Farah Nanji – Founder & CEO of Regents Racing

Episode 207

How can our passions become our purpose? Our guest today teaches us how. Farah Nanji is the founder and CEO of Regents Racing, a company exploring how the psychology of motorsport can impact leadership. Farah shares how she pivoted from her Formula 1 car racing dreams into entrepreneurship and deejaying. She shows us how she found her company through recognizing her passions. And helps us think about how we can all do the same! Listen to this terrific episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow now!

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Farah Nanji 0:00
You know, the world would be a better place if people you know a knew their purpose and be had the opportunity to go after it.

Kara Goldin 0:06
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be, I want to just make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked out knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara golden show, though. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started.

Let’s go. Let’s go.

Hi, everyone, its Kara golden from the Kara golden show. And I’m so excited to have my next guest here we have Farah Nanji who’s the founder and CEO of Regents racing. It’s an events company dedicated to applying the Formula One car racing sensibility to the business world. And she has a unique and inspiring story which as you know, I geek out at these great stories of, of successful people and sort of how they got there and their journey. And I’m so excited for her to share the story at 15. She was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a learning disability where a person’s brain sends a delayed signal to the rest of their body making motor skills and sequencing become difficult. But that didn’t stop her. And this was the diagnosis that encouraged Faraj to pivot into doing lots of amazing things, which we’ll get into. But in addition to that, Farah has entered the world of house music. She’s also a well known DJ too. And she’s been touring. And she runs, as I mentioned, an incredible company called regions racing. So we’re so excited to have you here today. Farah, thanks for joining us. Thank you so much for having me cards is absolute pleasure. Absolutely. So take us back to the beginning. We in that intro, we learned a little bit about you. But take us back to the beginning about how you know when you were a kid and kind of your journey around learning overall. Yeah, definitely. So my passions are definitely a little bit different. And I’m lucky to have sort of made a you know, a business in out of my passions, but really, they stem from my childhood. Because growing up, I was basically quite a tomboy. You know, I really liked football, I like racing, I like cricket. And I was kind of bullied because I went to this extremely high pressurized school, it was an all girls school, and it was the top 10 In the United Kingdom. So you know, people were preparing for Oxford and Cambridge, you know, getting an A wasn’t good enough out to be an A star.

Farah Nanji 3:06
And I just wasn’t very understood, I guess, in my surroundings. And for me, you know, we’re talking about a time when the internet was just coming out. And I discovered house music basically. And it totally changed my life. But just before I discovered house music, probably the seven years prior to that I’d been learning the Spanish guitar. And it was sort of the first kind of exposure that I had that you know, music is really a healing tool. And you know, playing an instrument, learning an instrument, but also just being inspired by the sounds that come out, you know, are extremely powerful. And many years later today, the sound that I play is is quite Spanish, it’s Belair ik, it has a lot of those chip gypsy scales, but with the house music, electronic vibe. And actually I perform quite a lot now with a live guitarist. So it’s definitely shaped sort of my musical identity. And then the motorsports thing came about, you know, again, from that sort of just sort of like escaping kind of the surroundings and one day I went to a kid’s birthday policy and it was a go karting event and for anyone who’s ever been in a go kart before I’m sure they’ll probably identify if they liked it and that it’s a bit of an mind body out of mind body experience. You know, you’re feeling the engine so close to yours that you like, you know, underneath you you’re you know, you’re in your there’s no kind of closed cockpit you’re you’re just so close to the ground. And, and you know, you’ve got a helmet on and nobody knows if you’re a boy or a girl. It’s really about your performance and developing this rhythm with a with a track and understanding how to push yourself to perform at the limit. And, you know, for many years I was I was karting and I was actually doing quite well getting on podiums. But then yeah, I got this diagnosis in my teenage years and It sort of, you know, obviously, it sort of meant to me that like, you know, the goal that I had, which was like, definitely Formula One was not going to happen with this diagnosis. But I was also perplexed because, in some ways, you know, a lot of people who have dyspraxia, like they technically shouldn’t be, you know, good at driving, you know, and, and there was definitely barriers, I was reaching with advancing my progress, but I, you know, only then I realized why, however, you know, the, the barriers to motorsport apart apart from that, for me, were, you know, the fact that today, here we are 2021, we still don’t have a female Formula One driver on the grid, so and that, that is still a couple of generations away. So there’s that and then there’s also the financial aspect of entering the sport, it’s not an accessible sport, it’s not like picking up a football and going to the park and, you know, kicking a ball, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s a six figure investment from families. And it’s, uh, you know, it’s a lot of a lot of money. And, you know, at a young age, again, to do that without sponsors, and all of that is very, is a huge barrier, so many drivers face. But what it did lead for me was, you know, like, really understanding performance and high performance and, and, you know, many, many years later, it led to me actually innovating in the sport, disrupting and really championing the sport and making making the lesson, getting the lessons from it and applying it to everyone’s life. Because whether you care about driving or not, there’s a lot you can take away from that sport, as with many sports, but obviously major sports is the one that I’m most passionate about.

Kara Goldin 6:37
That’s awesome. So what looks like some of the when you first got this diagnosis, when you were 15? What were some of your biggest challenges? Like, how did they know to actually test for this?

Farah Nanji 6:46
Yeah. So it’s actually a learning difficulty that 5% of the population have they think so? You know, it’s definitely not, you know, it’s quite a few people in the world. And the common signs are, you know, you struggle with things like maths because it’s heavily about sequences coordination. So maths was a really difficult subject for me. And that kind of leads on a little bit into like, science. So physics and chemistry, I, you know, struggled with that. And there was this huge disparity bitch between my expressive subjects like English RS history, and maths and to be in the school, you know, through all subjects, you know, minimum, you should be getting a B, and I was, you know, doing way less than that in maths and science. So, they kind of couldn’t, and they beginning they thought I was just sort of, you know, being a troublemaker or just being a rebel and not wanting to do this, because I did have a bit of a rebellious personality, but they just like, you know, that they Yeah, so I guess anyway, then one day, they were just sort of like, you know, maybe you should think about going to a psycho educational psychologist, because maybe you can get extra time to help you with the exams, because the exams were like looming. And so I personally felt it was more out of pity, then, oh, we think that something’s wrong, because they never, my teachers never said, Oh, we actually think that you have a learning block. And they always thought it was a behavioral issue. And it never was. And so when I went to the educational psychologist, it was just, you know, one day test, you know, not more than that. And they test for Really Simple things like drawing a straight line. Children who have dyspraxia, you know, typically can’t draw straight lines, which explained why, you know, again, subjects like dt, which designed technology, which is a lot about cutting things, can’t cut in a straight line. And I was always like, what, why is it always becoming so jagged? And then obviously, then I understood. But yeah, and then also, your handwriting becomes quite illegible after like, 1020 minutes of writing. So they allow you to then use a computer during your, your studies as well, to sort of just overcome that. So that those were some of the things but you know, these signs, they, they can they appear very early on in childhood. So because I was diagnosed, you know, relatively late, you know, if you if you’re younger, and you’re diagnosed, I mean that the telltale signs are there, like, you know, struggling with sports balance coordination, perhaps sometimes your speech isn’t it takes a bit longer to get your speech formation. And so, uh, you know, these signs really they they appear from, like, literally three or four years of age, quite early on so

Kara Goldin 9:19
and what about like sequencing like time or, or money or ability like you talked about, you know, with Formula One racing that a lot of people with this might not be able to drive for and like, so what else what other things like that were some of the things that really kind of came to light?

Farah Nanji 9:40
Yeah, I think telling the time definitely took a few feet a bit longer, but that that’s fine now. And I think it’s really about the coordination angle. That’s really where a person but more than anything, yeah, it’s because it’s just is there’s that delayed that sequence so you know, and then bye bye. that point, you know, your spatial awareness is heavily affected by not being able to understand your dimensions and things like that. So, I think those are the primary areas where but you know, all of this also has a, you know, a sort of secondary effect, which is, you know, when stuff like that is going on, it’s overwhelming, especially when you’re in your teenage years, and you’re, you know, you’re learning how to regulate your emotions, you know, you’re, you know, all of those things you’re going through, you’re shaping your identity. And, and obviously, your surroundings play a huge role in that. So if you’re not in a nurturing, supportive environment, you know, whether it’s your family or your educators, obviously, it’s going to it’s going to be more, you know, you’re going to get insomnia and all these things. Luckily, I have amazing parents, and they were always very supportive. But, you know, it’s your educators who have to, who have that responsibility to educate you in the end. So if you don’t have that, it’s going to be a lot of, you know, it’s going to be a lot harder.

Kara Goldin 10:53
Yeah. Well, I mean, you touched on support a family and, and academics, I mean, how many people maybe just, particularly girls, I think, with learning disabilities, where if you just are sort of written off as dinghy or stupid or not able to get something, right, versus actually having a learning disability, which I’ve, I’ve learned with a couple of my own kids that have, you know, it’s not a matter, it’s just that they think differently. And, and I think we just have to pay more attention to kind of how to teach people and then also careers that go around, you know, what, what those instead of thinking about them as disabilities, think about them as assets. So talk to me a little bit about that. I mean, you had your passions, obviously, but how did you think about transitioning, you know, what you wanted to do, and to what you do today?

Farah Nanji 11:56
Yeah, I guess, like, when I got diagnosed, I didn’t, it didn’t really even sort of sink in much, because there wasn’t any support, it was just like, This is what it is, you get some extra time, and you get to use a laptop, and there wasn’t anything more than that, like, this is how it’s gonna affect your day to day, this is what you need to be aware of, this is what you should be mindful of those, you know, that that journey wasn’t there. So I had to figure out a lot of it for myself. So in a way, and that, you know, obviously, there’s strengths and weaknesses to that. But the, you know, the good thing was, was that I was like, well, so we’re gonna stop me from what I do, because like, I, you know, I love racing, and I’m not gonna stop this, but maybe it just means the goalposts has to be shifted a little bit. And also, you know, sometimes you can be passionate about industry and, and there’s, you know, many ways to operate within an industry. And it may not be the full on driving seat, it may be something different, and actually, now doing what I do, actually, I’m like, Oh, I think I really enjoy this more, like, you know, coming up with really interesting events around motorsport, and exploring that theme of leadership through the sport. To me, that’s like, that’s so much more exciting, then, day to day, like getting in a car and driving on a track, although, of course, I love driving on a track. But to me, the fulfillment comes more from like, empowering other people through the sport, rather than just it being about me and driving and getting a result. So yeah, and music wise. Again, I mean, you know, back in the day, it wasn’t, it was quite ambiguous, you know, how do you become a DJ, it was, it wasn’t something that, you know, the resources, you know, not like how they are today. So, it was very much, you know, growing up in London, you know, being part of an amazing music scene, being able to go out from a young age and explore that scene and, and sort of see also an environment where genuine generally, the dance floor is a very non judgmental place. It’s about expression, it’s about freedom, it’s about release, and you see how that affects people. And my friends became where the DJs really, and I was lucky enough to sort of observe their environment for a couple of years, you know, quite, quite heavily on and, but then it was like, well, this isn’t enough for me, I want to, you know, sort of share the sounds that I collect. And and see where that takes me. And what I will say is that I started both professionally before I went to university. And I think that that really gave me an edge because I was able to pursue them during university as well without being judged so much by like the professional world, because you’re still young, you’re still in university. You can make those mistakes. But then when I graduated, I’d already done so much that it was quite an easy transition out of university to like, forge a career path with a net because I’d already been doing it in a way.

Kara Goldin 14:46
Yeah, no, I absolutely love that. So region’s racing is an events company. How did you how did you even get started? It’s great to say, oh, okay, I want to go and build this company around this idea, but What was what was kind of the first step and really doing them?

Farah Nanji 15:04
Yeah, so it goes back to university, I was very lucky to study amazing business school in London, and we happen to have a very interesting demographic of students 90% of whom are international. So they didn’t know the UK very well. And obviously, the UK is the home of you know, motorsport. So you have more than 50% of Formula One teams based here, you have manufacturers, and you have, you know, so many racetracks in all over the country. So as a, as a playground, it’s absolutely incredible. And it what I sort of noticed was like, you know, there’s a lot of people here who, who actually collect cars, who some of whom actually raced professionally for for Dakar for Red Bull for blank pawn, you know, extremely talented drivers. But there isn’t, that society doesn’t exist of motorsport. So you know, why don’t I, you know, set that up. And that’s why the name is regents racing, because the university I went to is called Regents University. And it was a sort of an amazing thing, because I mean, I didn’t expect it, but within a few years, it exploded on campus, we had 800 students, which the university only has about 3000 students. So we have almost a third of students that experienced an event of ours in some shape, or form. And because what you touched upon earlier about how learning difficult people with learning difficulties, they do think slightly differently. And, you know, one of the ways that I think I think they’re really different is I’m really driven by my senses, and by sensorial experiences, and and that became the core essence of region’s racing, like, how do you take off in so many senses that go on in a driving experience? But how do you? How do you take all of those? And how do you how do you sort of amplify that? And, and, and, you know, yeah, really change things. So some of our events could actually be taking away a sense, like, we’ve done, we’ve done many events with Landrover, where our members are actually blindfolded. And they have to place their trust in their co pilot who’s sort of saying, you know, go left by 10 degrees, or, you know, and, and obviously, that’s really interesting, you know, it’s sounds scary, but you know, you’re not going that fast or anything. And yeah, and so, so it during those university years, it was, it was like this sort of playground for me, because I was able to, like, think of an event and make it happen, because I had a target audience, or my audience was there. And, and, and then it just evolved, and it started getting its own identity as a brand, because, you know, studying business as well. So, you know, I started, you know, kind of creating a logo, creating a website, you know, doing all the things that, you know, as a business you do, and also, at the same in the same vein, motor sports is an extremely dangerous and risky sport, therefore, it has to be run as a business, it has to be run with health and safety measures in place, you know, you have to do, you know, the right the right way. And it just evolved from that, and, and having having that sort of base. And today, what the company does is essentially, it kind of connects the students and alumni from that university, but also, you know, entrepreneurs, leaders, artists, athletes, you know, people who are already successful in their fields, and kind of connects them to the future leaders of tomorrow. And we do these events that really, you know, sort of push you out of your comfort zone, and really try and get that peak performance towards yourself. And we’re sort of expanding into the corporate world now, where we’re doing the same thing, but for corporates, you know, for a team of 10, you know, from the same company, who want to take some of those learnings from Formula One and really give their their teams and companies a competitive edge.

Kara Goldin 18:48
I love it. That’s so great. How did you find how did your business shift during COVID?

Farah Nanji 18:54
Yeah, it was, it has been very tough, we pretty much had to close for, you know, pretty much, two years, because it’s not the type of experience you can do on Zoom. It’s really like, you know, it’s the beauty as being on site is experiencing those things. So like, of course, we kept in touch with our community and stuff. But, you know, we weren’t able to operate. So I mean, the thing that shifted a little bit for us was like, I started this podcast, as you know, you’re a guest on my show. And we talked to sort of leaders from motorsport business of music. So we, we had more of a digital identity during that time. But as a actual company, like we, you know, we had to let go of people and all the brutal things that came with the pandemic, but we’ve just started coming back to life. So, and there’s more of a button there’s more excitement now because people are obviously like, just so like, desperate to do events, you know?

Kara Goldin 19:44
Yeah. And they want to get together. Absolutely. So have you started back doing a lot of DJing I feel like people are getting out and wanting to be with people have you felt like that’s picked up? Definitely. No.

Farah Nanji 20:01
I mean, it’s, it’s the, it’s the kind of thing where I like I’m a bit cautious about it. I mean, I personally wouldn’t want to be deejaying in a room full of like, 10,000 people, I wouldn’t feel safe to do that. So but in the summer, like, Yeah, we had, you know, some really nice outdoor events, which were fantastic. And, you know, I was able to, like, sort of play a lot, but I, for my music career, what this time has really given me, which I’m very grateful for is like, just the time to be a lot more in the production process. Because typically, before my life was, like, you know, every two weeks, I was like, on the road traveling and you book in time in the studio, and it’s not force creativity, but you know, you just like, that’s the day you have, and that’s, that’s it, like, there’s, you know, you either make something good or you don’t, and, and then you’re away for like, you know, however long and you’re dealing with timezone adjustments and all that stuff. Whereas this time has just been a total creative freedom, like, you know, I sort of built a makeshift makeshift studio in my house. And I just, it just became, you know, really just free flow, which was really, really nice. So I’ve gone a bit deeper into that side of my artistic expression. And slowly, I’m sure the events will come back, but definitely the ones I played in the summer were amazing. And, you know, again, I mean, all of the events that played in the summer, most of them were 13 hour long sets, because people really didn’t want to stop. Wow, that’s amazing. You know, so that was that was quite fun.

Kara Goldin 21:22
That’s a lot of fun. You know, what I think is so interesting hearing your story, whether it’s the region’s racing or everything that you’re doing as a DJ to, you really feed off of the energy of others, right. And, and moving people in, in some way. Right, you can probably feel in the crowd really understands your creativity. And and how do you think people I so often want to push people into the space of figuring that out? Right? And you’re you have figured that out? I think, and I don’t know if you define it that way, but I call it, that’s my book that came out on daunted. I mean, I call it living undaunted, and really figuring out what you are meant to be doing and what your purpose is. And I think, when you’ve proven to is that when you figure out that thing, like, you know, we call it in the social media world engagement, right? You figured out engagement in the physical world where people are responding and to what you’re bringing them. And I think that’s a really powerful thing. It’s a powerful thing for people to figure out personally, as a leader, how people are responding to things, too, I don’t think there’s, you know, the five things that you need to do as a leader, I think it’s people kind of have to figure out their own stick. Right, and, and how people are responding. And I really think like, that’s what’s so interesting and sincere, frankly, about your, what you’re doing is that you really are bringing people into a space of figuring out what they do respond to. So I appreciate that.

Farah Nanji 23:07
Thank you so much. Yeah, no, absolutely. I think, you know, the world would be a better place if people you know, a knew their purpose and be had the opportunity to go after it. Because it’s one thing, knowing what you’re driven by, of course, the other option is like having the opportunity to do it. And there are so many people, I think that have reevaluated in the pandemic, you know, am I serving the right company? You know, what, what is the long lasting impact that I want to sort of contribute to this world and make it a better place? Because obviously, we’re in such a fragile and chaotic world, I think more and more of us are like, you know, wondering sort of, what’s the, what’s the value we can bring to this, you know, how to how do we how do we affect everyone around us in

Kara Goldin 23:48
that? Absolutely. And you mentioned this, I was on your podcast recently, but you started a podcast called Mission makers. Do you want to tell everybody what that’s all about?

Farah Nanji 23:59
Yeah, definitely. So it’s really you know, although music and motorsport are two very different industries. Obviously, peak performance is definitely a key theme. And so I thought it’d be really interesting to start a show that sort of uncovers that mindset of peak performance but also uncovers misconceptions and also talks to business leaders, you know, as well so we sort of feature we have 11 episodes a season and we pretty much feature like three sorry, as a three three sort of guests from each each topic. And, and, and yeah, it’s been doing it’s been an amazing journey as I’m sure you’ll probably agree as a podcaster it’s been quite an interesting time of the pandemic because because that markets like exploded and everyone’s listening to podcast now. And actually, it’s such a great way to like connect and you know, just sort of have a digital voice and connect with the audience in a deeper way and really transmit a message in you know, without it being about, you know, Instagram which is image you know, just images I’m obsessed about versus really the, the, the video or the, or the sort of the audio recording. So yeah, I really I’m really enjoying the podcasting journey. And let’s see, it’s definitely a lot of as I’m sure you’re you’re definitely resonates a lot of work to have, you know all that content all the time.

Kara Goldin 25:19
Definitely. But you can get quite

Farah Nanji 25:21
creative with, you know, season breaks and stuff what to do

Kara Goldin 25:25
with it? Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think it’s terrific. And I think there’s so many learnings and inspiration and everything that you do, and I really appreciate you sharing with the audience, especially people who are trying to figure out what can I do. And so often I hear people say that they’ve got limits, whether it’s, you know, a learning disability, or their education, or their gender, or if the pandemic or whatever it is, and more than anything, I think you just have to figure it out. And that’s the inspiration that I get from you that you just go and you just do figure it out. And I think that you’ve watched for the connection with the, with the consumer, with the people that are following you, all of that. So I really, really am inspired by everything that you’re doing and keep it up and do great things. And everybody should definitely listen to far as mission makers podcast, too, because it’s pretty great.

Farah Nanji 26:30
Yeah, thank you so much. I really appreciate that. And definitely, it’s it’s about, you know, doing what fulfills you in the end, you only have one shot, right? So you have to figure it out. It’s hard. There’s so many limits, whether it’s a learning difficulty of, you know, friends, family education, there’s just so many. But you have to learn how to adapt to that. And like this. We were talking on our podcast earlier that, you know, pandemic, nobody expected that and we’ve all had to figure out how to thrive in a situation like that. So you know, yeah, that’s that’s really the like, as you say, after you have to figure it out.

Kara Goldin 27:05
Absolutely. Well, thank you everybody, for listening. And thanks again for for coming on. And definitely, if you have not listened to the Kara golden podcast before, we’re here every Monday and Wednesday, with incredible founders and CEOs and leaders who are living undaunted, and are figuring stuff out along the way. And please subscribe and give us five stars for this episode on Apple podcasts, as well as Spotify or your favorite platform. And you can also follow me on all social platforms at Kara golden with an AI and finally don’t forget to purchase my book or downloaded on Audible it’s available worldwide as well, for people to learn a little bit more about my journey of building a company which is today the largest privately held non alcoholic beverage in the US we are not in outside of the US yet hope fully that will happen soon. And definitely pick up a case of your favorite water if you are in North America. And really appreciate all of you listening and joining us and definitely DM me if you have any questions or just want to say hi, so thanks everyone have a great rest of the week. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book calm and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight? Send me a tweet at Kara golden and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara golden thanks for listening