Transcript: On Being an Anti-capitalist Business Owner with Culture Maker Nora Rahimian

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Eowyn Levene  0:00  

Welcome to Creatives Do Money. Each week we explore the topics of everyday money management, solo business ownership, and how we’re fueling our creative futures. I’m your host Eowyn Levene, money coach, longtime self employed massage therapist and watermelon enthusiast, and I’m on a mission to help you build a lasting financial stability that frees you up to do your creative work without hustling anxiously for the next dollar. 

What does it look like to be a self employed anti capitalist, consultant and speaker working with and for artists and creatives? Or as my guest today will frame it? What does it look like to challenge a system while we have to operate within that system. So that guest is Nora rahimian, and she’s sharing with us exactly how she shows up for her values. As she goes about doing her work in the wild. I’m really excited to share this conversation about how we all can use our businesses and our work to build equity and justice and create more of what we want to see in the world. Nora is a creative consultant combining more than 10 years of peace building social justice organizing and project management experience with innovative arts for change marketing and business development strategies. In 2014, Nora co founded culture fix a global collaborative network of artists influencers and cultural producers, who use arts and culture to create social change globally. Since culture fixes inception, Nora has spoken at places like South by Southwest, and et CIE partnered with organizations like one the BBC hip hop Ed and AJ stream, and consulted for several popular hip hop and Afro beats artists. So without further ado, let’s get into the episode.

Nora, thank you so much for being here. And taking the time. I’m really excited to dive into this, I feel that you have such a unique perspective. And you’re so strong in how you understand the world and see the world and I’m excited to talk about money stuff with you. So welcome.

Nora Rahimian  2:17  

Thank you. I’m excited to have this conversation to

Eowyn Levene  2:21  

Let’s begin with a moment that stands out for you if you look back on your life, a moment that changed your relationship to money and finances.

Nora Rahimian  2:30  

Yeah, okay, so I grew up Persian.  We have, you know –  there’s all these stereotypes about Persians and money – but the thing I remember as a kid is my parents, haggling over money, like over items, everything was a bargain. And it used to embarrass me where I was like, Mom, the price is just pay it and it use embarrassed me so much. And I mean, there’s a lot in there about internalized racism and culture that I hadn’t figured out yet as a small child. But that was my relationship to money was you haggle. But we also never talked about it. Persians, like, don’t talk to each other about money. And so I just learned that money was this place of shame and silence. And then as I grew into my consciousness, and I started to see the way that capitalism operates in the world, I saw I thought money was destructive, and like really the root of all evil. And so for a long time, I really just rejected the idea that like, I would have anything to do with money. 

And then fast forward through a wild series of events where I ended up becoming the manager to this hip hop artist in Liberia, this hip co artist in Liberia, where I was like, I don’t know anything about money. I don’t know anything about business, I don’t know anything about the music industry, you want me to manage him, what?  And I got peer pressured. And I became the first music manager in Liberia and did that really based off of the work I had done in organizing and relationship, you know, just transferred all the relationships I had, and kind of approached it that way. But through that, I found that as I was advocating for somebody else, and helping someone else get paid and helping someone else get paid fairly, and looking at how we can take money that some of these big corporations had and give it to local and independent artists, I started to understand the ways that money can really be about advocacy and wealth redistribution and shifting power. And that was the beginning of changing my relationship with, with money and with business really, and what these things can how they can navigate in the world. But it for me, it really had to be through someone else, because I wasn’t ready to face it for myself yet, at that point. And so I realized, and I knew I knew some of my own shortcomings. And so we negotiate a deal. And I was like, I know I’m like, going to ask for something small. So I would force myself whatever my first instinct was, I would force myself to like double it. And then people would say, Yes. And I was like, Oh, hey, I’ve been like asking small all this time. And I could ask bigger. And so really managing him for me was was that the, the pivot point for sure.

Eowyn Levene  5:12  

Wow, we have so many things to touch on. I love that we have so many directions to go in. It’s kind of like pick up sticks, right? You drop it on the floor, and you’re like, Okay, what’s next? So I want to just drop back. So I don’t know a lot of about Persian culture, actually. But it’s so vivid, am I imagining you as a little girl, like being in you know, a shop somewhere and your parents are haggling and you just want to just hide and run away was that with a to tie together the fact that money in general wasn’t openly talked about, but then there was like this really sort of dramatic moment where they were like haggling over a price like with those two things. In contrast, what was…say a bit more about those two aspects?

Nora Rahimian  5:57  

It’s a good question. It’s, you know, Persian culture is very much about… and oh ma-… you’d like blowing my mind a little bit as you asked it, because I hadn’t really thought about the two in juxtaposition. So bear with me, as I think out loud, a little bit. Persian culture is really about making people comfortable, and making people feel at home and making people feel welcome. And so there’s a lot of ways to silence about money is to not embarrass anybody is to not make anybody feel uncomfortable, is to say, like, you don’t talk about how people how much people make you don’t if I owe you like, if you owe me money as a person, I will never ask you for that money. I will wait for you to bring it up. Because it’s rude. Because what if you don’t have it? But also what if it makes me feel it makes me look like I’m desperate for that money. And I gave it to you, not out of the kindness out of my you know what I mean? Like, there’s these kind of these dualities that exists in Persian culture. We’re famous for this concept of we called “Taarof”, which is like, I go out of my way to convenience you. So if I’m thirsty, and I come to your house, and you offer me water, I will say no, three times so that you insist, then it’s when you insist that I’m like, okay, she really wants me to have this water, so I’ll drink it. It’s like, it’s these like exaggerations, a little bit. But it really is rooted in this place of wanting other people to feel comfortable, and welcome and safe. And so I think in some ways, the more I understood that underlying piece of the culture, that’s where I started to understand, okay, like, there are other ways to do this, that maybe aren’t centered around silence. I don’t know, I think I’m still I’m still in some ways figuring it out.

Eowyn Levene  7:45  

Yeah. And I feel like it’s, you know, that, that expression about peeling an onion, there’s always another layer. There’s just, there’s so much in it, there’s… Our cultures build this understanding that in order to be secure and accepted in the community, we have to not appear needy, and feel like we have enough and make those comfortable around us. And there are so many things that society push upon us. And that is just intimately related to money. And there’s a lot to unpack, and a lot to unfold. And not only were you growing up in a Persian culture, but you were also being socialized as a woman. And there are just… there’s a lot of layers to it. And it makes sense that you’re not you’re not done unpeeling everything and unpacking it and looking at it. 

Do you feel my sense when you describe this experience of being more comfortable advocating for and asking for money when it’s for somebody else? So this theme came up in a previous episode with a clarinetist Eric, who now works in a nonprofit organization arts organization. And he finds the conversation around money and asking for money and advocating for the organization so much easier than he ever did asking for himself. You know, I think this really comes up. Maybe it’s to do with this moment of vulnerability when you’re like, I am demonstrating a need when I asked for money, a personal need. And I wonder if some of that vulnerability is what’s coming up there. But where I’m going with all of this wondery this wondering statements is what changed in your personal life in terms of your relationship to money? What did you notice? What were the daily changes that you noticed, as you started working, and it was as a manager for the the artist in Liberia?

Nora Rahimian  9:34  

Yeah

Eowyn Levene  9:34  

Okay, so what were the day to day things that changed in your life as you grew into this role as a manager for the artist?

Nora Rahimian  9:42  

I mean, in some ways, I think the experience that I had was such an outlier experience, because I was a expat living in Liberia. I was a woman in a male dominant dominated space. I had a bit of not white, but also not black like being in the middle, which came with its own kind of privileges and ability to, like, move. And then he was like, super popular. And so that like there was a little bit of like, I don’t know, fame privilege that came with. And so I don’t I don’t know, I think my experience in Liberia was very much like an outlier, in the ways that I had access to things and didn’t have access to things. So I don’t know what changed for me in the day to day. I mean, this most obvious answer, right is that having access to money, made things a lot easier, the car broke down, we could fix it, we needed water, we could go buy it, the generator didn’t have gas, we could refuel it, there was no electricity, there was no electricity, we bought a generator, like money allowed access to things, right on a very basic level food shelter, like on a very basic level, that then allowed us to do some of the other things that we were doing in a much more easy way, right? Our basic… It allowed basic needs to be met, which we can have a whole other conversation about how basic needs should be met anyway. And that shouldn’t be a function of having access to capital. But you know that that was the truth of it. Right. The other thing was that money then gave us access to spaces that created social capital and relationships. Right. So like, in Liberia, we could go to like a expat facing restaurant, right? where prices were in US dollars instead of liberty, and this, that and the other. And there were people there that you would meet who have social capital, that then we can access, right. And so it also the relationship, I think, in that sense between money and power, and access, and accessibility was the other thing, right, that it allowed us to meet people and leverage relationships, for his career for the work that we were doing in a way that I don’t think we would have had otherwise, or would have had more easily otherwise.

Eowyn Levene  12:16  

Yeah, you had such an intimate and immediate experience of privilege and money, I think for a lot of, for those of us who grow up and spend most of our lives in a Western quote, unquote, nation, we never get to experience that kind of vivid instance of money equals the ability to survive, like we experienced more metaphorical levels of that. And clearly, there are folks in the US and Western nations who struggle to pay their bills, and depressingly enough, there are people who don’t have clean water in the country. But if you look at Western nations as a whole, those experiences are much more rare than they are in other nations. And you had such an experience of adequate money equals electricity and water and food and access, like such a clear delineated experience of those things. And I’m absorbing that since I have a very privileged life. And I haven’t spent time in circumstances like that. I’m aware of those who struggle in our country, and I’m aware of my own struggles to the degree that they exist. But I wonder how you’ve carried those experiences of the day to day access that money brings back into your life here in the States. So now you live in LA, is that right? Yeah. 

Nora Rahimian  13:41  

You know,I think in the US in some ways, because we’ve been conditioned to look at it as we’re a privileged country, we’re a call it you know, we’re like a colonizer country, we have all these things, some of the things that really are not okay. Right, which are class things we take for granted. It’s just just the way it is. And because it’s better, quote unquote, better than elsewhere, we accept it. And yeah, and so in some ways that enables this system of power imbalance and inequity. And so like, It’s wild to me that health care in this country is based off of having a job, right, which sends the message that you’re only worthy as long as you’re working. And if you’re not working, then we don’t really care what happens to your body, like that’s wild, or that we see commercials on television for how to get discounts on prescription drugs, where the reality is prescription drugs should be affordable like these are, this is a different version of kind of what I experienced in Liberia that people don’t let like, oh, donate to the food drive. Nobody should be donating to food drives, because we have people there’s enough wealth in this country that if we were to distribute it, everyone can get fed. We can have affordable housing. All of these things, but because we’ve been conditioned to accept kind of the hegemoney around, well, that’s just the way it is. And people work hard, so they deserve more money doesn’t matter if they’re exploited people, or they’re firing workers for unionizing, or this, that and the other.  We accept something that we don’t necessarily have to accept. And because we look externally and say, well, we’re better than over there. Right? We don’t push for what’s actually fair, or just or equitable, or this, that and the other. And I think that’s part of the trick in the US is we’ve been duped into thinking, it’s so good here. And yeah, and not to create any kind of like comparison, but the things that we accept are absolutely unacceptable. And and it’s never a question of there’s not enough money, it’s really an issue of the way that money gets controlled, and manipulated and moved, is designed to keep power in certain places and exclude others from power, which I think is a whole different conversation. But we get sidetracked from that. They’re like, look over here at this shiny thing. But the shiny thing isn’t of any value Really?

Eowyn Levene  16:07  

No, I think you make a very good point. And I think one of the reasons I was interested in your experiences, because I think it’s not only about the national discourse, or what we read in media, or see in media, for a lot of people, they literally, they’re not looking around them to the degree that they realized that health care is a problem. You know, if you grow up in a culture or as a, you know, a member of a class where generally folks were employed and had adequate health insurance, there’s a degree to which you’re just buffered from that. And I think experiences that we have in the day to day can be one of the best ways of waking us up. Like either we meet somebody who’s had an experience very different than ours, or we personally have an experience. And often that’s what’s required to change our understanding of the world and to change how we view things, and then to change how we do things. Yeah, I guess all I mean, to say is that you make a very good point. So I’m a heck yes to all of that. 

And then immediately, I turned to Alright, but how does that change? Like, how do we make a difference? Like it’s not enough, in many cases, for us to just know that many people are shackled to a terrible job for health care? Or don’t have health care at all? or whatever it is, like what what’s the in between? How do we make a difference? And so that’s why I’ve returned once again, to this question of like, what are our everyday experiences? Like? How do we shift how we understand the world and how we do things?

Nora Rahimian  17:34  

What comes up for me is like, then this is where we start to use, like, negotiation is advocacy and transparency about money is that, you know.

Eowyn Levene  17:42  

Let’s, let’s talk about negotiation, as advocacy, say more about what you mean by that.

Nora Rahimian  17:46  

So I think in some ways, we accept that this is just how it is. And we just keep going. And maybe if I mean, I don’t know, I can say, for me, sometimes it feels overwhelming, because you’re like, how do I fight Elon Musk, and Amazon and all these shitty people who are making billions off of the pandemic, by actively like, lobbying to hurt people, right? Like, it blows my mind. And so for me, part of what it comes back down to is the ways that we can outside of these systems, redistribute wealth and advocate for one another. So one of the things and part of you know, let’s take it back full circle, when we were talking about silence that happens in Western culture to where we don’t talk, how much do you get paid? Oh, don’t talk about it. Right? What’s your rate? Oh don’t talk about it. And so we have this silence around money and compensation and things like that, that enable these kind of inequities to happen, these disparities to exist. And so I, one of the things I work a lot at is around how we can use things like negotiation, or even networking is advocacy. 

And it starts at the base with breaking the silences, the more transparent we are with how much what’s the budget for things? How much do you get paid? How much do you charge? What did they give you? What benefits are you getting? We can then use that as a as a comparison point and ask for ourselves, right? So if I know what you’re getting, I can ask for, for equal pay, right things like in a lot of my contracts, what I’ve started to do now is say if you hire someone, and they get paid more than me, you need to let me know. And so that we all get paid the same for you know, equal labor, equal work, equal pay. So things like that. 

And the piece around negotiation, especially, is oftentimes what happens as women as people of color, as queer folks, as like others, when we negotiate, it’s seen as aggressive or combative, or you should just be so happy that we’re giving you this opportunity and go sit down and take it. And so and I’ve been in rooms where I’ve negotiated on behalf of an artist and I’m told you just need to smile More, and why are you being so aggressive? Right? But aggressive is a frame of reference, right? It’s your persona, based off of gender and race and all this other constructs. 

What happens is when I advocate even for myself, it creates a new norm of folks like me advocating, negotiating. And so then next time when the person who comes after me negotiates, they already have it’s not so much an outlier now, right? It’s not so much this extreme. And so it makes the next negotiation easier, and the next negotiation easier. And so even if we’re not actively in community with one another, and conversation with each other, the act of negotiating and being open about that negotiation shifts the baseline that yes, these are conversations we’re having, yes, it’s normal, quote, unquote, for folks who look like us to make those asks, and that were coming in, informed about what other people are getting, right, what other rates are, what the men at the company are making, this, that and the other. And so it starts to shift a little bit as we break those silences, it starts to shift a little bit the relationship between power, because now we enter negotiations with more power, rather than looking at the negotiation as a place of just we’re so happy to be here, thank you so much. Give me what I can take, you recognize that there’s power on both sides of that negotiation.  And that starts to shift. It’s minor, right? We’re still not battling Amazon. But it is a minor shift and how we operate in these spaces.

Eowyn Levene  21:34  

But I feel like it it I mean, it’s a minor shift. But I mean, like anything grassroots or you know, ground-based, if enough of it happens, then it starts to really have an impact. Now that I understand better what you mean, with the word advocacy, so essentially, what you’re talking about is increasing the money available to those who previously were shut out from it. And increasing the amount available in the hands of those who are more likely to contribute to mutual aid or, you know, political campaigns that are going to change their life, all these different ways that we can use money to change the world. And it’s more money in our hands to choose to spend elsewhere than Amazon, and so on. 

I mean, that’s one of the reasons that I am doing what I’m doing now with Plum Tree Money is I, I truly believe that getting good with everyday money management. So you’re talking about one piece, which is increasing the initial amount that we can have in our life through advocating for us for ourselves and for others. But then, to my mind, the other piece of that puzzle is, what do we do with that money once it’s in our bank account, right. And so those two aspects are just crucial to what we have available to us to be active with the money that we can be active with. And it gets me super excited. Because I, I love seeing what money can do, honestly, and having grown up in a very different kind of family than what you’ve described, but a family that nonetheless, truly believed also that kind of materialistic goals were less than and base. And that not necessarily that money was the root of all evil, but that conventional approaches to handling money, were sort of tarred with the same feathers as the evils of capitalism, for example. And it the two sort of got conflated, where there was the kind of dismissal of, you know, focusing only on wealth gain, and so on in an imbalanced way, the way that we see with billionaires. So the rejection of that basic kind of human gesture of give me all the bucks, and I want to own all the things and have all the power. The rejection of that became also a rejection of things like planning for retirement and owning property as a way of stabilizing your life not necessarily of creating an empire, but simply just having a rock in your life that you can build on. And these kinds of questions. And, yeah, so I get excited about all aspects of it. 

But I really appreciate you honing in on these moments, right? Because life is made up of these moments of where we have to stand in our strength in ourselves and say, I deserve this, I need this, or this person that I’m working with also deserves this and needs this, like that’s what makes up a life is these moments where we choose to do the hard thing and do the thing we’re scared about and do the thing we’re told we’re not supposed to do and choose differently. And I think you’ve you’ve outlined that in a really powerful way. 

Nora Rahimian  24:33  

Yeah, well, thank you. And I think there’s also like a third component right, which is shifting what we value in and of itself, right. So rather than making money, the ultimate valuable thing, we can say that we value, a service or we value a relationship or we value, the greater good of what the outcome of a collaboration or project might be. And so replacing Even so there’s this one, like, how do we make more wealth to? How do we, like handle it when that wealth is there? But three? How do we replace where the power lies, and rather than saying the power lies and money, the power lies and all these other things. And that’s where things like service exchange, or bartering, or things like that there’s like a ton of buying nothing groups, where you don’t buy anything. And the community just says, What do you need? What do you have, and they exchange it right, what we’re seeing with mutual aid. And so this, taking away or the weakening of money as the center of everything, and replacing it with other things, right, I’ll give you a couple books, you give me some carrots, like we do this thing where, where the community one becomes interdependent on one another, and to shows that we have within ourselves everything we need to succeed or thrive or do that. 

And I think that’s the third piece of the conversation is moving away from cash, or now lately, like stocks, right and moving towards what do we value in terms of what’s what do I need? What do you need? And that that’s just as important, right? Because I think it’s easy, in some ways. We see a lot of people who give money away, right? They love charity, they donate, they feel really great about themselves. But they’re not just redistributing power. And so they use the redistribution of wealth, to actually hoard more power, it becomes about taxes and PR, and like, all these other things. And so I think that’s part of the opportunity here is by saying money is not the thing. There’s other things, we’re also starting to redistribute the power behind money, because otherwise, you’ll end You know, there’s tons of people who do this, and I’m sure we can all name where they use that as a mask to further deepen their holes in power and politics and those kinds of things.

Eowyn Levene  26:58  

Yeah. And it becomes a way of excusing oneself as well.

Nora Rahimian  27:04  

Yeah, well, I did something good. Thank you, I can go back to being evil and terrible over here.

Eowyn Levene  27:10  

Speaking of evil, I was thinking about the phrase that you used money is the root of all evil at the beginning of our conversation, and it’s, it’s something that permeates our culture, in many ways, shapes and forms. And I’m curious. So I hear you in talking about the need to shift our understanding of value and importance away from just focusing on money. I mean, I’m a heck yes to that. Yes. And shifting to a more human and or Earth centric understanding of day to day transactions and interaction, yes, so much. So. Nonetheless, we’re both here, paying our rent making a living. And I’m curious, how do you feel that your commitment to social justice and changing the world of capitalism and how we do things? How does that impact your day to day handling of money?

Nora Rahimian  28:19  

It’s a great question. And it’s one I get asked a lot, because people are like, well, if you’re anti capitalist, why do I have to pay you? You know, I think it’s a question of like, what does it look like to challenge a system while we have to operate within that system? And some people will say, you can’t, it’s just impossible, because we’re all in it. For me, the answer lies in building out a business at every step of the way. That’s really based in values. 

So for me, it’s everything from the contracts that I send to people are in really simple, accessible language, because it’s designed for us to understand one another, not for me to like, create a loophole and be like gotchu and make you feel like you’re not smart enough to read, you know, something super simple like that. I have language in all of my contracts around people like not being racist, sexist, participating in active oppression of other people, to make sure that I’m working with people who are aligned, but in terms of like pricing and rates and things like that. 

I believe that it’s about paying people fairly for their work. So I’m not trying to scam anyone to like pay me tons and tons of money, but I’m also not trying to undervalue myself. And so I offer sliding type scale, you pay me what you can afford based on the budget that you have, which also means I trust you to be honest about that, which is a radical reforming, right? traditional business says you’re just trying to negotiate the most and how can you screw someone out of all of that money, but I say look, we’re coming to do something together to do something productive together. And so what do you need for that? to happen, what do I need for that to happen? And then how do we negotiate conditions where we are both comfortable and happy? 

For me, it’s also really important that whatever rate I charge you, you’re getting the same quality from me. Because oftentimes, we’re used to people sacrificing quality for discount, right, you’ll only get like this tiny bit of this thing, because you’re only where I think that’s actually really problematic. 

And I try to offer different access points to people so that they can get high quality of things, regardless of what their budget is, like, I strongly believe in the accessibility of information and resources. And so creating different kind of touch points for people. But to me, that’s what it really comes down to is how do we create conditions for both of us to thrive on this thing that we’re doing, and that it is possible to create a win win situation? Or even like a third option, where we’re all being successful, and not in competition with one another? Not barrel of crabs? Rather than thinking of businesses? How to one How does one of us get on top of each other. And so in that way, too, it’s a little bit of a paradigm shift, where we’re saying there’s enough space for all of us, right, we can all shine, there’s enough. 

And maybe it’s a little hippie dippie, right, like to believe in abundance, and all those kinds of things. But it is a different frame of mind. And I also believe very strongly in compensating people that I work with. So making sure that and and i will say it’s not just about the money, it’s also in terms of what are the working conditions that we’re creating. So encouraging work life balance, doing check ins, because the world is falling apart, and I want to make sure you’re okay. And so treating people as people, rather than as simply just workers. And so there’s a little bit of like an emotional shift to in the way that we practice business and center center, to kind of what you said, making it really human centered, rather than worker outcome or business centered.

Eowyn Levene  32:06  

In addition to hiring people, are the other purchasing decisions that are informed similarly. 

Yeah, I mean, I, for me, I look at our values, what it always comes back to is are our values aligned? are you causing harm in the world, and as much as possible, I try to avoid that. So even to the point when we’re working with like collaborators, and they might be big, quote, unquote, names, if that doesn’t feel right, or they have, you know, a history of being misogynistic, or anything like that. We won’t work with them. Because we don’t want to lend our power. And I say, we I’m referencing culture fix, which is the company that I run with Natalie crew, but also me as an individual, right? Don’t want to lend our power to amplifying someone who’s causing harm. So that works. You know, that’s like me, I won’t shop at Amazon, I won’t go to Walmart, but also like, it’s me at all, all points of the spectrum. 

Yeah, I feel like you’re really getting to the heart of it. I mean, this is another version of you know, how, what are we doing with the money or the access or the influence that we have in the day to day, and for me, this comes up a lot around growing this new business, because I have all these decisions to make that I hadn’t previously. So in the massage practice that I have, I’ve never really used social media, for marketing. I’ve had a newsletter list, and everything else has been, well, SEO. So yes, I have benefited from Google’s business model. I haven’t given them money to do so. But I’ve given them information, which is a different version of money. So I mean, Google’s services feel free in a lot of ways. They’re not free. We’re paying them with our information and sharing our behavior with them. And then they profit from that. So I have engaged on that level. But now I’m faced with these questions of do I want to use Facebook ads, they are very, very effective, you can build a very elegant streamlined model using Facebook ads and lead pages. And so there are all of these decisions that I’m being faced with and have to make. And I mean, just taking podcasting as an example. It’s rare that a good quality podcast is done by one person. And even mine is only 99% me. Michael helps me with a bit of post production sound engineering to tweak the way the final product is slightly, I could do it without it and that would be a small sacrifice, but it does make a difference. But most podcasts that you hear, they involve multiple people and service providers. And if someone isn’t dealing with a huge budget, they make up for the discrepancy and they get the help often from the Philippines. The Philippines have a lot of folks who do remote and virtual assistant work. And so they are building a business model. They On, in our terms very low paid labor overseas, as I understand it, the people overseas are getting paid, what’s a living wage for them? But I’ve had to sit down and ask myself, is that something I want to do? Or do I want to try and build an efficient business model that is sustainable for myself. And eventually, I can bring on someone who lives somewhere within my country and support them and their livelihood by getting help from them. And so we’re faced with these questions every day of like, you know, what is the right thing to do. And it’s really great to have your examples of decisions that you’ve made along the way to live in the system, and then also envision a new one in a very practical way.

Nora Rahimian  35:44  

I think partly what we’re also kind of touching on right is this question of like, how do you build an activist business, and an impactful business, and it changes over time. So I always say, like, your activism has to be proportional to your power and privilege. And if you’re not, you have to leverage all the power and privilege that you have to create a greater change. Otherwise, it’s all performance and good for you, but you’re not really doing anything. And so I think for, especially for folks who are just starting out their businesses, where they really cannot make some of the decisions that we’re talking about, because that means your business under right, like, you can’t make that you start where you can. And you, you lead with the intention, and you build it into your infrastructure, so that when you can do the next thing, that’s what you do, right? 

Eowyn Levene  36:36  

When you can pay someone more you do when you can make a hiring decision or a, you know, treat your supply chain better, whatever it is, you change as the business grows, and it allows you to scale and it allows you to also role model, that this is possible, because I think that’s the other part of of capitalism has this thinking that you cannot be successful, unless you cut corners, and unless you participate in these ways. And I think there’s really an opportunity to one share more stories, because there’s tons of businesses who are operating this way, who are doing really, really well. And they might not be like multi billionaire success, but their success in their own right. And so really amplifying the stories that don’t get told, is a powerful way to say, look, there’s so many models of ways to do this. But in that is also a whole redefining of what success looks like. And that success is not just about did you make a million dollars this year. But did you treat people well? Did you create opportunities? Did you amplify? Did you network? Do you do good in the world? Did you X, Y and Z? And so for me, part of the challenge to capitalism is not how can you amass and hoard the most, but are you comfortable? Are you safe? Are you happy? Do you have everything to meet your needs? And then can you pay it forward? It’s a I don’t know, like in music, right? There’s like superstars, but then there’s a ton of working class artists who are doing really well and they’re successful. But it’s a new definition of success. And I think the more we see that across genres and industries, that in itself starts to kind of balance out. There’s still obviously the outliers, but then we can come attack those outliers a little more strategically.

So given this question of using the power and privilege that you have available to you currently, and expanding your capacity as those two things might grow, I want to talk about investing, because I know this is something you’ve been facing lately as well. And when I recorded my kind of intro to specifically retirement investing episode for this podcast, I addressed my decision to do it at all four years, I told myself more or less, there’s no way I’m investing in the stock market. I feel terrible about the majority of the businesses that I might be investing in, through these kind of more stable and sensible investment vehicles that one might use for retirement. But as the years went on, I’m like, Okay, listen, when you talk about power and privilege, I’m not inheriting any wealth. And I, while I intend to, you know, generate a good living through the businesses that I have, there’s, at the moment, like, if I’m looking at how things are, there’s a certain amount of capacity I have there, and it’s not necessarily going to lead to a pile of cash that I can use when I want to stop actively generating income. I can’t predict the future, but I am going to plan for it now. And as I just look at things and I think about social security and how that works and what that might look like in 30 years. I eventually come to the decision, okay. So I need to do this thing for myself to take care of myself to stabilize myself and I am going to open an individual retirement account and invest in the stock market. And it’s been an interesting internal process to go through how gone from a never know no friggin way, you know, to just okay. All right, I’m gonna do this to a certain degree and to the best that I can given my options now. I’m curious what your journey has been coming to the point where you are also thinking about investing and retirement, which in a previous conversation we had touched on.

Nora Rahimian  40:20  

Yeah, I mean, one, I think the whole, the way we talk about retirement in the US is also one of those wild things. And we really need to look at how do we treat older people better? So that this is right, it’s a, it’s a bizarre construct. And I don’t know the specifics on it. But the idea of like, IRAs, and things like that is actually fairly new. And anyway, so that’s the whole side conversation. Stock Market is like a whole foreign thing to me. Right. And again, one of those things that I mean, we grew up poor, like, my parents didn’t know stock, like what? And so it’s something that as an adult, I’ve had to learn and educate myself about and I still don’t really understand it. But I know that I don’t know. And so one of the things I consciously have done this year is start to work with a financial planner, who is values align. So this isn’t someone who’s trying to get me to like, just make them up, right, he gets what I’m trying to do. His name is Taylor Thompson, shout out to Taylor. 

What’s been really helpful for me is when we talk about investing, he leaves with the question of what are your goals? And what can you like investing in yourself and scaling a business is just as valuable as investing in stocks is just as valuable as like all these other things, which for me, was something I’ve never been taught or thought about, because the it was always stocks or the way to make money, like stocks is how you get rich. And so that was a really helpful shift. And then we’ve been talking a lot about how can you leverage some of what’s happening in the stock market, to then build capital that you can use towards the greater good. And honestly, it’s still a conversation that I’m, like, uncomfortable with and figuring it out. And I don’t know what I’m doing. And, and that’s part of the struggle of like, not having had access to those things, right, where some people can talk about it really easily in there. But for me, being able to have someone that I can ask and bounce ideas off of and who understands my frame of reference has been really, really helpful. And so, yeah, little by little, I’m like, Here’s $5, I don’t know if I can make a dent, you know, which is also I think about recognizing that it’s okay to start small and start where you’re comfortable. And like, gradually allow this process to grow. Like my relationship with money didn’t change overnight, it took years for me to get to this point.  And that’s okay. 

Definitely. Is there anything else that you want to share around money or business finances, or how you understand those things in the world, before we wrap up,

You know, I would say, find, whatever it is that you’re doing, find people that you can have these conversations with, like, the internet is great, YouTube is great, whatever. But I think there’s a value in just being able to talk to other people who are experiencing it in real life, because you can kind of case study with one another, and you can focus group with one another. And for me, having a group of values align like minded people of color, or women entrepreneurs who are in the same space as me has been super, super helpful in asking some of these questions. Yo, this thing happened, like, What do I do? What do you think what works for you? One, because we can support and amplify and cross pollinate and like just gas each other up, but also so that we can have some of these conversations around? What do you do if? How do I respond when and that’s been? That’s another resource, right? That’s super valuable is having that community of folks. And so if you can build it, find it, create it for yourself, that’s been a game changer for me. 

Oh, fantastic.  If folks want to connect with you further, where do they do that? Are there any particular offers you want to talk about?

I offer one on one consulting so if you’re looking to build out your as a creative especially, or entrepreneur, how do you achieve the success that we’ve been talking about without giving up your financial control without giving up your kind of creative vision, but also doing it in a way that creates impact? I really specialize on kind of small quality audiences who will become your customer base for life like building that customer loyalty? And I am on all the socials at Nora Rahimian.

Eowyn Levene  44:43  

Wonderful. And we’ll link to that in the usual places. And yeah, thank you. Thank you for the time and the insight, and I’m super excited to see what you create in the world. Thank you. 

Nora Rahimian  44:54  

Thanks for having me.

Eowyn Levene  45:00  

Special thanks to Michael P. Atkinson for help with producing this episode and for composing its beautiful music. If you enjoyed listening today, I hope you’ll return and tell your creative friends and colleagues about it. And also to take a moment to leave a review wherever it is that you listen. positive reviews make a huge difference and getting the word out about creatives to money. And in the meantime, wishing you all money, business and life success, whatever that means to you.