Sarah Farzam: San Francisco

Founder of Bilingual Birdies

What’s your historical San Francisco and New York connection?
I was born in the Bay Area, lived in New York City for the last 9 years (made it out alive) and have been living in the Mission for the last 5 months. I started Bilingual Birdies in Manhattan 8 years ago by passing out fliers in Bleeker Park in the West Village and we now teach 2,000 children per week in over 50 different preschools, public libraries and private homes. I successfully launched Bilingual Birdies in San Francisco and fly to New York once a month to make sure all my ducks are in row.

Describe your experience in SF and your experience in NYC.
Living in New York and starting a company at the age of 24 is like attending business school boot camp in the race of your life while balancing 45 watermelons on one hand, 4 hungry cats in your backpack, running late to a meeting in a taxi with a cell phone battery about to die, while you’re jonesing to hang out with your amazingly fashionable, intelligent, cultured, hip friends who literally need to schedule gcal times to kick it with you. It’s the school for hard knocks. It’s a place that pushes you to make it or leave, and once you do make it you can leave (if you want). There are opportunities everywhere and it’s all up to you if you want do something about it. The people are it’s biggest upsell. They are second to none. I love each and every one who has ever rocked a Williamsburg rooftop with me, took a Bilingual Birdies flier I was handing out in a kid’s clothing store, attended my live music house parties in my East Village shoebox of a home, or said that they believe in what I was trying to create.

San Francisco has so far been a place of rainbows that all seems a little too good to be true. Passerbys catch your eyes to smile and nature is in full affect and accessible all 12 months of the year which is more valuable than I imagined. Business is much easier to make happen. It’s official: If you can make it in New York, everywhere else is a cake walk. Downsides are that it seems everything closes by 9pm. And, it’s just not cutting edge like New York is. Perhaps I haven’t discovered the Bushwick of the Bay Area yet. So far the experience has been far too civilized.

What was the biggest challenge of moving between NYC and SF?
How hard can it be to add or subtract three hours? I find myself slipping that up and feeling like I need to go back to 2nd grade to learn basic math. And, the man who invented the red eye flight deserves a slap in the face, and then a hug. That SF-NY overnighter and I have a love/hate going on deep. Other than that, I try to catch NY friends on their lunch hour to yap and schedule east coast work calls in the afternoon while in sunny California. Google hangout, Skype, and Facetime should all win Nobel Peace Prizes. Redbooth, the Agile Work System, and chat anything deserve honorable mentions. Without those, there would be no way to run a business on two coasts. Definitely, forever grateful to those.

How can NYC and SF best engage with each other?
People just need to relax. Everyone’s hating on each other and yet trying to represent at the same time. NYC and SF can engage better by meeting up to go on those popular little camping trips for entrepreneurs where they can share ideas in a peaceful forest off the California coast with no cell phone reception. And San Franciscans can go to the big apple to practice staying up late and wheeling and dealing in that NY way which gets things done. Right. And then everyone can meet up in Burning Man and ride bikes.

Favorite SF secret spot
Burma Superstar.

Favorite NYC secret spot
Nublu on a Wednesday night.

If you were not where you are now, what would you be doing?
Teaching yoga in the jungle. I’m going to make that happen at some point.

Roadtrip Entertainment: tell us what song/album, TV show, podcast, or web videos you’ve been watching lately.
Lila Downs – Balas y Chocolate
Jarana Beat – Echapalante
Veronica Valerio – Viajes de Ida y Vuelta
Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra
Playa Magenta
Mohsen Namjoo – Trust the Tangerine Peel
Mariachi Flor de Toloache. They’re #3 on iTunes Latino!

I’m half Iranian and half Mexican which explains the above music list. Please inquire within.

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