Washington, DC–The 1979 revolution resulted in a clear and massive brain drain for Iran and created an estimated annual financial loss comparative to the yearly cost of the Iran-Iraq War: Causing Iran to miss out on the power of its people’s collective intelligence. However, the flip side is: Iranians live all over the world now and some have had a chance to spread their reach over the last 30-plus years–unceasingly growing; with healthy force, and in hypersonic form.
Persianesque Magazine’s Iranian-American Woman of the Year for 2009, Tehran-born super-entrepreneur Shabnam Rezaei is a classic example. It takes a lot to be featured as our Iranian-American woman of the year, but Shabnam Rezaei has more than enough accomplishments to put even the most eager shaagerd avval (top student) to shame.
Chosen by “a panel of independent judges to participate in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women“, as well as being selected as one of Business in Vancouver’s “40 under 40”, Shabnam, also won an accolade at the sixth annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business in New York, last November.
Mostly being recognized by major media outlets like NPR, CNN, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and more for her forward-thinking efforts at her latest über-trendy co-venture: Big Bad Boo Studios, Shabnam is also the woman behind the Iranian online magazine: PersianMirror.com.
“Dedicated to teaching children culture through entertainment,” Big Bad Boo Studios has offices in New York and Vancouver.
“Big Bad Boo is an animation company that produces cartoons to teach kids about different cultures.” Explains Shabnam. “We have a large production facility in Vancouver and sales offices in New York. We offer animation services as well as work on our propriety shows; Mixed Nutz, 1001 Nights.”
“We started Big Bad Boo because we realized there was a gap in the market for culturally rich, high quality content,” Shabnam recalls her inspiration to start the company.
“I stumbled into animation when Aly Jetha, my partner and I decided to produce ‘Babak & Friends – A First Norooz’, which we realized was a great way to teach kids about the Persian New Year. With that, we entered the NYU business plan competition and the judges there really help us scale the business idea into something larger: creating cultural content to help teach kids about the world. We then embarked on our first TV production Mixed Nutz.”
The multinational design-house’s first animated TV-series Mixed Nutz, has been increasingly well-received since it entered the market: recently landing airtime on 27 PBS stations; equaling “31 million viewers.”
Made for children in the 5-8 age category, “Mixed Nutz is like Peanuts except the kids are from around the world,” says Shabnam. “It’s every day stories of our four friends Babak, Sanjay, Damaris and Jae. The cultural side really is in the background though – for example, in one episode, Jae’s grandfather comes to visit and we show the cultural and generational gap between them.”
Profiled by iPhone for their smart use of their phones to conduct presentations on-the-go; literally–Rezaei’s Big Bad Boo continues to collaborate with technology giants like Apple—with whom they are “looking to launch the series on iTunes so that audiences everywhere can download them onto their mobile devices”–and the digital-art-made-simple firm: Wacom.
“Wacom is honored to be working with creative and cutting-edge studios like Big Bad Boo.” Wacom’s Douglas Little tells Persianesque Magazine. “We provide a way for people to push the limits of creative expression and be more productive. It is always a joy to see where our products are in action.”
There’s so much of Shabnam’s proactive and can-do attitude towards life (and business) that we value, appreciate, and strive for but what really sets her apart is the fact that she’s leading by example and taking action. This, we feel, makes Shabnam a role-model for Iranian women and for all women who deal with glass ceilings of all kinds.
“Ernst & Young did a great study about women and they found strong evidence that a lot of women start a business but only a small percentage of those women is able to grow beyond a certain size.” Shabnam shares with us. “The Winning Women program was designed to enable a few women to have access to a bigger network who can provide support in terms of capital, know-how and direction. As an Iranian woman, it’s a key issue because I hope to have a hand in leveling the playing field for future generations.”
We say: Mission accomplished Ms. Rezaei!
When and where else can Mixed Nutz be watched?
“PBS airs the show on TV starting this March. Specific air times for each location can be found at mixednutzshow.com. We also have a wide array of TV networks in Canada, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany and other countries internationally.” Adds Shabnam. “Air dates will be posted on the site as they get launched this year so check the site for more listings as well as continuous games and downloads.”
Surprisingly, Big Bad Boo is the first company ever to animate the stories of Hezaaro-Yek Shab (Thousand-and-One Nights)–as told by the Persian Princess Shahrzad–in their second animated TV-series “1001 Nights.”
“I am amazed at that because the books are so rich and they were almost made for TV serialization. Among our episodes will be the usual favorites such as Ali Baba & the 40 Thieves and Sinbad but also a lot of other wonderful stories that have never been told to the modern audience. We are in discussion with major networks about distribution and will have 26 X 11 minute episodes launched this fall.” Says the NYU and UPenn-educated Shabnam.
Coming up, Shabnam will be developing the website oznoz.com as a “multicultural hub to sell not only our products but other wonderful products that serve the same mission.” She’ll also be “working on two other projects that are in development.”
“It’s great when work doesn’t feel like work.” Shabnam warmly chimes. “We have a wonderful staff and I am really excited about the new year.”
We have a feeling 2010 is going to be yet another big year for Shabnam and her Big Bad Boo!