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Meet Maryam Edah-Tally of Fleur À Cheval in Irvine

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maryam Edah-Tally.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born in London – Edmonton to be exact. My mom, dad and I moved out to California when I was very young due to my dad’s job relocation. I am an only child but was never raised as one. As I was growing up, as early as I can remember, my parents placed importance on the values of inclusivity, unity through diversity, self-awareness, discipline, and independence. My experiences in life are heavily rooted in the upbringing I had and still have to this day. My dad has always had an intrinsic commitment to serve the community. He is a leader by nature, and I grew up watching him give speeches, volunteer, and serve in non-profit organizations. I remember being at events, and hearing my father’s voice echo through stadiums and helping people with his words of wisdom. That’s really when I knew I wanted to do the same thing.

So that’s my dad. My mom. Hahaha, my mom. My mom is a fireball. She is relentless and strives for excellence in all she does. Whatever she puts her mind to, she gets it done- above and beyond. When I was 5, while my dad was pretty much occupied serving the community, my mom worked as the administrator at the school I attended. When I was 8, I witnessed her make the courageous decision of quitting her day job to start her life’s work: educating children. That’s when she founded Ms. Ruby’s Montessori. My mother never came up with a business plan; she just started it. However, she was very strategic in how she did. Though I was only 8, my mom involved me in the process. She had me do simple tasks, such as provide input on how to decorate the school, what types of activities to implement, etc. I felt a sense of purpose and a vital part of the process. I watched how my dad helped her draft up business documents, file for licenses, and phrase emails. I saw how my mother worked on vacations to buy new equipment and reinvested what she earned to improve the school endlessly- still to this day. I was beginning to learn the concept of running a business at a very young age.

Through all of this, I transitioned from a private Islamic-school to a public school. It was a huge culture shock. I struggled for a good two years to adapt to the environment and had to put my “big girl pants” on. I then took on the sport of figure skating and decided to pursue it competitively. I worked my way up to the USFS Nationals and advanced onto ISI World Championships. Here is where I discovered something about myself: I didn’t compete for the fun of competing, I competed to win. I remember waking up at 4 AM everyday to train. I pounded myself if I didn’t skate a perfect program the day before a competition. I even became homeschooled so I could focus on the sport. I would exhaust myself physically until I reached ultimate perfection, then AND ONLY THEN, could I rest. Through this consistent practice of competing, I learned discipline, consistency, and personal strategy. I forced myself to master my craft as a figure skater and excel in everything. It’s one of my hard traits. But I eventually exhausted myself in the sport, to the point I lost the passion and quit. I was attached to winning the title. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the journey. I looked at everything and everyone as a form of competition.

It wasn’t until I fell in love with horses, which is where I learned this lesson. Soon after I quit figure skating, I took up horseback riding. Initially, I was going to do it competitively. Well of course! What else would you expect from me? I always liked measurement since it facilitated comparison. But horses taught me to drop this idea I was holding onto. Being with a horse is being in unity. You are one with the horse. You must stay present, otherwise, you get bucked off and fall in the dirt. Every moment with a horse is a partnership, not a competition. I learned this as I spent more time around horses. They became my therapy and a vital source of my happiness.

As I deepened my involvement with horses, I discovered this thing called “entrepreneurship.” When I was 13 years old, I began competing in startup competitions. High schoolers would spend 3 hours every Saturday, transforming a product/service concept into a business. My competitive edge really helped me here, and my team advanced to winning Semi-Finals both years. The minute I dropped the “I must win” mentality, the more present I was in leading my team. This was the first time I was in a group dynamic and was no longer competing on an individual level back when I was a figure skater. I discovered a new passion for business, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

I took everything I learned from my mentors, parents’ teachings, and personal experiences and channeled it into my first entrepreneurial adventure: Fleur À Cheval. I started a company based on my two big passions: entrepreneurship and horses. I began selling floral accessories that clip into a horse’s mane and tail. Initially, it was just for fun. Then I started getting orders from all over the world. I taught myself website formation, graphic design, product management, and social media marketing. Whatever I wasn’t experienced in, I sought mentorship to get the experience. My products were worn on horses all over the world in parades, competitions, and shows! I was thrilled! Then, when I was 17, Ernst & Young awarded me their “EY Young Entrepreneur Of The Year.” It skyrocketed my social footprint in the entrepreneurial world here on the Tech Coast in California. I sat on different boards, ran companies, and took up a new hobby giving keynote speeches at conferences and in my community. My sense of purpose kept broadening as I realized that my experiences were impacting and helping other people on their path of life and entrepreneurship. 

That’s really the foundation of why I started my new podcast, “Quit Horsing Around” where I help the youth discover and unleash their true potential. This is my life’s work. It’s my calling. My podcast is a platform where my voice can help people around my age category (18-24), to realize that WE are the future movers and shakers of this world, and that we have to start self-discovery now. My goal is to serve as a guide for them. “For the youth, by the youth” is what I say, since I’m still their age and can relate to many things.  

I speak from my experiences and make it a MUST that I only put advice out there that I myself live by. I am doing both: getting a degree and embarking on my personal goals. I want other young people out there to realize that you can do both. Check out my podcast here

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. One thing I recently heard on a podcast is, “there is advancement through adversity.” When I was 14 years old, my mother lost the license to operate her business. My family and were faced with financial struggles and struggled to even keep food in the fridge at times.

I was homeschooled, and it was really rough to see my parents go through this. Stress levels were high for all of us, and what pulled me out of it, was my love for horses. I shifted my thinking and channeled my stress/anger into school instead of inflicting the pain on myself and others around me. I wanted to maximize the most out of independent study and graduate early. There were countless days where I would power through whatever emotions I had and show up to my online classes. Days where I’d lock my phone in a drawer so I could focus on school. Days where I’d show up to the stables, and sob on the floor in the stall since I didn’t know if my family could make ends meet. It was an emotional rollercoaster as I strive to complete my junior year of high school over summer. Being a 15 year old in a community college definitely was a struggle at times, but it didn’t stop me. Despite the struggles, I eventually did graduate early and walked my high school graduation as a 16-year-old class valedictorian.

Gratefully, my mom was reinstated her license and reopened her business. My family looked at this experience to help grow the business stronger and learn from it as a family unit.

Another test I faced was when I received the Ernst & Young award. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and honor. Unfortunately, when I was 17, I went on a huge ego trip and became really full of myself. I thought that I was “it” and began defining myself with this title. I began seeing that it was getting me into places, giving me leverage and making me more “popular” per say. It took me a good year to drop it and detach from it. Over time, I experienced more freedom and allowed space for gratitude and openness. In my mind, I was no longer labeling myself as this “big person.” I thought that if I shared my struggles, I was seen as a “weak person” and that it would affect the “title” I had. But, I realized that every person on earth has ups and downs to get where they are and that it’s okay to be open about it. I gave a keynote in Austria outlining my path. I still remember one member of the audience came up to me afterward and was in tears. Initially, I thought something in my speech had offended her. Then she told me, “Thank you for opening yourself up because what you said helped give me the answer that I needed to hear.“ And that’s when it all came together. I hugged her and learned that when you are truthful about yourself, you shed light in yourself AND others. This personal realization only happened through faith and self-awareness. I’m only 20 and know there are so many more struggles I will eventually face. But the steps that I took to overcome my recent challenges have been (hopefully they can help guide you too).

Faith: No matter your religion, faith really is a belief that all will come to terms.

Journaling: I began journaling my thoughts every morning, and tracking thought patterns and course-correcting from that. It helped me analyze and be more efficient in decision making.

Service: I went back to my mentors/people in my life who helped me and asked how I can help them. The more I did that, the more valuable my actions were. I then transferred this energy into endeavors where I can be of service. I began “showing up” for people more.

Communication: I communicated with those close to me, asked them for advice, and learned from them. I am a student every day.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Fleur À Cheval story. Tell us more about the business.
I founded Fleur A Cheval when I was 16, straight out of high school. The company name is French and translates to “The Flower Horse.” To sum it up, I sell silk flowers that clip in the horse’s mane and tail. We offer a variety of colors, flower types, and customization options. Fleur À Cheval’s products enable horse lovers to express their inner creativity by decorating their horse with our clip-in flowers. I am most proud of my team of Global Ambassadors; I call them my “Fleur À Family.” We are a team of horse lovers scattered all over the world, thriving on one passion: horses. My team represents my company in 25+ countries and supports the general mission of my company: To spark inner creativity and embrace positivity between horse and rider with our floral accessories. I’m extremely proud and grateful for my team. They have helped land Fleur À Cheval products on horses walking on the Verona Parade in Italy, feature our products on trending equestrian blogs, and also work with famous horses such as Batman The Frisian in Oslo, Norway. What sets us apart from others is our commitment to deliver quality products AND meaningful relationships with our customer base. I hand write notes to our customers, thanking them not only for their business but their relationship with me and the team. Open communication like this is what keeps brand loyalty alive.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I wouldn’t really term that “luck” has gotten me where I am. It has been faith, intent, and action. The harder I work, the more results I see.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
@matildebrandt, @warlanders, @baumanphotographers, @ocregister

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