Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

3 immigrant fempreneurs reshaping North America’s creative and media industries

These three women stand at the center of a major technological shift, changing how the creative economy operates. In their pursuit of success, they first needed to rewire their minds and cultivate new beliefs.

Pinar Seyhan Demirdag, co-founder, Seyhan Lee

Back in 2018, Pinar Sayhan Demirdag, a creative technologist of Canadian-Turkish heritage, found herself at the frontline of the AI revolution. As an artist, she had a chance to work with Google, where she learned how technology could disrupt creative industries through picture-based generative AI. 

The AI production company called Seyhan Lee became her “love child” with another creative professional, Gary Koepke, who is now her partner in life and business. “Love is the greatest force in the universe, which ties strangers together for the benefit of the greater good,” Pinar said. 

Pinar Seyhan Demirdag, co-founder, Seyhan Lee - immigrant fempreneurs
Pinar Seyhan Demirdag, co-founder, Seyhan Lee. Credit: Seyhan Lee

“My background in art and creative technologies, paired with Gary’s experience in marketing and filmmaking, birthed a shared dream of a center for the film industry’s adoption of generative AI.”

Last year, the couple launched Cuebric, an AI solution creating virtual backgrounds for filmmakers in minutes, which previously took 4-6 months. 

Reprogramming her own mind to step into an alternative reality became the biggest challenge on Pinar’s journey. “I’ve been intensely working on transcending my subconscious and belief system of who I am in order to remove all barriers between myself and my goals in life,” she said. 

Pinar discovered that high expectations she put on certain individuals coded into her subconscious a false feeling that she is inferior to those who might seem superior. “When I stopped being nervous when speaking to a billionaire versus an independent artist, life started rewarding me with more opportunities,” she said. 

Another great discovery was the true meaning of patience as a “state of pleasant detachment by way of being confident of the outcome, even when not in control of the process.” 

Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO, BroadbandTV Corp (BBTV)

Growing up in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war, when access to information was limited, Shahrzad Rafati experienced the impact of the mass media. Even with a handful of TV channels available, she learned about the outside world and realized she wanted a different life.

Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO, BroadbandTV Corp (BBTV) - immigrant fempreneurs
Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO, BroadbandTV Corp (BBTV). Credit: BBTV

So, at the age of 17 Shahrzad embarked on a solo journey to Vancouver to pursue a degree in Computer Science. “Overcoming these challenges at such a young age, including having no computer skills and knowing very little English, gave me the confidence I needed to take on anything,” she said.

Shahrzad’s true aspiration was making content accessible to all. She soon developed an idea for a media tech enterprise, now known as BroadbandTV Corp (BBTV). 

Her company now reaches 600 million unique viewers worldwide on a monthly basis. With offices in Vancouver, New York, and Mumbai, BBTV develops management, distribution, and monetization solutions for content creators and owners. 

To develop her business, Shahrzad had to pivot. BBTV started as a set top box manufacturer, but content consumption was moving online. So Shahrzad decided to go digital. “It was a pivot that absolutely paid off,” she said. “Even now, 18 years later, the space has so much room to grow and it’s still evolving very quickly.”

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When you do something for the first time, you should be ready to fail, Shahrzad said. “But you need to fail fast and learn from your mistakes quickly. There are plenty of things I’d do differently, but mistakes are a key part of success.”

Irina Proskurina, founder and CEO, E-PR Online

While running a modeling agency in New York during the COVID-19 pandemic, Irina Proskurina learned the cruelty of desperately needing clients and struggling to find them. She realized PR was essential for her business. 

Irina Proskurina, founder and CEO, E-PR Online - immigrant fempreneur
Irina Proskurina, founder and CEO, E-PR Online. Credit: E-PR Online

“I understand the pain of entrepreneurs when they don’t have customers,”  Irina said.

Discovering that media relations rarely came at a modest price, she took matters into her own hands. Irina founded a digital PR agency called E-PR Online.

“Everybody needs to have a voice,” Irina said. “PR doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. It should be affordable.” 

E-PR online allows small business owners, who struggle to afford the retainer and various expenses associated with traditional PR, to grow their visibility online through media coverage.   

Irina’s journey in marketing started 15 years ago, when she first moved to the U.S. in her early 20s. She took a job at a child day care center for $6 per hour, but eventually earned an MA in Business Administration from Touro University and went on to work for top international brands.  

Irina thinks that fempreneurs can grow if they stick together rather than view other women as competition. “If you’re an female entrepreneur, you’re a leader, and leaders only lift each other up,” she said.

She believes a positive mindset is the main driver of success. “Go forward no matter what,” Irina said. “There’s gonna be good days, and there’s gonna be bad ones, and it’s just gonna pass by. So definitely believe in a bright future.”

Special credit to Cara Kishter, The Vertical, for her assistance in writing this article.

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