As Cady Ghandour drowsily opened her eyes, she heard hushed whispers from her mother on the phone. “Thank God, thank God, thank God,” her mom repeated. Then, Cady heard two words that should have sent shivers down her spine: a bombing. Instead, she fell back asleep.
“This is very sad, but Lebanese people are very used to it,” Cady said. It’s normal to hear about a car bomb or an explosion downtown. It wasn’t until their phones wouldn’t stop ringing that they realized this wasn’t a bomb — it was the 2020 Beirut explosion. If it wasn’t for their family vacation to California, Cady would have died.
Two weeks later, her family flew to Lebanon to comfort the rest of their family. While her grandparents narrowly escaped death, their home, filled with a lifelong collection of antiques, was destroyed. As Cady drove through the streets of Beirut where the bomb exploded, she realized that her grandparents were actually the lucky ones.
“It’s just looking around and everything that you know, that you grew up around, just, unrecognizable,” Cady said. “Boarded up, empty streets, glass, ash, whatever you want, just everywhere.”
Cady immediately thought of the small businesses impacted by the blast. After asking her mom how to help, her mom mentioned Cady’s grandmother’s unwavering kindness to their community and how she had handmade pajama bottoms to give to those in need. Her mom unknowingly planted a seed in Cady’s mind that eventually grew into a forest of hope. With encouragement from her mother, an innate desire to create a lasting legacy for her grandmother, and a drive to help her now unrecognizable home, Cady Ghandour created Joujete. Named after her grandma, Joujete is a pajama brand that focuses on comfort while giving back to the community.
Cady didn’t always want to be an entrepreneur — she wanted to be a fashion designer. “My goal was actually to beat the record for the youngest-ever fashion designer,” Cady said. “The girl who held the record was Cecilia Cassini, and she was thirteen.”
While young Cady’s dream was short-lived, she carries that ambition into her new entrepreneurial role.
“Being a student entrepreneur … is a self-disciplined process,” said Cady. “No one is going to push you. You need to do it for yourself, or you just don’t do it at all.”
For Cady — a junior majoring in media studies at Boston University — the self-disciplined entrepreneur process is also self-taught. In between classes, she meets with business professors and leads student focus groups for guidance. After working as a drama instructor at a local high school, she reads business books on the T-ride home. Before going to bed, she spends time on the internet, researching questions she asked but never got answers to. Next on the to-do list in her journal filled with class assignments are business plans, quickly scribbled before the start of her next class.
Her business finally came to fruition. Its Instagram gained a strong online presence, she placed several orders to ship to the U.S. from Lebanon, and it was certified as an American business (news that the original Joujete couldn’t even fathom).
But her business also encountered equally disheartening struggles, some of which were caused by Cady’s own fears and anxieties.
“People here sometimes don’t even know what Lebanon is,” said Cady. “There’s so many times where I’m like, ‘No one here is gonna get it. What am I doing? I’m wasting my time.’”
Her double life, living as an entrepreneur in college student’s clothing, brings the typical struggles outside of the business world — including a heart-shattering breakup at the beginning of the semester. She laughs as she reflects on that part of her life because she can’t believe she let a boy impact her like that, and she compares healing from a breakup to being an entrepreneur — both take self motivation.
“I walk with my head higher than it was before … Because I have conviction in myself,” Cady said.
This conviction followed her through her early dream of being a fashion designer, her desire to give back to her Lebanese community, and now, it’s conviction that’s helping her build a new life at Boston University. As Joujete’s new collection launches this month, Cady takes this time to reflect on her journey — not only as a business owner, but as a college student.
“I’m making my place in Boston University right now, because I was kind of floating before,” Cady said. “It’s my second fall here, but I’m seeing the beauty of leaves, you know what I mean?”
She doesn’t just mean seeing the beautiful Boston fall foliage — she’s talking about the same way she saw hope in the aftermath of a bombing, how she saw the good her breakup brought her. Her never-ending self motivation doubles as a way she views the world. Her momentary focus on colorful leaves ends, as her innate desire to help the community around her inevitably returns.
“Whatever I’m doing, hopefully, it’s to help the world,” Cady said. “I don’t know how yet, so I’m not going to make something up.”
If you glance at her gold-framed glasses, you Might mistakenly think that a glimmer comes from Their reflection. But if you look More closely, the glimmer really comes from the light in her eyes that she’s had since she was Just that thirteen-year-old aiming for Cecilia Cassini’s record: it’s ambition.
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