As many of us look at our path forward through Ohio State and into our careers it is easy to see a “typical,” formulaic path. Getting involved within Fisher, working internships in the summer, and then graduating to work at a big firm is a recipe for success for many. However, for someone like Ida Abdalkhani, this start was not quite enough.
Ida Abdalkhani completed a Bachelor of Arts in Interpersonal Communications, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration in Marketing and Strategy at Ohio State. She created her company, Ability to Engage, in 2012 as a way to pursue her love for branding and marketing while also offering other companies a consulting service focused on brand management, consumer insight and innovation. The company’s unique mission is matched only by how Abdalkhani came to create it—quitting a promising corporate job at Procter and Gamble, deciding to backpack around the world, and ultimately, becoming the entrepreneur she is at heart.
Graduating from Ohio State with two bachelor’s degrees, Abdalkhani was heavily involved during her time as an undergraduate. “My experiences at OSU and at Fisher through all of the extracurriculars were one of the most important parts of my education,” she says. “Because for me it was not just about what I was learning in the classroom, it was what I was learning about life and the real world outside of the classroom.” By serving as a leader in organizations such as Undergraduate Student Government or helping start a chapter of Students in Free Enterprise, as well as getting entrepreneurial experience helping start a company through Business Builder’s Club, Abdalkhani was able to receive the kind of real world education that would continue to propel her career.
After receiving her MBA from Ohio State in 2005, Abdalkhani went on to work at Procter and Gamble in brand management, allowing her to both build on prior marketing experiences and learn an entirely new set of skills. “I really learned more in those first 3 months of work than I did getting my MBA,” she says. “And that is not a knock on the MBA program at all, it is just that companies that throw you into things, you are quickly dealing with real world experiences, and you have to learn quickly.” Going on to become a global brand manager at P&G in the Beauty and Grooming division, she found that she wasn’t fully satisfied with her corporate job.
Growing disillusioned with a job in the corporate world is not exactly unique, but Abdalkhani took action to change the trajectory of her life and career. After quitting her job at P&G, she decided to backpack around the world. Traveling while working in corporate America was often abbreviated, preventing her from delving into the cultures she was visiting. Abdalkhani decided it was the perfect time to cross a trip around the world off her bucket list.
Eventually, Abdalkhani was drawn back into the world of business after realizing how passionate she was about branding and marketing on her trip: “I was observing people, I was watching how they would shop, how they would interact with each other, I would look at advertising and new products that were available in the store, and that is not something a lot of people do for fun.” From there, Ability to Engage was born. By drawing on her strengths in determining the wants of customers, she decided to help companies to do the same.
Ability to Engage has taken on projects ranging from brand structuring, to market research, to consumer strategies and team building. They have worked with companies as large as Whirlpool and as small as startups. The company has seen large amounts of growth in its years of operation, largely due to Abdalkhani’s passion and positive drive towards success—a feat that can often be overwhelming for entrepreneurs.
“I am trying to do a much better job at creating that balance for myself, trying to create those boundaries, because if you do not do that as an entrepreneur it’s very easy to work all the time,” Abdalkhani explains. Keeping her schedule to normal work hours and making sure to take care of herself through exercise, sleep, nutrition, and meditation are all ways Abdalkhani is ensuring she stays on top of her game.
As for the future of Ability to Engage, Abdalkhani is excited for what is ahead. “We are getting bigger and bigger projects,” says Abdalkhani. “We are able to work on really foundational brand strategy projects, where we are helping create and inform the direction of top brands that you see in the marketplace.” As Ability to Engage continues to grow, they hope to continue being a part of a company’s team, rather than just a group of consultants there for a single project. The A2E team prides itself in becoming trusted strategic partners with their clients.
For many of the most successful entrepreneurs and leaders, a career is not a recipe-like mixture of jobs and responsibilities. For most, the path wanders, and requires self-introspection and revelation to decide not only what they are passionate about, but where their skills lie. By quitting her corporate job, and starting Ability to Engage, Abdalkhani was able to do just that, and her path serves as a reminder that going off the beaten path can have as many rewards as staying on it.