What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by doing what you love, and living for what you believe in? And to take it a step further, sharing your love for creating and connecting with others? Our next guest in the Woman of Substance series has it all – kindness, passion, ambition, creativity, and the gift of giving.
Let’s get to know Shanam Kapoor.
AM: Tell us a bit about your background, academic and otherwise.
SK: I studied to be a Doctor of Physical Therapy in India and after my U.S. board exams, over the last 17 years I’ve moved in my work from Manager to Director of Rehab to Regional management. I loved my teams and coworkers, I had a stellar career, but something was missing. I was unclear of what the missing link was. We are all makers by design and understanding this, was a journey that led to a serendipitous revelation that I want to live a creative life and share it with others.
AM: I know you still enjoy working in rehabilitation and physical therapy. What drew you to this field and what do you find most satisfying about it?
SK: Stories inspire me. Connecting with people satisfies me. What drew me to this field was the love of people, their stories, how they spent their lives and what makes them tick. I remember a story where an elderly patient of mine named Lily, while lovingly reminiscing about her husband who had passed away a few years ago, told me he used to call her Lily pad and himself the frog prince who jumped on the Lily pad! Something about that kind of love inspired me and I still remember that story. When I look back upon my career, the most satisfying times have been where I was connected with my teams and their lives or my patients and their stories. I like a deeper discussion of life with my patients – they give me all their time, and love having conversations with me. I absolutely take a large chunk of their pain and discomfort away with just that.
AM: Have you always been interested in home decor? How did you get into D.I.Y furniture?
SK: I like beautiful living spaces, and I wanted to give my NYC apartment a personal touch, so something had to be done! I started making and refurbishing furniture in my bedroom in the evenings after work. Sometimes to give it a coat of stain, I would go to the communal rooftop in the wee hours of the night hiding my wares from everyone. It was so much fun! I forgot all about the difficulties of my daily life. It took on a life of its own and a day wouldn’t go by without me thinking of creating more furniture. I created so much furniture in the apartment that some of it is still stored in my balcony! In October 2016, I left my full time job and as serendipity would have it, I created a teaching role in a charity pilot program teaching Syrian, Libyan and African refugees how to make furniture. It validated that I’m on my way to a future in creative living. There was no turning back.
AM: Who was/is your biggest supporter? Did/do you have a mentor who guides and inspires you?
SK: This was a journey of self discovery and some friends were pivotal in the introductions as they stood for my passion. My friend Aditya Anand introduced me to his acquaintance with whom I collaborated and led the refugee workshop. In the meanwhile, I met Jeff Schneider, a successful lawyer who transformed his career to become a movie producer, we instantly connected and he became a friend, mentor and guide in creating a space for inspiration and self discovery.
Later when I created the idea of Connect+Create, there was clearly one woman who inspired me to actively pursue my first workshop and help set goals, and that is Joh Morris Benichou, who is just a fantastic body of love and encouragement and a leader in a Self Expression Leadership Program I am a part of.
My various communities and friends are my biggest Cheerleaders. But I also took inspiration from naysayers and the rebel inside of me kept being true to who I wanted to be in the world!
AM: What was the inspiration behind the Connect+Create Workshops? How did you launch it and how do you spread the word around?
SK: When you are successful in your career and life and something is still nagging at you saying ‘you are not’ (enough). It’s time to review your life.
I personally couldn’t stop thinking about what I had discovered through creativity and how its going to impact the world! We are all makers by design. We can take an idea and create a new world out of it, just imagine what it can do to our connectivity with people if we harness our creative potential.
So I designed a set of classes that would work out for groups of 10-100 people, I tested many materials for safety and after a trial period of 3 months, put up a facebook event. The response was so overwhelming that on the day of the event, sitting in a hair salon, I was getting so many phone calls that I had to shut off ticket sales as there was no more space left! I had a sold out event!
AM: Who are your typical clientele and what do they take away from your workshops?
SK: It’s a wide variety from young professionals – men & women looking to meet new people, private group events, team building events for coworkers to connect, singles events, teen events, fundraisers, girls night outs and the list can go on. Participants take away a fun experience creating something of their own, a sense of pride and connection through exploring creativity. It’s so much fun to see the prideful joy on the participants’ faces once they’ve completed their masterpiece! One girl called me after the class to tell me how wonderful it was and that she had two dates from the evening; I felt like my work was done!
AM: Would you say you are a people person? Why do you think that is?
SK: I am a people person who wants meaningful and purposeful connections. I wanted to change the face of interactions in this world and what better to do it than with creativity. Of the many benefits of a creative experience, one is that creativity is a whole brain process and interactions within this process are whole and complete. It’s not a right brain or left brain activity, but a full brain activity that helps us balance our brain and makes us connect with ourselves and others better. The nerd in me wants to go on about this, but since its experiential, I’ll challenge you to try a workshop with me.
AM: Have you moved around a lot as far as cities, jobs etc? What has that sort of experience taught you and how has it impacted you as a person?
SK: Yes I’ve lived in Delhi, studied in the south of India, lived in Michigan for many years, New Jersey, Long Island etc. NYC feels like coming home, it’s the city that inspires people and intellect. You tend to find your real self in the chaos of life. First day moving into city, I put the boxes down and just walked out to meet different groups of friends, connecting at my fav restaurant Locanda Verde. New York City is an experience and I love it.
AM: Why do you like to work with wood? And tell us about some of your creations with this medium.
SK: It’s the most forgiving medium, it’s meditative, and the grain tells a story. In my first creation at the workshop I sawed pieces of wood and they just wouldn’t fit! I went ahead and created another piece with it, but learnt a valuable lesson – measure twice, cut once! When I designed the workshops for Connect+Create I absolutely wanted people to get a feel of the beauty of wood. A mirror frame made of wood was a hit class in the summer at a class in Central Park.
AM: What moves you – books, movies, people? Would you care to name a few?
Books and movies with the message of triumph over circumstances move me immensely. My favorite book is Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, my favorite movie is Jaane bhi do yaaron, and favorite people are Oprah, Tony Robbins, Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev, Lewis Howes to name a few. New age thinkers push you beyond your limits and that speaks to me.
AM: What are the causes that are dearest to your heart? And why?
SK: Child abuse is a big concern of mine and it’s a cause Connect+Create will be working to bring awareness to. I know adults can overcome abusive relationships, though they’re devastating and life consuming, but I think of children who have no means to get out or turn to anyone else. The formative years determine the kind of citizens we are creating for the future and I want the future of our kids to be bright.
Also, for the last couple years I have gone to a neighborhood homeless shelter on Valentine’s Day to spread love and cheer.
AM: According to you, what are the challenges that women face as they begin their foray into the entrepreneurial world? And how can they surmount them?
SK: When you’re a woman, often times you’re not taken seriously, you’re patronized, and subjected to mansplaining, you get hit on – just a few things when you approach people with your idea or for business.
I would say be prepared and know you’re good enough and stand for who you are. The right client will come your way if you define the values your client holds. Invest in yourself by taking leadership courses and don’t let naysayers deter you, rather, they should fuel your fire for taking risks. Forsake the traditional thought of manipulation or power plays. If you’re in a power play just remember you are not providing real value and its time to review your business practice. Be passionate, have love for what you do, find what you love, and go within to find the answers.
AM: You seem like a person who is full of life, joy and ideas! How do you keep this joie de vivre alive in you?
SK: I’ve never stopped being curious and I’ve always tapped into my naiveté. This has helped me to connect with people. I’m authentic in my curiosity to know who you are and what makes you light up. Creativity gave me further focus and brought me motivation and joy! In short it gave me my mojo back. I owe the authentic connections I built over the past few years to my creative process.
AM: What parting words do you have for women who perhaps dream about following their heart, but are fearful to take the first step?
SK: Get creative, meditate, invest in yourself, be present. Connect with yourself first, get to know who you really are, follow your desires and once you’ve explored your passion, there’s no holding back and then there’s no fear. Belong with yourself first, hear yourself and be yourself always!
There you have it readers, Shanam’s take on life. We at TWI wish her all the success she deserves. And wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day! We hope you will be inspired enough to find yourself at one of Shanam’s classes, exploring your own creativity!
Pic credits : Amar Yashlaha