Women, Work & World
Begin March and we start reading stories about women empowerment. But, if you landed here expecting to read yet another empowering story, then I am sorry to disappoint you. Although, don’t worry. This is not going to be a sob story about the state of women today, either. It’s been two years since I wrote something substantial on my blog and I want to fix that. Evidently, a lot has happened in my life in the interim. A new role has been added, new people have become a part of my daily life, and I’ve moved to a new city. But, has my love affair with coffee stopped? Oh God no. That is definitely not happening.
Okay, without beating around the bush here’s what transpired. After multiple outbound requests to take up independent projects, I took a ginormous leap of faith and started my own boutique creative agency - Cojournal. What started with one intern working for me, is now a team of 14 people and all I have is an abundance of gratitude for every new experience life has thrown at me.
Today, as I look past the complex reasons behind the woeful rate of progress for working women, I can only share my experience and the way I look at this world, not through my tinted glass. Why does it
take a lot more than just the usual entrepreneurial struggle for women to get started? On paper, the idea of women's entrepreneurship does sound amazing. In fact, it shows the power of the digital revolution. However, not everything is smooth and sound in paradise. Women entrepreneurship is a challenging domain with many known and untold challenges.
Am I here to discourage future women entrepreneurs? Obviously not! Here are my key takeaways solely based on my experience for you. Think of it like I am here giving a leg up while you climb to break the ceiling. (YES I WANT EVERY ONE OF US TO BREAK THE CEILING THAT THEY HAVE ASSUMED IS TOO HIGH FOR THEM TO CLIMB AND BREAK)
First and the most important: Ask for help. If you are clear of what you want to do and have a plan in mind, go ahead and ask for help. Look at opportunities that can help you connect with people who might be of help. Do not shy away from asking but also do not pester anybody because nobody owes you anything.
There will be times when things don’t go as per your plan which you were so confident about. What do you do? Go ahead with plan B. Have a plan B ALWAYS. It can be with the same goal but with a different approach, If you have a mentor, talk to them. If you don’t then have a conversation with yourself and have that conversation 3-4 times repeatedly and you will know for yourself how this plan sounds. And, if you still don’t have the solution, you could always phone-a-friend; not necessarily for the right answer but just so a confidante will hear you out.
You will keep doubting your plans on and off if you are like me. You will wonder if this big leap of faith is even worth all the sleepless nights. Let the doubts pay you a visit but do not let them stay. I have a trick here, which I feel is my secret but I’m sure you must have faced it too. Do not sit with one problem/concern the whole day -- and I am sure as an entrepreneur you will, at any point of time, have multiple things to worry about. Be it operations, hiring, sitting with your accounts team, marketing, client feedback…I can literally go on. The point is you will have a lot of doubts and concerns every single day. Just don’t let them get to you. Find a solution and move on to the next. If you can’t find a solution, still move on to the next concern and come back to the previous problem.
Plan your finances better. Don’t get away with saying “I am not good with numbers.” Let the CA/Finance consultants do their jobs but having a basic understanding of your money and control over finances is critical. Women, for way too long, have been pushing all the financial decisions on men. If you have taken the big leap of faith in starting your own business, have faith in your ability to understand the finances too. Financial independence is magic ladies!
Negotiate. My husband and I often debate about this topic and I realise how critical it is to negotiate. Lucky to have him, always push my boundaries. It’s simple: You don’t ask, you don’t get. Don’t mistake negotiation for being “pushy.” Women tend to undervalue their worth at the workplace. A business negotiation requires good listening and questioning skills, in addition to a solid business case for your “ask.” Think about that ahead of time and do your homework, especially related to your worth.
The entrepreneurial journey is mostly lonely, so learn to take some time for your mental health. There are days when I cry and days when I make decisions, that my heart can’t control the excitement. However, experiencing extreme emotions is not healthy. Look for your middle ground. Have a routine that is outside of your work too.
Don’t feel sorry for being too passionate about your business. I often miss calls from friends and family. I am not happy about this but there are very few people who are a part of this journey and will understand that starting your own business is no less than starting a family. You know how - once you become a mother, your priority changes. Your world revolves around your baby. That’s exactly what I am experiencing. Only, in my case, my baby is Cojournal.
Sometimes trust the person to do the right job, and if they fail you, learn from it. Own your decisions. The best part about this whole journey, learning is at every step. And do different experiences make you stronger? Oh yes, absolutely yes! It makes you confident enough to speak the truth or to face the next challenge with a wide smile.
Power dressing, ladies, works like magic! If you have been following my blogs for a long time, you will know my take on power dressing. Read it here, if you haven’t already.
Express yourself. Laugh, cry, dance or get grumpy if you have to but express yourself. As a woman entrepreneur, you are going to experience many more emotions than men do. Trust me, there will be hilarious incidents, and shocking ones too but embrace both and do not bottle them up.
Honestly, this is not an exhaustive list but I would like to sum it up with one thing to remember for every business out there. There are cheerleaders, be it from your family or friends. They will show faith while the rest of the world still takes time. Hold these cheerleaders close to your heart. Keep them happy. Hear them out. While growing, give a hand or a leg up for others to grow too.
Happy Women’s Day today and every day! Don’t settle with a seat at the table,
Make your own table and have a feast while the world watches you.