Presenting Parisa Zeinali: A story of an Iranian-Preneur (8)

Parisa Zeinali…when I saw her work I thought Creative, Unique, Expressive, and Modern. Her work in animation stood out to me and was very different from what I had seen from other artists.  So I wanted to hear her story and learn more about her passion.

Below is her story. Hope it inspires you.

Parisa Zeinali
1. What is your business?

I am a freelance illustrator that designs characters and spaces through animation. In addition, I design characters for food products, advertisements and any other work that uses imagery or illustration. Of course, like any other artist I also just draw for myself and my own pleasure.

2. Why did you start this business? What interested you? 

Since I can remember, I’ve been a lover of Art so I chose graphic design as my major for my undergrad education. After that, I became interested in illustration. I have always wanted to work within new and fresh experiences and I’ve always loved learning something new. 

3. What were some challenges you have faced? 

I have realized that sometimes for different projects, you need to also be different. I have had to be more flexible and change my format to fit myself in a bigger format and accept a new experience to challenge myself.  This can happen to anyone and at that time you should trust to your ability and skills in order to have a great start. Just face forward!

4. What are some recent news?

There were lot of events that I participated in recently, but the most exciting one was the 11th Skill National Tournament in 2012 where I won the Gold medal in country level.

5. What are some plans you have for the next year? 

I have decided to try creating illustrations for children books next year. I have started talking with some artists and publishers in several cities.

6. Anything else you would like to share?

Since I was a child, I have always loved Disney characters and always watched their movies. Then I began to design the characters myself. I have also had dreams of these designs and would just imagine what they would look like. I have always wanted to work for a Disney company where I could design some of these types of characters and that children from all over the world would love them and talk about them :) This is a dream that I hope comes true one day…


Thank you Parisa for sharing your story!

Click one of the pictures below to open the gallery and see her work!

Yes, (for the 100th time) my name is spelled…

Have you (or someone you know) ever changed the spelling of your original name, or moved your first name to be your middle name, or just gotten rid of your original name all together because it was too difficult for (lazy) people to pronounce? It’s ok… just admit it.

Babak becomes Bob. Ali becomes Al. Yasaman becomes Jasmine. Soraya becomes Sarah. And it goes on…

This is a personal pet peeve of mine…and this is not just relevant to Iranians but pretty much anyone who is not from America. If you look at someone’s name, and actually wonder if the letters are in the right order, you can bet they have also experienced this. We can all relate.

I have heard it all:  “Your name is not spelled the way it should be” or “Oh it’s pronounced so different from how it’s spelled.”.. and the best one is “Why don’t you just change the spelling of your name?” NO.

The good thing about this issue, is it becomes a predictable pattern. For example, I no longer have any expectations for anyone at Starbucks to get it right. It is just a given my name will be spelled wrong.

Case in point: (You probably can’t even guess what these actually should say..that’s how bad it is)










But, why should we be the one to compromise?  How about everyone else just takes a minute to learn how to say the name? Pretty sure that is much easier than us doing THIS. ;)

So, the next time someone suggests that you should change your name or its spelling… spell your name to them and say it proudly!



Merci (Thank you) for the 1st year!

Over a year ago, I started to think about this blog and many questions went through my head.

Should I start one?
What would it be about?
Would anyone even read it?
What if I run out of things to talk about?

But then I said… well, I will never have all the answers. Only thing I do know is that  I want to share more about our culture, our traditions, our amazing food, and anything else I could think of! So I just went for it.

Today is exactly a year that I started this blog and I just wanted to simply say THANK YOU for reading and hope you have enjoyed it.

On to the next year… I am not sure what it will bring, but I am excited for it, and that is all that matters.  :)

Recipe #6: Salad-e Olivieh (Chicken, Potato & Egg salad)

No, we couldn’t just stop at chicken salad, or potato salad or a nice simple egg salad. We went above and beyond, mixed it all up and came up with Salad-e Olivieh!

Such a multipurpose and delicious dish. In my family it is either an appetizer for a party with some crackers, a late night snack, or even as a sandwich with some sliced bread. I won’t lie, the garlic in this can be pretty strong sometimes. Bring into public with caution!

Regardless, a favorite amongst many. Enjoy it!

salade olivieh










4 medium sized potatoes
6 eggs
2 carrots
1 full chicken breast
4 persian pickles
2 cloves garlic
Helman’s Olive Oil Mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
White pepper


1. Wash the potatoes, carrots and eggs and place them all in a pot
2. Cover full with water and bring all to boil on low heat (potato takes longer to come to boil, but let them all continue boiling)
3. Remove any skin off the chicken breast, wash and clean in a different pot
4. Add water about few inches into the pot with the chicken, doesn’t have to cover
5. Add little salt and ginger to the chicken for flavor
6. Don’t cover the pot fully and keep on low heat until chicken is cooked. Should take about 20 min
**At this point you could keep all these cooked vegetables in the fridge for later use
7. Peel and chop the potatoes, eggs, carrots, pickles and chicken
8. Mix together in a bowl
9. Add some salt & pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and chopped garlic (little by little and taste, your own choice on how much)
10. Add mayo slowly. Again up to you on how much you want
11. Taste to see if needs anything more based on your own liking
12. Pour onto a platter
13. For serving, you can put a layer of Mayo on it and design with olives or green peas (this is up to you)

That’s it. Quick, easy, and delicious.

Presenting “AppTalia”: A Story Of An Iranian-Preneur (7)

Given Norouz is one of our biggest holidays, I kept seeing posts this past week on Facebook around new year, celebrations, pictures of friends from parties, etc. One particular post, however, stood out to me. It was AppTalia“.  I saw a post around this video specifically for Norouz. (Click here for the video). A fun, interactive explanation of what Persian New Year is geared towards children.

And so, I had to learn some more and interview the founder and CEO of AppTalia, Rashin M. Taheri. Enjoy her story!

What is your business?

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AppTalia offers fun, educational apps designed to provide answers to kids’ questions about the world in which we live. We introduce and get children excited about topics in biology, physics, chemistry, the universe, the human body, and much more. And we make our apps multilingual, allowing kids to gain knowledge and learn new languages at the same time. AppTalia’s apps are suitable for children ages 3 to 9.


Why did you start this business? 

From her earliest years, my daughter, Talia, was fascinated with my iPhone. With it secure in my hand, I watched her as she tried to play and interact with the screen. Another activity we shared was reading so every night I would translate and read storybooks to Talia in Persian, my native language.

When she turned three, she started bombarding us with questions. “Where does snow come from?” “Why does the moon look like a circle, when last time it looked like a banana?” We’d answer her questions to the best of our ability, relying on Google when we came up blank.

Her inquisitiveness about the world we live in spurned my own curiosity. Talia was obviously curious about her environment, she loved mobile devices, and I wanted her to be able to communicate in her native language. “Why not combine the three?” I thought, and that’s when AppTalia was born.

I enjoy every aspect of my new venture, but I particularly like creating the apps. It’s fulfilling to identify a topic, conduct the research, write the storyboard, work with my creative team, input the coding, and complete the testing to ensure we’ve done a good job of bringing the app to life.

What were some challenges you faced? 

My background was programming, so researching how to create a mobile app was not difficult. I soon realized, however, that to bring a quality app to market I was going to need a team, including a graphic artist, a music composer, voice over talents, language translators, and a developer. My only challenge is finding Persian Voice over talents!

What are some of the recent news (events, etc)?

One of AppTalia’s app, The Tale of a Snowflake, has been designated a 2013 Parents’ Choice Award winner in the Mobile Apps category by Parents’ Choice Foundation, “the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys.”

Screen Shot 2013-03-23 at 12.59.42 PM The Tale of a Snowflake teaches children about the three phases of the water cycle—evaporation, condensation, and precipitation—through the use of a narrative, coupled with interactive features. Less than 20 percent of the products submitted to the program receive any level of commendation and we are very proud and honored to receive this award.

The Tale of a Snowflake can be heard in two languages, English and Persian, and can be played on an iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. It is available on the App Store.


What are your plans for Apptalia in the upcoming year?

My ultimate goal is to create a learning platform to expose kids to science in their early childhood development. I firmly believe that younger children have a tremendous amount of natural curiosity, and that we should leverage their interest, using technology to expose them to subjects beyond early reading and basic math. Also, I believe science is for everyone; it’s not for a specific gender, culture, or country. Educational apps of all kinds—including science—can be used by all children, especially if they are multilingual.

Anything else you would like to share?

AppTalia was founded in March 2012. So far we have 5 apps in the market and all of them are in English and Persian languages.

  • Norooz App which uses interactive features to explain the Persian New Year and the many traditions surrounding this festive holiday.
  • The Tale of a Snowflake that teaches water cycle in a unique and interactive way.
  • TTT (Touch The Thing) is a language app that teaches 220 words in 12 different languages.
  • Two interactive story books (Little Black Fish & Together)


Norouz: My top 5 memories

Today is Norouz or “New Day” where we celebrate the Iranian New Year.  A time to start fresh, create new goals, feel grateful etc. I always felt that this was a more appropriate time to celebrate the new year; when Spring was beginning.

Although each Norouz represents a new year.. there are some memories and traditions that have never changed for me. So I thought it would be appropriate to share with you my Top 5 Norouz Memories. These are in no particular order… I just thought to myself “Norouz” and these came to mind first. 

When I think about Norouz…

1. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, or coming home early, or just sleeping really late… No matter what time of the day it officially becomes Spring, my family gathers together and sits around the Haft-seen at that exact time.

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Believe me, growing up, I didn’t always enjoy a 4 am celebration but it has become tradition. And when it is tradition, I don’t question it.

2. I remember the smell of the Sonbol (Hyacinth) flower. Whenever I walk into the house, I smell it. Then I know that Norouz is near. Just the smell alone puts me in a good mood as I look forward to new growth in the new year.

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3. I remember being with family. Whether we are just sitting together and talking about the past year or  laughing and dancing, this has always been the biggest family celebration for us. The clock strikes and we hug and kiss each other while we wish eachother a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Norouz and family…I can’t have one without the other.

4. I remember my dad reading excerpts from the Koran. We are actually not a very religious family. But during this holiday, my dad takes the opportunity to read pieces of the koran to us, translating along the way. Even though I could not understand some of it, despite hearing it many times now, I know it is important to listen and try to grasp the concepts.

5. I remember eating plenty of sweets. Tradition has always been that once the clock strikes and we wish each other a happy new year next on priority is to eat! We pour the chai, have some sweets, and sit together stuffing our faces. I can’t object, who doesn’t want some of this:

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Being born in America, gives me the nice opportunity to celebrate two new year’s. Despite this, for the reasons above, and many more… I have always felt more connected to our own Norouz and I hope to pass on these traditions.

Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and successful new year ahead!

Presenting “Golreezan”: A story of an Iranian-Preneur (6)

About a week ago, I came across a post on Facebook that had images of beautiful cards with Farsi writing. Despite the fact that I can’t even read farsi, I was intrigued to see what it was so I investigated some more.

Afsoon Talai is the founder of Golreezan. 

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Here is her story below.

1. What is your business – what do you offer?

Golreezan is a line of Persian-inspired stationery and wall art I started in 2012. We offer greeting cards for Norouz, birthdays, newborns and thank yous and really pride ourselves in the quality. (me: perfect with Norouz coming up!) Our cards are all printed on high-quality paper stock and the designs use bold prints and colors. Best of all, we have cards written in both Farsi and English! That was a part of the aesthetic I was most excited about. We also carry wall art – stick-on decals that come in a variety of Persian sayings. My personal favorite is the noosh-e-jaan decal for the kitchen! Aside from what we offer on our website, we also create custom designs, whether it’s wedding invitations, business cards or save the dates. It’s always fun to bring someone’s personal vision to life.

2. What motivated you to start the business? 

I’ve loved paper product design for so many years, so when I went to college at the Rhode Island School of Design, it wasn’t too hard to pick a major. After graduating, I worked for an event-planning company where I designed save the dates, wedding invitations, menus and other materials for high-end clients. But really, the idea for Golreezan was born when my mom asked me to create Norouz cards to send to her friends and family.   I realized there was a real void of Persian stationery (Me: I remember I used to look for something like this and couldn’t find it)  for Iranians living outside Iran and started Golreezan to fill that void. It’s been rewarding – not to mention incredibly fun – to bring together graphic design and my Iranian heritage in an interesting way.

3. What were some challenges you faced in doing so? (if any) 

I always wanted to create designs that would relate to all Iranians regardless of age or whether or not they could read and write Farsi, but it was initially a bit of a challenge to balance advanced texts with more basic ones. I’m constantly aware of striking a happy medium between the two, and it’s getting easier as Golreezan grows.

4. What are some of the recent news (events, etc).
We’re now selling in stores in southern California! (me: Exciting!)

5. Plans for your business in the upcoming year?

In the upcoming year, we’re planning to expand our line. Nursery-themed paper products and décor, wedding invitations and congratulation cards are just a few of the ideas we have in mind. Beyond paper products, we’re also working on ideas for Persian-inspired fabrics and clothing. There are so many possibilities! Keep checking out our website for the latest!

6. Anything else you want to share

Growing up in another country while trying to maintain our cultural identity can be challenging (me: agreed… you have to find a balance) at times, but there are a lot of ways to keep our culture vibrant – from food and music to art and literature. If Golreezan can help someone maintain that connection in even the smallest way, I would consider my mission accomplished. (me: That is so true.. and so great she is doing this.)

Some of her work below and see more on her website

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Recipe #5: Borani Esfanaaj (Yogurt & Spinach Dip)

When I typically think Spinach.. I don’t have the most pleasant thoughts. Until I think about “Borani Esfanaaj“. Then it’s, hello spinach!

This is an appetizer that is usually made when we have company over. Not sure why it was always saved for more special occasions but I accepted it. It is a nice mix of yogurt (and not just any yogurt!), spinach, walnuts, and more. You can eat it just as it is, or with some pita bread, crackers, etc.


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  • 1 package chopped frozen spinach
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tsp dried rose petals
  • 1/2 cup Mast Musir (persian yogurt with shallot)
  • 1 tbsp chopped walnuts


  1. In a bowl of water, wash the dill and then pour into a sifter. Do this 3 times to fully wash.
  2. Pull off the dill pieces from the branch and then place in food processor on chopped settings *at this point you can place this in a ziplock bag and freeze it to use later.
  3. Fry some onions using olive oil until a golden brown color.
  4. Place the frozen spinach into a sifter and pour hot water over it so it melts.
  5. Take pieces of the spinach, squeeze the water out and put into the pot with the onions. Fry them all together a bit.
  6. Add little salt and pepper.
  7. Add the rose petals and the dill.
  8. Mix them all in the pan.
  9. Pour them all into the platter and add the yogurt. Add the walnuts.  Mix all together. See if anything more is needed based on the flavor you want.
  10. When poured into the serving platter,  decorate the top with walnuts and rose petals.

All set!

“Ve don’t compare to other people”

Confusing. If someone asked me to use one word to describe Iranian parents, then that would be one of them. (I have more, but I will save them for later posts.)

Growing up, there were some phrases that were repeated and repeated by my parents. You would think this would make them predictable. But, the issue was that they were used in different contexts, at different times, and with different meanings!

But, to keep myself entertained, I did have a favorite. And it was: “Ve (we…) don’t compare to other people!

Now, on its own, I get that. We live our own lives, separate from others, what they do is their business, and what we do is our own business. I got it.

Easy enough, right? NOPE.

Ok, example. Family time. It was always important and I always accepted that. But you know, weekends would come around, and I would want to make plans, and sometimes yes for both Friday and Saturday night.  I mean, hey, I had to be prepared so that when Monday rolled around and the question would be “What did you do this weekend?” I would have something exciting to share.

So, it went something like this:

Parents: “You can be with your friends one night of the weekend, but the other night you will be with us.”

Me: “Ok… but.. my friends get to be out both nights in the weekend and do whatever they want.”

And then… here it came:”Vell… ve don’t compare to other people!” Oh boy, if I had a penny for every time I heard that phrase, well… let’s just say I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post right now.

That alone, was fine. I could deal with that and I enjoyed time with my family anyway.

But it didn’t end there.  So, let’s say one of my friends, was taking piano class, spanish class, french class, art class, AND was accepted into some honors program at some school.. then it was “You know, so and so is doing this, you really should to.” 

I couldn’t win, so I figured out the best strategy to this. Just nod and :).

Ultimately though, they compared (or not compared) with one goal and intention… to do what they felt was best for their kids. I know that now, and I accept that I will probably end up being just as confusing to my own kids one day. 

To compare or not compare. That was the question. I still don’t have the answer.

Presenting “Sayeh Jewelry Design”: A Story of an Iranian-Preneur (5)

I was browsing Facebook one day (ok, maybe some stalking)  and I came across this artist and designer and just loved some of the jewelry I saw. Those who know me, know it is not very difficult for me to be drawn to jewelry but I still felt these were some pretty unique and beautiful designs.

Sayeh is the founder of Sayeh Jewelry Design.  All of her jewelry design is hand-made from silver, bronze and copper.

Sayeh currently lives and works in Tehran and here is her story.








How did you get started? 

Sayeh’s interest in art started at a very early age when she went to High School for Visual Arts and then following this she received her bachelors degree in Arts and Architecture school in Iran and also studied sculpture and painting.

She has been making and designing her hand-made jewelry for 3 years now.

What do you currently work with in your art? 

She currently works with a method called “Art Clay” (Me: Hm I had never heard of this) which is totally different than traditional methods. Her work primarily revolves around using Copper and Bronze but when she wants an element of a lighter/white color, she uses Silver more. All of her designs are her own. (Me: Amazing..) 

What are some recent news about your business?  

She has participated in some exhibitions focused around this “Art Clay” method and also put on some shows at home a couple times a year to display her pieces. She also recently exhibited 12 of her pieces at London Fashion Week a couple of months ago, and actually participated with ALANGOO for this with other groups as well. (Me: that is awesome, such great visibility!)

What would you like to see for your business in the future? 

She would like to have exhibitions in different countries, so everyone sees her work and gives their opinion and judges her work. She would like to get more educated in this area of work and learn more about building traditional jewelry.  However, she needs to first get a bigger place, like a workshop. She would also like to expand her work with Gold, but currently this is too expensive for her.

Thank you Sayeh for this interview! 

Some of her designs below and check out more here:  Sayeh Jewelry Design – Facebook Page

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