My journey as a woman entrepreneur has been a bumpy ride.
Five years ago, when I left my job, I had neither a fool-proof business model nor any investment backup. My dull, mundane twenty-four hour a day demanding job had not given me enough mental space to construct a robust plan for the future. I needed a break to find time and clarity to plan my next career move. But one thing I was sure of was that this time I would do something that would keep me alive instead of existing like a corpse.
When people found out that I had left my high profile and well-settled job, I started receiving many offers for collaborations. Most of the offers were bundled with free counselling for women entrepreneurs – about how I needed to make an easy career choice that would allow me to look after my family responsibilities.
Without attempting to understand my purpose for a career shift, I was given two options to make a move – switch to a less challenging job or start my own business. After spending twelve years in a corporate setting, I could not understand the meaning of a comfortable job. in my view, it didn’t exist. When we move up the career ladder, it brings more responsibilities – so chilling in the job – wasn’t a realistic idea. The other option of starting a business was an unknown devil to me. Still I took a leap of faith and embarked on a journey to entrepreneurship
With no business background, prior experience or guidance, I started my first business with ten thousand rupees.
On the home front, I was trying to g fit myself in the image of an ideal family woman. My confusion about “what to do next in life” had created a gap in my mind that was then replaced by regrets that I do not do my duties well. Yes, I started my incredible journey as an entrepreneur on the ground of shame and guilt. Besides the challenges that I faced daily with running a bootstrapped business, I also carried the ideological baggage of society’s mind-set.
I have been judged many times for being ambitious. My daily travail to strike a balance between my Ying (feminine energy) and Yang (masculine energy) has sometimes dragged me into absurd situations. As a result, my first two start-ups were failures. However, my inherent mind-set to not give up had been creating business opportunities for me. But, I had to make several corrections in my thinking patterns to sustain them, and I am still learning – as entrepreneurship is not to survive but to thrive.
Patriarchal Indian society makes it difficult for women to step out and take risks. But times are changing. Women are getting a better education, entering the corporate world, and reaching the top echelons in leading companies. And, even the conventional mind-set is evolving, and women are getting support from family and society.
If you listen to successful women entrepreneurs talk about their journey, you will hear again and again how gender does not have a role to play; it is their determination and perseverance, which led them to where they are now.
What is important is how women let circumstances impact them. What is also important is the choices they make. There has been no better time than now for women to step out and build business empires. Hence, it is vital for women not to let traditional mind-sets hold them back from achieving more.
Women need to break free from the traditional way of thinking:
- I should not feel guilty for thinking like my brother or husband – Having a growth mind-set is not a crime. Only a few people, regardless of gender, have the right attitude to shape up their career with the right purpose.
- My home and children are only my responsibility – Women are not solely responsible for running the home and taking care of children. Both partners should share equal responsibility. Children need attention from both parents to develop well. So, women need to start seeing this as a shared responsibility. I don’t mean that women should neglect home and children, but they should stop feeling guilty if work keeps them away from home sometimes.
- My husband’s work is more important than mine – Work is important, period. Whether it’s your job or business or your husband’s job or business, it is important. The gender of a person does not and should not determine the importance of work. Work requires professional commitment, which they must be willing to give for them to be taken seriously.
- I am not into business to make money – Creating any business requires vision and a higher calling. The business leader needs to be able to inspire others to work towards this goal. But money is a tangible measure of business success. Without the focus on making money, the business will never break out of a hand to mouth existence and then eventually drain the entrepreneur, both financially and psychologically. Women need to take their work seriously and plan as to how much money the business will make and how.
- I am very good at what I make or do, but I am not good at sales – Selling is the core of any business. The day customers stop coming is the day the company closes down. So, whether women like it or not, it is essential to focus on sales.
- I always have the choice of dropping this and going back to managing my home – When women entrepreneurs give themselves this choice, they take away their determination and perseverance.
You never fail until you stop trying
For women entrepreneurs there will be many obstacles along the way; there will be many conflicts. Women have the ability to think independently and critically to get over these obstacles. Conflict is not necessarily bad. If they can avoid taking conflict personally, it is a way to make better decisions and get better results.
Photo: Featured from Unsplash; Author Photo: Vidhi Rita P
Read more from Vidhi here: