We had the good fortune of connecting with Shashi Mostafa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shashi, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks keeps life interesting and progressive, and it’s only brought me closer to my goals despite not feeling that way all the time. I think the more you trust your ability to be resilient, the more willing you’ll be to take higher risks, and I’ve actively developed that trust in myself over the past 8 years.
I grew up with traditional immigrant South Asian parents who wanted me to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. Instead, I became a filmmaker and entrepreneur. With a ton of criticism throughout the process up until I got my first job in the industry and started making a decent living from it, I powered through the looming doubt that the time and money dedicated to developing these skills would have a return.
When the covid-19 pandemic lockdown began in March 2020, I was backpacking in Europe and had to come back to the US a few weeks early. I was in a transition period: in a month, I was planning to move across the country without a job lined up (which I didn’t end up doing), so I was jobless and houseless. Since I recently graduated from college, I didn’t have any professional experience, and since the job market was so bad and everyone was getting laid off, getting a job at the time seemed nearly impossible.
The only job I could get was making medical devices at a factory for minimum-wage. So I thought, “My parents were right…” Even though I hated this job and I could probably live a few months without it, I powered through and did it because I didn’t know when I’d be able to get another one. After being an essential worker working alongside others who did manual labor for a living and humbling myself, this job turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever had. I had to trust the process, and that meant trusting myself.
So, while I was working at the factory, I spent hours after work applying everywhere else. It was hard to even get any interviews, but I got one at a media company. When they asked me about my job experience, I mentioned I was working at a factory. That told them something about my work ethic and willingness to do things out of my comfort zone. I ended up getting an offer.
I became pretty successful at this job. After my first promotion 5 months into being a video editor there, I was tasked to “figure out TikTok” for the whole company. Jumping into the unknown world of TikTok, which many brands still struggle with, I figured it out and grew their following into 1.1 million. Once I got to that point, I was getting noticed by other companies, started doing freelance social media strategy and video editing gigs, and thanks to TikTok, I started questioning my 9-5 work life.
I reflected on and reevaluated what I wanted my life to look like. I wanted a better work-life balance where I could have more power over when I worked, and I wanted to make long-form narrative films. So I took a hard look at where I was at and what my goals were, and then came up with a practical way to get to where I wanted to be. So I quit my 9-5 and started my own production company where I offer full content creation and social media strategy services and produce films.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Mostafa Productions offers social media strategy and full content creation services while also producing films. I started this business in September 2021, so I’m only a few months in, but I’ve learned a lot pretty quickly.
It wasn’t necessarily easy because I had to get out of my 9-5 mindset, but once I did, it became clear that I could make a lot more money using the skills I have if I do freelance video editing instead of working under one company for a salary.
Additionally, this has allowed me to set more healthy boundaries with work. If a client is asking for too much, it’s easier to negotiate responsibilities down knowing that if the offer is rescinded, I have a steady income coming in from elsewhere. If a client is trying to underpay, it’s easier to pass up the opportunity knowing I won’t take a dismantling financial hit. When you don’t put all your eggs in one basket, it’s easier to take more risks in asking for what you’re worth and walking away from what doesn’t serve you.
My company is currently expanding, so I’ve been thinking a lot about company culture. My goal in making this company is to make space for creating the projects I want to create without having the funding drive the end result. I also want the people who work for me to have the same opportunities (because I hire people who I believe are talented beyond the work they do for me), so down the line, I hope to produce both the work I want to create and the work the people who work for me want to create.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Food/Drink: Wirsthaus, late night tacos from any stand on the sidewalk, All Seasons Brewing (which we call Firestone in my house), The Brigg Coffee shops: Awesome Coffee off Wilshire, Bluestone Lane on La Brea, The Metro Cafe in Santa Monica
Activities: Beach Cycle in Santa Monica, go to Brennan’s for turtle racing, go to a comedy show
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My greatest supporters include my sister Suvra who always hypes me up, my partner Kimari who is supportive of the mission and growth of my business, my roommates Noah and Natalie who provide valuable industry insight, and one of my best friends Trae who has grown both creatively and in his career alongside me.