Hanzade Doğan-Boyner grew up with a platinum spoon in her mouth. Her father built one of Turkey’s biggest conglomerates and media empires in Turkey, Hurriyet.
She had it made. And then she shocked the world.
Breaking Turkish tradition going back to 1200 BCE, she had every reason to not defy her father's wishes by leaving the family business, studying abroad, and building something of her own.
She noticed a problem and found the perspective to seize it as an opportunity. As Doğan-Boyner put it, "When the economy slows down, offline retailers tend to invest less, which will help the natural transition from offline to online.”
In 1998, one year before Amazon moved into selling beyond media, she founded Hepsiburada, what many consider the “Amazon of Turkey”, selling a variety of goods online from TVs, to cosmetics, to books, and more!
According to Forbes, "Like the Seattle-based e-commerce giant, Hepsiburada is an online seller of everything from laptops and jewelry to pet food and toys. Her company finished 2018 with $786 million in annual revenues, and so far in 2019, sales are pacing 40% ahead of last year."
In Turkish, Hepsiburada means “everything is here.”
But her worth is not all in e-commerce. Doğan-Boyner also boasts ownership of Nesine, an online sports-betting enterprise, bringing her net worth to $2 billion today, at the age of only 46.
For comparison, her father’s net worth is half that.
Why is Doğan-Boyner’s story so explosive? What’s surprising about a smart, rich woman getting richer?
Her story is a paradigm breaker, not just because she fought gendered tradition, but because doing her own thing wasn’t necessary.
As the well-off, well-educated child of a man with a net worth of a billion USD, going to a good Turkish school, building up her business skills, and waiting for her father to retire so she could get her piece of the pie was expected.
She already had it made.
She didn’t need respect. She had it.
She didn’t need money. She had it.
She didn’t need to fight for a top position. She was 100% guaranteed it.
Muhtar Kent, former CEO and current chairman of the Coca-Cola Company and a Turkish-American, said, “Such a story is hard to come by in Turkey. When you are a daughter of one of the best-known business families you are expected to work in the family business—Not start something from scratch and make it more successful than the actual family empire.”
For two years, she studied English in secret, insistent on studying abroad. She failed the Turkish college exam on purpose to force her father's hand. She got her way and attended the London School of Economics. Then, she further defied her father to join Goldman Sachs as an investment banker. From there, she earned her MBA at Columbia University before finally returning home.
“Everybody thinks because I have this father that he would help me get a job, but for me it has always been the opposite," says Dogan-Boyner. "I have to first overcome him and then get my way.
“I was 100% sure back then that newspapers would not last. They were laughing at me. My dad was always between his executives and me. He didn’t always take my side.”
Leaving the business was like leaving the family. “It was painful, but I knew the potential and wanted to do it.”
Why? Instead of a seat at her father's table, she wanted to be head of her own table!
So, what makes us any different?
Some of us know how hard it is when you have your family telling you that you can't do it, that you're crazy, and that you're sacrificing security for a pipe dream—not to mention our own voices in our head screaming, "Who do you think you are?"
And old adage says, "Your will is stronger than their doubt." I'd like to add to it: "Their doubt empowers your will!"
My reaction to “You can’t”, is always “Watch me”.
I won't tell you that makes it easy.
One day, I got up, had a headache, brain-scattered, and felt pulled in 10,000 different directions. I did not feel like coming in. I got to the office and told one of my staff members, "I just don't feel like being here today."
Yes, me. My work is literally my margin.
But I was so sick of e-commerce gurus selling selling selling and talking how cool they are 😎. I wanted people to feel they can struggle, be honest about it, and not feel ashamed at all.
Sure, I didn't start out the child of a wealthy icon, but am I risking being cut off from family, inheritance, and my home country? No!
I’ve seen Dogan Boyner's story spun into a man versus woman battle.
I’ve seen it spun as an old vs young battle.
I’ve even seen it as a West vs East thing!
But I don’t see it that way.
Her story, like mine, like Oprah’s, like my students’, is all about flipping the stage, using disbelief as your fuel, and pushing forward!
If you asked every single one of our female students who today are their own boss, making a ton of money, and traveling the world with their loved ones, what their biggest struggle is right now, I can guarantee you what's on their mind is not, "How can I crush the man entrepreneurs!" (well maybe a couple of them 😅). Instead they'd tell you, "How can I grow as an individual? How can I add another zero to my revenue? How can I make passive income to create margin for me and my loved ones?"
Go do the same! That's my 10 cents!