02.11.20 A Moment With…Azariah Mengistu shares his thoughts on the important of letting loose from time to time.

Azariah Mengistu

‘I do feel it when I don’t carve out time for me. I know I need to exhale and let loose from time to time.’
Azariah Mengistu – Co-founder of ENZI

For this B moment, we head over to Ethiopia, Africa to meet Azi – a social entrepreneur and co-founder of Enzi – a custom made shoe brand representing the story of a rising Africa. In this interview, Azi shares the challenges of setting up and running a company in Africa while making sure he prioritizes family and tries to find a little time for himself (and perhaps a Liverpool game).

How do you take time out for yourself?
Running a start up in Africa means that I often forget how to take time out for myself. It’s a challenging market to work in but one I am incredibly passionate about. As a father to two, I find myself allocating non work time to focus on my family. Any ‘me time’ is carved out after my family have gone to bed and the world is a little more quiet. If I don’t use that time to jump back on my laptop and dive into work emails, I would probably take some time for me by vegging out on the couch watching TV or a Liverpool game.

Do you regularly schedule time for yourself?
No. I don’t have a regular schedule for ‘me time’. On the weekends, I love taking a morning walk before the day starts and I must say, I do feel it when I don’t carve out time for me. I know I need to exhale and let loose from time to time.

Do you find it hard to take time out for yourself? Why?
I absolutely do. As the founder of a startup, a husband and father to two beautiful children, I really find it hard. In my role at Enzi, I wear many different hats in one day. From finance to HR, logistics, customer service, innovation, marketing and sales departments – everyday presents new challenges (and opportunities) but it also means there is little time to stop and take time out. We are also operating in a market that isn’t as set up for international business as the markets of the USA, Singapore or Hong Kong. We face new and recurring challenges everyday but we are making a difference here and we are supporting not only Africa but also so many African people and their families. We are bringing people out of poverty here – there is a real social justice element to my job. The pressure to stay afloat and grow is real. On top of this, being there for my children is a non-non-negotiable for me as is being a loving and caring partner for my wife. So…when you put all of that together, I do find it challenging to take time out for me.

All that said, while I may find it hard to carve out ‘me time’, I do feel it when I don’t. The accumulation of pushing myself adds up and every 2-3 weeks I will sleep in because my body (and mind) needs it.

Are you good at doing nothing?
Well, if someone told me I could do nothing for four hours, I would certainly fill the time with something and that would probably be the things I don’t get time for such as visiting the chiropractor, getting a massage or…the overdue task of going and getting my passport renewed. I’m really bad at doing ‘nothing’.

What do you wish you had more time for?
Family and time with my wife. I recently read ‘Shoe Dog’ – a memoir by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and will never forget his remorse around not spending more time with his son (who has now passed away) as he was so focused on growing the Nike business. I never want to have that regret and while I really consciously make time for my children and wife, I would like to have more time with them and when I am with them, make sure I am fully present.

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