For this week's Feature Friday, we spoke with Lawdan Shojaee, who not only co-foundered of the Persian New Year Festival in 2019 along with Shideh Doerr, but is a pilot, nonprofit leader, and mom.

Here, Shojaee talks about the event—which will be held Feb. 28, 29, and March 2, 2024 and includes a fashion show, musical, and the festival—landing a plane that lost electrical power, helping others, and her favorite quote.

It’s almost time for the Persian New Year Festival! Can you tell us a little bit about it?

The Persian New Year Festival is the celebration of Norooz. Persians celebrate the first day of spring as the beginning of the New Year. Families put on display a haft seen, a table filled with seven items that represent a beginning. It’s a time to visit with friends, old and new, and a time to forgive and build new friendships. That is the essence of the New Year. We have created a festival around it to celebrate that with all members of our community! 

Did you create the event here?

My co-founder and I wanted to create an experience for our children and our community where we could showcase the best parts of our Persian culture, right here in Scottsdale. We came up with creating this event while enjoying a beauty hike in Sedona. We wanted to bring to our community the essence of being Persian, the culture of generous hospitality that is always filled with food, music, dancing, and the arts.

We hear there are some new additions this year …

Yes, we wanted to outdo ourselves this year, so we joined forces with AZ Fashion Week to produce an exquisite fashion show called Desert Dreams. On Feb. 28 at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, five amazing designers will display unique designs on the runway showcasing a flavor of Southwest glamour mixed with Persian chic. Now that is just the kickoff to what comes next! 

On Feb. 29, we have a composition by world-renowned Ehsan Matoori, a musical performance called Voices Unveiled. Now while this musical is in Farsi, there will be translations for the entire performance. It is a must-see at the Stagebrush Theater in Scottsdale. For both events, ticket purchase comes with appetizers and a complimentary drink upon arrival.

Your favorite part of the event is …

The flavors and colors. The rainbow of experiences. If you have been inside a Persian family's home, you immediately know of the generous hospitality and the overabundance of food and music. That is what the festival brings—a flavor of closeness and home. It’s a place where you can have a complimentary free cup of delicious Persian tea, which our festival is famous for, as well as laughter, dancing, and community.

Beyond the event, you’re a busy CEO, mom, and pilot. How do you juggle it all?

If you efficiently plan and schedule, all is attainable. Not to mention that I have the support of my family. Without them, I would never be able to accomplish as much as I have been able to.

Can you tell us about Axosoft?

Well, I was the CEO of this company for many years, but I sold that company a few years back and took a nosedive into community building through my nonprofits and foundation. I am proud to say that I am at the helm of not only the Persian New Year Festival but also, the ItWasNeverADress nonprofit and the Lawdan Shojaee Foundation. After selling and retiring from tech, I have found joy in creating community through enriching women and fostering the arts through my other philanthropic endeavors.

Favorite pilot moment? 

The time my acrobatic training came into use. I was a young pilot and showing off to some friends when I lost all my electric power, which meant that during landing, I had no use of my flaps, nor could I see any of my gauges as it was dark. Thankfully, I was young and too joyful to know the danger I was in, and after one attempt at a landing, not being able to use my flaps meant I could not decrease my altitude enough to land. I used a cool little technique called a sideslip. That's where you bank the plane, to use the fuselage and the wings as an air brake, what flaps are supposed to normally help with. This allowed me to get low enough to the runway to then slap out of the slip quickly and land smoothly as the fire truck and ambulance driver cheered me on. I felt super cool.

Favorite quote? 

“All the things all the time!” We always add more to our plate and think about how yesterday we were better as we had less to do. For me, I love working, creating, and being a hostess to my children and family. It gives me energy and joy. We all have all the things, all the time. I have simply made a choice to love my crazy, chaotic life. Not to mention that I use yoga, gardening, and my green juices to keep myself grounded and appreciative.


Lawdan Shojaee