I have been honored to have a profile written about me by Syracuse University Sophomore Amie Bayardelle, an independent artist in the Bandier program at SU. Please read the article and check out her incredible music on SoundCloud.
While at Syracuse University, Zain Elwakil found that in pursuing his architecture career in college, he and his friends share a common appreciation for testing out new career paths that veer away from the goals they set in high school. Many succumb to the fear of failure and expectations of others when trying to find success. Zain Elwakil’s startup company Zulu Echo Initiative is not only a unique clothing brand and blog that celebrates individuality, but it is also a powerful movement inspiring people to pursue their dreams.
Zain recognized his passions and decided to study and pursue a career in architecture. He was raised in New York City, by hard working parents who supported and shaped his ambitious, compassionate personality. He has also been inspired by the visions of Simon Sinek and Jay Shetty. After working at several architecture firms and becoming more confident in his career choice, he wanted to share his experience of fulfilling his passions with others. “I always enjoyed writing and wanted to start a blog with no intention of it becoming a clothing brand or company” (Zain Elwakil).
Zain also recognized that many young adults are realistically struggling to follow their dreams and keep their mental health in check. “Feelings like depression come from a place of conforming to social norms. And that’s not just in terms of social media and appearance, but it also has to do with expectations for what it means to be successful. Society has this view of success as having a correlation to our bank account, but I don’t see it that way. I think you can be successful every single day and not make that much money. It’s about changing this perception of what we have to do for our future.” (Zain Elwakil). The opportunity for Zulu Echo Initiative is unique in which it arose from the will to solve an attitude problem in society. It’s a movement inspiring people to keep doing what they’re passionate about and reminding people to take care of their mental health while they work hard in their pursuits.
Like what many other startups do, specific steps are taken before it’s established. Though Zulu Echo started as a blog, Zain took steps and researched before promoting it more. The first step was asking himself what his vision was. “A lot of people ask what people want instead of what I want to do to benefit others?” His second step was getting his thoughts down. His first posts were just about getting ideas out there and being an artist for the company. He realized that it was important to get something down in front of him. His third step was research. “Too much research never hurts.” It’s important to know what was behind what he wanted to do, so he spoke to a lawyer and accountant, and he researched online. “I’ve never been business-minded. Because of my major, I don’t take business classes. I reached out to people who did something similar to what I wanted to do and looked things up things online.” Zain’s process was not seamless, but the biggest challenge was finding where to start. “If people ask themselves, ‘where do I start?’ The answer is to just start anywhere. Even if it’s writing ideas on a piece of paper. Just having something in front of you is a step.”
Zain’s goal is to assemble and grow a community of people following their dreams and motivating others to do the same. Zain always had a passion for aviation, and this was how the Initiative got its name. “The name for Zulu Echo Initiative came from my initials in the aviation alphabet because my initials Z.E. are Zulu and Echo. I call it an initiative because I want it to be more of a movement than a business. I want people to achieve their goals and fly.” Zain’s architecture blog quickly branched into an inspirational outlet complemented with a clothing brand. The clothing brand includes workout and comfort apparel with the Zulu Echo Initiative logo and positive sayings. Zain hopes that apparel will help establish a more concrete community that will connect people with similar principles and perspectives. “To me, a sale without an understanding of what my company stands for is a failed sale” (Zain Elwakil). His business perspective differs from that of traditional entrepreneurs who strive to profit off opportunities because he wants the company to resonate with people long-term. Profit is a secondary concern for Zain because making an impact is his primary concern. He also has made an impression on people by creating films and reaching out to creatives to be featured as “Friends of Z|E” to his company who can promote his message. It’s less about a traditional business plan and partnerships but rather about establishing a genuine relationship with people. Many Syracuse University students are now aware of the Zulu Echo Initiative brand.
With an established website, blog, clothing brand, and social media platform, Zain has already made a significant impact on young adults’ perspectives. The Zulu Echo Initiative has reached people all over the world, through films, clothing, instagram impressions and his own writing and this is Zain’s biggest measure of his own success. He publishes a new article every Tuesday, and hopes to reach out to more creatives to continue his collaborative enterprise. Though his primary plan is getting an architecture degree, he hopes to tie Zulu Echo Initiative into his career in a professional way in the future.
Thank you Amie, I am truly humbled by your reflection on my work.