In 2010, I travelled to India as a young journalist writing for The Huffington Post and knew instantly I was meant to live and work there. I returned to Toronto, packed a few belongings and with my dog Roxy in tow, moved to Bombay. Over the last six years, I’ve written for publications like HuffPost, Vogue India, Traveller India and others, opened a digital media agency Moxie Media and launched Bowl Bar, a vegan food and beverage startup.
Starting my own businesses – in India – has been the hardest, most challenging and lonely thing I’ve ever done but it’s also been the most exhilarating, rewarding and fulfilling journey. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
1. You will question and doubt yourself. Keep going.
“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength.” – Founder and CEO, Spanx
Being an entrepreneur is one of the toughest gigs out there because you’re paving a new road, learning on the go and more often than not, traveling that road alone. It’s normal to question yourself, doubt your abilities and second-guess your vision but it cannot stop you. Find what keeps you focused and motivated, be it regular workouts, checking in with mentors or adding to an inspiration board in front of your desk, and schedule time to do those things consistently. When things aren’t going right, simply go left.
2. Networking, collaboration, and mentorship are musts. As women, we’re stronger together.
“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” – Madeleine Albright, former United States Secretary of State
I’m not partial to networking events so I’ve used social media to reach out to inspiring women and spark conversations, many of which have transformed into amazing work opportunities and genuine friendships. A few years ago Arianna Huffington tweeted, ‘there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t RT other women’ and while she was being humorous, there are so many ways we can help each other, online and off. Don’t compete, elevate. Exponential growth and mutual success will always be the outcome.
3. A dollar saved is a dollar earned. Bootstrap.
“Money looks better in the bank than on your feet.” – Sophia Amoruso, Founder and Owner of Nasty Gal
When I opened my digital agency Moxie Media, I found a lovely little office with big windows and great light, renovated it entirely and decorated it with Scandinavian-style furniture and objects from great Indian design shops. While I don’t regret it and loved every moment in that office, I could have done amazing things with the funds I used to put down a deposit, renovate, decorate and pay rent. It’s recently become trendy to be lean thanks to the glorification of tech startups and it’s absolutely at the heart of my second business, Bowl Bar. Explore co-working spaces, remote and contract workers, marketplaces for services and anything else that will keep your business lean. Make sacrifices now to reap rewards later.
4. Use social media to create compelling communities online and off.
“Amazing things happen when you’re having fun and doing something you love.” – Jenna Lyons, CEO of J Crew
Name one brand you love that doesn’t have a cool Instagram account. You probably can’t! Translating the passion and vision you have for your business in a visual, authentic and engaging way on social media is critical for community creation, without which, you have no marketplace. These tools are also free and hence, amazing for startups. Bowl Bar instantly became recognizable for our bright, colorful, beautiful vegan bowls and our customers – including Bollywood celebrities and fashion insiders – would share fun pictures of the bowls they bought and tag us. Demand for the bowls grew organically and exponentially and thus, the Bowl Bar #futureisgreen community was born.
5. Don’t wait for perfection. Ideate, create, iterate and pivot.
“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” – Estee Lauder, Founder of Estee Lauder
There will never be a fail-proof business plan or a perfect time to launch your app so hone your intuition, listen to your gut and as Nike says, “just do it.” There’s never been a better time to be a female entrepreneur but there are millions of us with billions of amazing ideas. Work harder, work smarter and get your product to market. You will learn so much about yourself, your business and your customers along the way. Be positive, be nimble and enjoy the ride!