At the age of 32, Riaz Sidi made the life-altering decision to start a digital marketing consultancy.
At that time, he was a newlywed, a new home owner, an expectant father, and wanted to start a new chapter in his life because he was passionate about digital marketing and knew he could help others benefit through technology.
“I was actually very much against the idea of running a business before because I saw how stressful it was for my parents,” shared Riaz. “But then I fell into it because I was good at digital marketing and thought I could do it better, so I did.”
On May 17, 2016, he officially incorporated Riaz Sidi Performance Marketing Inc. (Now known as Sidi.io) from his basement.
Sidi.io helps B2B tech companies grow their businesses by designing and implementing digital marketing strategies including running advertising on Google and Facebook, social media campaigns, email marketing, hosting and monitoring their webinars, designing websites and landing pages, and more.
“All of these changes without the security of a steady paycheque were quite overwhelming,” he said. “The pure effort and energy required to succeed without knowing if you will be able to help others or make enough revenue to survive is terrifying.”
Behind the funny, confident, business owner is someone who has gone through his share of dark times.
Over thirteen years ago, Riaz was diagnosed with a cornea disease called Keratoconus.
“They said to cover your right eye and I covered it,” Riaz explained. “They said to cover your left eye and I couldn’t even read the top letter.”
Over the course of twenty-two years, Riaz’s cornea had progressively gotten thinner which resulted in a slow loss of vision in his right eye.
The disease had advanced so quickly he had to have a cornea transplant or face losing his sight.
“I don’t try to paint this dream of motivation and inspiration, without also sharing the fact that it is very difficult to grow,” Riaz shared. “The times we grow in life are the times we are the most uncomfortable.”
Subsequently, the technology that saved him all those years ago was what inspired him to focus Sidi.io on tech companies.
“I feel like it’s my personal duty to spread digital marketing technologies to the world and to those who can benefit from the right technology,” said Riaz.
5 Years of Sidi.io
Bootstrapping a business and taking the leap into entrepreneurship is no easy feat, in fact, during the first year of Sidi.io, Riaz was the only employee.
“As you can imagine, there were many long nights, skipped meals, and so many struggles that I’ve lost count,” he shared. “But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Every struggle I went through helped me get Sidi.io to where it is today and where it’s heading in the future.”
By the second year, Riaz finally let the word out that he was running a digital marketing agency.
“I would personally say that growing my network has been the most important part of running a business,” he stated. “I firmly believe that you need to keep meeting people every day without pushing them toward your product or service, but by understanding their needs and how you’ll be able to help them.”
As the third year rolled around, Riaz decided to change the company name to Sidi.io and begun the journey of hiring team members; something he mentioned he should have done sooner.
“Working together as a team helped me focus on gaining new connections and the ability to work “on” the business instead of “in” it,” said Riaz. “I knew I couldn’t do it all alone anymore.”
Then in 2020, the pandemic hit and Sidi.io lost 65% of revenue overnight.
“Luckily we had the infrastructure in place to work from home and we went on the offensive,” he said. “The team grew from 2 to 20 team members – all online. We built client and peer relationships, a harmonious culture, and diversity became our superpower.”
Now in year 5, Sidi.io has been named one of the Fastest Growing Companies in Ottawa, was featured in the Ottawa Business Journal multiple times, and was recently named in the Forty Under 40 list for 2022.
“ You have to avoid the noise and focus on winning.”
Riaz stressed that it takes a long time to see results but the struggles you endure will pave the way for success.
“I’m only 10 per cent of where I want to get to and I always keep that number in my mind and that’s what drives me to keep going,” he said. “Failure is part of the journey. You’ll never feel ready, it still doesn’t feel like I’m ready to be a real business owner.”