Most of you know me as someone who keeps it real as an Indian Mom Blogger. Many of you message me about how you admire how honest I am. And I am. I find it tiring to keep track of the lies one must have told, as one will have to do if you indulge in lying. And so, I keep it simple. I talk about the loneliness of new motherhood. I write about feeling lost as an expat wife. I talk about the 22 rejections I got, before I got my first acceptance letter from a publisher. But something I rarely talk about is how I was an utter failure at my first and so far, only entrepreneurial venture.
It was in 2011, that I decided to set up an Ideation Consultancy called First Feather. The idea was to function as a thinking cap for those who wanted to start something of their own in the business or creative space. First Feather was to give them the ideas and even the action plan to implement those ideas effectively. The concept was a success. Within weeks of its launch, the consultancy got a lot of publicity, some of it still visible on the Internet. There were interviews in international media and features in national sites. All of this translated to clients.
The first client I worked with from scratch wanted to start a tuition center in a rural Rajasthan town. I worked with him painstakingly, helping him figure out timelines and USPs and budget pitfalls. It was hard work but exhilarating. And that first cheque made my heart soar. I had made this happen all on my own.
I had plans of expansion – diversifying into on-ground services, starting an e-books division, the ground work of which was already done, hiring more ideation consultants and so on. It was a glorious period, till it was not.
I soon realized that people were eager to hire us but unwilling to pay. They could not stomach the concept of having to fork up money for what was just an ‘Idea’ or a ‘Thought’. Being based in Manila, I was unable to meet and sit with most of our clients face to face, as they were literally spread across the world. And then my personal life came butting in, when I got pregnant with my first child and then we had to move to El Salvador as my husband’s job, our primary source of income, required us to do so.
I shut myself up for some soul searching. How was I going to take this forward? Would I be spreading myself too thin? And would my hard work pay off in the end? After detailed sessions of listing pros and cons, I decided to shut the consultancy down. There were too many variables at work and I could not predict favorable outcomes in many scenarios.
I’ve never talked or written about First Feather. You will not find it in my bio. Specifically because it took a while for me to accept that I had failed. At the risk of sounding vain, I must say that I was not used to it. But today almost 6 years after I shut it down, I feel like I needed this failure to teach me a lot of valuable lessons, some of which I would like to share with you all.
1. Know if you have the required entrepreneurial skill set
I thought that I would be able to run a business because I was good at coming up with creative thoughts, solutions and content. What I could not really stomach was having to chase clients for payments. As an entrepreneur, you should always have the skills to clearly understand the financial value of your product and to get even the most reluctant client to fork up. If you don’t think you can do it, maybe it is best to leave the selling and financial aspect to someone else.
2. Always leave space in your plan for unexpected variables
There will always be things that you had not accounted for in your business plan. Illness, emotional crisis even natural disasters… it is impossible to map out what could affect your business. While you can’t solve a problem before it happens, always keep in mind that the surprise around the next corner might not be a pleasant one so that you are not completely blindsided when it happens.
3. Take time to process your failure before moving on to the next
No one likes to dwell on mistakes. But if your mistake is a venture you poured yourself into, do take the time to dwell on it. Plot out the reasons why it failed. Analyze what happened. Embrace the sadness that comes with it. Accept it before moving on.
4. Don’t expand and diversify as soon as the business starts doing well. Take toddler steps.
Sometimes businesses take off even before they truly start. The concept resonates. The product is a hit. Clients are easy to come by. And you feel like this was easy and you can easily do more. But there is a saying in Malayalam that loosely translates to, ‘sit down before you stretch your legs out’. Make sure that you know your business in and out before you expand or diversify. Take a cue from a child. Learn to crawl and stand up and walk before you run.
5. Don’t let failure stop you from taking risks
Remember that this is just a temporary setback. A failure need not clip your wings forever. Take it as a stepping stone that allows you to sit back and reevaluate what went wrong and what you can do better the next time around. Sure, failure is sad and painful.
But don’t forget that it’s always darkest before dawn.
Guest post by – Shweta Ganesh Kumar
Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a Writer, Blogger and Editor of The Times Of Amma, a blog and community dedicated to mothers. She was awarded the prestigious Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity in the Blog –Web Category for 2017 for her article, “Why The Phrase “Boys Will Be Boys” Is Damaging Our Sons ” published in Women’s Web. Her blog has been listed amongst the ‘Top Ten Indian Mom Blogs to follow’ on various Indian parenting sites. Indian Moms Connect ranked her Instagram profile as the Number One Indian Mom account to follow. Her latest book, ‘The Beginner’s Guide to the Indian Mom Blogger Universe’ is on Amazon bestseller lists.
Thank you Shwetha. We are glad to have you write us for the first time about the entrepreneurial side of yours. WOI wishes you all the best for your future endeavours. Keep writing 🙂
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