From scared teen to successful entrepreneur: one woman’s lessons on perseverance

Arianna Huffington said, “The difference between failure and success is perseverance”.

Whilst Huffington’s humble beginnings are now well known, there are others, who, even here in Australia, have overcome adversity to finally make it in the chosen career, and have not just survived, but thrived.

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Meet Eleni Zaphir, who, at just 15 years old, found herself pregnant and scared for her future. She now runs her own fashion boutique, Vigari Fashion, in Brisbane. “I have been designing, and now manufacturing my own line of clothing and jewellery”, Eleni says. “I am selling to the Australian market and will soon be hitting the USA”.

Eleni talks about how she felt, how she rose above her fear and what other women can do conquer persevere in their business, careers and lives.

I was a 15-year-old girl with a 15-year-old mindset

Finding out I was pregnant at 15 was the most terrifying emotion I had ever come across. Not sure what to do or who to talk to, I decided it be best if I left home with my then boyfriend. I felt it would be the ultimate humiliation to my family to have a child at my age, and a boyfriend alone who was 4 years older than me. I was a 15-year-old girl with a 15-year-old mindset.

Dark days came

It came soon after settling to our new home that I experienced physical and emotional abuse from my child’s father. It was such a horrific time in my life, but I was raised with the mindset of marrying once and having children with that one man.

Get resources and educate yourself

I delved into pregnancy books at a local library, learning everything I could about my baby at every stage she was developing to keep myself busy. At that point in my life, becoming a mother was all dreamed of. Because I was in an abusive relationship, the only thing that kept my hopes up and bringing any kind of happiness was having a child that I could love and adore, and she too would love me.

Surround yourself with good people

I didn’t have much of a support system when I first left home. But after several occasions of dealing with the physical abuse, the hospital advised I seek assistance from a homeless woman’s shelter. It was so terrifying to not only encounter being a runaway with a false identity, but missing my family so, so much, to then be dealing with the abuse most days. I stayed at the shelter several times to then always go back to my child’s father, believing he had sought help for his temper. And of course, this was never the case.

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Recognise your worth

I decided to open my own store at the age of 27. I was over building up other people’s businesses and not being recognised for my hard work. I decided fashion was something I admired. I knew a few people in the wholesale fashion industry so I had the right contacts for the right products. I decided to invest in what little I had in my bank account at the time, and just went for gold. And I have been happily in business for over 8 years now.

Invest time in yourself and your growth

As I wanted to start well with my first retail store, I had to invest a lot of time to find the most ideal position to set up shop in. As well as doing all the regular background research, I would actually go to the area and sit there for hours, just observing everyone and every thing. Just some things I remember thinking were:

  • Are these people my customers?
  • Will people come to my store?
  • If I have the right products, can I make this store a destination boutique?

Thanks to my research, I was really able have a jump start. VIGARI was something Brisbane needed, not only for its exceptional service and styling advice but having the products women wanted – at a fraction of the price. The VIGARI brand has been continuing successfully ever since.

Rewards come through great perseverance

There was literally no time to think about my busy schedule. I had a routine I wanted to follow: preparation with meals at home, and making sure I made room for family time. I remember being so tired. I didn’t hire staff until 11 months into my business, even if my store was open 7 days. By some miracle, however, it worked out, and I now have a fantastic business and an even more fantastic relationship with my kids.

I look back at it all sometimes and think, “Wow, how did I do it?”

Preparation and being organised are key to juggling career and family life

It doesn’t take much to sit down on a Sunday for 15 minutes and plan what foods to cook that week – this helps with what groceries to then buy. Planning your calendar with weekend events and/or play dates with family & friends is a must, too, and I personally like effortless events. Just pack some rolls for a sausage sizzle at your local park and let the kids run wild. I loved things that tired the kids out so they were in bed early!

Think good thoughts, speak good words and take good actions

My children know how much I value good, positive behaviours. When you have the mind to be focused and positive, anything and everything you want can prevail. Being lazy is my pet hate. But it all starts with the mindset.

Our motto is, “Think good thoughts, speak good words and take good actions.” When you have all 3, you can conquer the world. My daughter has a sensational job in dentistry, and my son has developed an amazing career is producing music.

Featured image courtesy of Eleni Zaphir


EricaEnriquezPhotoErica Enriquez
Erica is a Sydney-based writer and digital marketer, and can often be found pounding away on a keyboard, writing about everything from travel, lifestyle, well-being and anything in between. When she is not writing, she is STILL writing, developing copy and content for websites and marketing collateral. Erica is passionate about film, literature and culture (high brow and low brow), as well as pro-social causes supporting cultural engagement (counting travelling as one of them). In her spare time, she loves nothing more than to curl up with a good book, go for a nice dinner with friends or spend time with her partner.