Sam Bashiry knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.
Fleeing Iran with his mother and sister at the age of 10, he came to Australia in 1989 as a refugee, separated from his father who remained in the war-torn country. Arriving in Melbourne to start a new life, his family was taken to the now-closed Maribyrnong detention centre in Victoria where his journey in the new country started.
He didn’t speak English and the cultural customs were foreign to him, but eventually Sam found Australia to be full of openness and diversity – and saw the opportunities the country could provide. “I’ve been blessed to be in a wonderful country like Australia. People take you in and they are so multicultural. There are so many opportunities. It’s all about not giving up,” Sam tells The CEO Magazine.
“I’ve been through a lot and I’ve had many things work against me, and I’ve had to overcome them, from childhood through to even today. It’s all about resilience, and it’s remembering that life’s all about the journey and about not giving up,” he adds.
“We all face our own challenges. It’s important that you just never give up.”
“We all face our own challenges. It’s important that you just never give up. It’s about not giving up and setting goals for yourself in life, whatever they may be, and pushing yourself to achieve them.”
Sam went to Swinburne University to study computing but ended up on Centrelink payments, which was a turning point for him. His first job was working in computer support for a dial-up internet company, earning minimum wage. To try to make ends meet, he purchased a second-hand router on eBay for A$1,000 to start selling domain names.
It was a time when dial-up internet was the norm and broadband hadn’t quite taken off. Sam saw a gap in the market when he noticed that, other than the main providers Telstra and Optus, no-one else was providing internet for the SME market in Australia.
That was his opportunity to start something new and it was the beginning of his success story. He founded an IP start-up, Broadband Solutions, in 2005, calling on the help of his friend and former colleague, Brad Hughes. The pair built the company up into a leading internet provider for schools, hospitals, hotels and small businesses across Australia, now also servicing New Zealand and Asia.
While everything may now seem sweet for the Ferrari-driving Founder of a firm turning over A$25-million a year, life still throws its challenges.
Sam’s world was turned upside down when he got a call from his sister one evening to tell him that her three-year-old son had been diagnosed with leukaemia. “To see him go through such an enormous challenge at that young age really opened my eyes to the battle that children face with cancer,” he says.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It could happen to anyone at any time.”
It’s why Sam is taking part in this year’s CEO Dare to Cure. “The passion that the Children’s Cancer Institute has for putting an end to childhood cancer is evident, and it provides children and their families with so much hope,” he says. “It’s a cause that really hits home to me.”
The Institute requires many resources to fight cancer, he points out. “It’s extremely important that we give back and help the cause. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It could happen to anyone at any time. We need to be able to come up with the resources we need to fight this disease.”
Having gone through remission, his nephew is now nine years old and is a healthy, happy child who fills his uncle with joy – thanks to the cancer treatments available. “Just seeing him play and be normal like most other children is really, really nice,” he smiles.
For a man who has overcome a myriad of hurdles over the years – making it from refugee to multimillion-dollar entrepreneur – the Ice Bath Challenge and Daring Delicacy are two dares enough to make him squirm.
“They’re both a bit of a test for me, both mentally and physically. I don’t have a strong stomach at all, I can’t really hold things down much that I don’t like, and I hate cold water,” he laughs.
But like Sam’s attitude to anything in life, he is willing to meet them head-on. “I’m really looking forward to it and I’m going to put myself out there. I’m going to try something that I’ve never done before. I’m going to give it a go,” he says. “It’s about putting myself in a position I haven’t been in and doing something that is uncomfortable.”
Sam says getting out of your comfort zone is all part of tackling the challenges faced in life and business. “If you’re going to grow in life or business, you don’t want to be in your comfort zone. People put limits on themselves,” he says.
“If you really want to grow as a person, it’s good to try different things, things that you think you can’t actually achieve. If you put your mind to anything, you can achieve anything.
“If you put your mind to anything, you can achieve anything.”
“Time is such a valuable thing and we never get our time back; once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s really important that we try our best in whatever we do.”
For someone who has been through a difficult path, Sam is more focused on bringing the conversation back to the children who are fighting one of life’s biggest battles. “Their resilience is nothing short of amazing,” he says.
“I’d like to see more CEOs and business leaders get involved in helping these children, by utilising their network and influence to generate awareness, raise funds and support such a meaningful cause.
“There’s an opportunity to step away from your day-to-day desk and take that time out to reflect and give back. We get so busy going at a million miles an hour, and there are so many other important things we are not even thinking about.”
“I’d like to see more CEOs and business leaders get involved in helping these children, by utilising their network and influence to generate awareness, raise funds and support such a meaningful cause.”
He isn’t putting a limit to how much he wants to fundraise. “I want to raise as much as I can. I will do that by tapping into my network, utilising social media and other platforms to draw as much support as I can.”
Sam says it’s about giving back. “I’m a massive believer in giving back and it doesn’t have to be just with money; it can be through so many other ways. It’s about making a difference to someone’s life and that is the biggest, most important thing in the world to me.
“To give back to someone and to see them smile and grow, that is the best gift that you could ever give. It’s important to give back and help each other.”
Read about how The CEO Magazine’s Chris Dutton is taking on several dares to cure cancer; or ask yourself: Are you a CEO who dares to cure children’s cancer?