performance.

Zahra explains how to understand the value of your personal cultural experience and how to leverage to increase individual, professional, and organizational success. She shows how to “speak up” and add your voice to the conversation when your perspective is considered that of a “minority”. When utilized effectively, cultural insights and diverse perspectives can drive significant change — from career advancement to increased market share.

Zahra shares practical examples and provides actionable strategies for leveraging diversity and culture, including explaining factors such as:

  • The growing value of cultural insights in an increasingly diverse marketplace
  • The steps for leveraging cultural perspective
  • How to harness minority voices in your organization to grow its market share
  • How real-world companies have surpassed their competition by utilizing employee diversity


An Incomplete Manifesto of Entrepreneurship

When Zahra Al-Harazi started Foundry Communications, she wasn’t thinking of the long list of blue chip clients to come, the international design awards, or the years of steady business growth she was about to embark upon.  As a first-time entrepreneur, she was focused on much more basic tasks—like attracting the right talent, running a real business, and keeping the lights on for another week.

Given her remarkable success since those early days, you’d think the memories were far away.  But the opposite is true;  Zahra has never forgotten the lessons she learned in the art and science of entrepreneurship, nor the ones that continued to come as her company grew. Only when there’s a standard you won’t compromise, a dollar that’s not worth chasing and a line that can’t be crossed, will you build a company that stands on solid ground.

In this revealing and practical presentation, she gives audiences what she never had – a useful and effective series of hard-earned, real-world lessons that every aspiring entrepreneur must master.

Success By Design: A Workshop

Big brands make very deliberate moves. They have goals that have been studied, honed and targeted to increase their chances of success. They have think tanks, focus groups and lots and lots of meetings. Individuals, not so much. Most of us tend to wake up every day and take life as it comes.

But what happens when the principles that big corporations use to shape their futures are applied to your one and only life? Zahra knows, because that’s exactly what she did with her own. She calls it Success by Design—no less than she would do for any client. She is in the process of writing a book for Harper Collins that details Success by Design.

Everyone has changes they’d like to make to their lives. For many of us, the single biggest issue is knowing how to begin the process.  What questions should we ask? How do we separate the truth from the illusions? And how can we stay squarely focused on the path to success?

It’s been remarkably successful for some of the biggest brands on the market.  And in this insightful workshop, Zahra shows how a Creative Brief is every bit as valuable for individuals as it is for business.  Taking audiences  on a detailed journey through their own personal Creative Brief, and applying an internal identity (who are you), an verbal identity (where do you want to go) and a visual identity (how are you going to get there) to their own lives, she shows how the right questions, the right structure, and  the right methods can take us to the core of who we are.  With that knowledge, that understanding, and that truth she introduces us to, every one of us can become free to live the lives we deserve to lead.