My Journey as an Entrepreneur
I grew up in an army home, where change was the oxygen we breathed; shifting cities every so often. I went to six schools in the 12 years of schooling. On the con side, left so many best friends behind that I can’t even recall their names. On the pro side, I got an opportunity to re-invent myself in every new city we went to because my new friends had no past to box me; that I became a better version of myself with every shift. My deep comfort with the ambiguous and constant change probably comes from this nomadic upbringing. My father comes from a family of 7 brothers in a tiny village near Amritsar with not enough money to go around. While in school, he sold food on the village streets and worked in a factory to supplement his father’s income. After tenth grade, he stepped out to a nearby town to join the Indian Army as a nursing assistant. He continued to work hard, learnt English by watching English movies at night. Finally, his dedication and commitment to a greater life paid off when he became an officer in the Indian Army. My mother is a child of the partition. All of two years, she found herself with her mother & brother in a refugee camp on the Indian side having lost her father and prosperity to the rage that she had no clue about. The three of them slept on the same bed, my maternal grandmother went to the same school as her kids till she had educated herself enough to get a job as a primary school teacher in a government school in Punjab. Life had begun to look up for them till another blow came their way and my mother’s brother who had just begun to bring home money died in an accident. All these ups and downs settled my mom into a sense of something bigger than what is visible and she started her deep personal spiritual journey in search of greater meaning beyond loss that had been her perpetual shadow. I inherited from my father the courage to dream big and take powerful action to realize them. From my mother, I inherited the greater understanding of the wonderment of the Universe and stillness to go within. With such an inheritance, I ended up becoming a Business Coach supporting people to create wealth by realizing their greatest dreams in deepest communion with their highest self.
We are three sisters. Fortunately, we were in the Army that we got a liberal positive childhood that all three of us are professionally fulfilled and happy today. I left my successful corporate career to follow my dream to be an entrepreneur. Deepika is a pathologist in the Indian Army and Monica works for a multi-national. Somehow, however much my parents tried to give us a gender-bias free upbringing, I really got I am a girl and that it was probably not a good news. I grew up as a tom-boy rebelling against all that was feminine in me. The height of anger against being a girl found its maximum expression when I found myself in an engineering college, where I was specifically told not to wear jeans and to wear salwar kameez. I blew over, not only because my sense of freedom was heckled but also because I had a logistics issue. I had no salwar kameez to wear. Well, I dug my feet in and wore nothing but jeans all of my 4 years there with a rape fatwa on my head constantly hanging like a Damocles sword. Ofcourse, there is always an impact if you live your life with constant anger in your heart. Those 4 years were also the most lonely. In retrospect, I am deeply grateful for how things were at the college because I became a better human being as an outcome of that seclusion as I read one book a week in search of how I could live my greatest life. That is when I consciously began studying and researching the purpose of human existence.
With this background, it should come as no surprise that when I finally hung up my corporate boots to start my entrepreneurial journey, it was to start Mums At Work™ with the mission to support women to realize their greatest dreams in deepest communion with their highest self and have it all – deeply fulfilling successful career, joyful relationships, happy responsible kids and lots of nourishing me-time.
There are 5 mountains that an entrepreneur has to climb in her journey –
Ofcourse, the above model is the shortest route to sustainable success with velocity but most entrepreneurs miss out to train themselves on the science of entrepreneurship and instead focus just on being product experts. That is why, 9 out of 10 start-ups fail world-wide in the first five years of their existence, as per a Fortune magazine study.
I started my journey as an entrepreneur in August 2010, using my kids as an excuse to step out of my high-paying, cushy corporate job as Director, American Express. Prior to that, I was Vice-President with Citigroup. I feel gratitude for being a woman because I know I would still have been in the corporate rat-race if I were a man with no courage to leave a fat pay-packet behind, having the financial responsibility of the family burnt into my head. My mid-life crisis started because of the long hours my corporate job required, leaving me deeply unfulfilled in my role as a mother of 2 tiny ones at home who would squibble for my time as I reached home only close to their bed-time, exhausted after a long haul at work with no energy to contribute to their lives.
When you get into your mid-life crisis, fall on your knees and thank the heavens because this is the last ditch effort of the Universe to get you to follow your dream, live your passion, to live the greatest life that you were born to live. Use the crisis to rise like the Phoenix; that is why the crisis is in the first place, to get you to be bigger than who you are. Every day, I thank heavens for my 5 year mid-life crisis because if it wasn’t for that, I would not have figured my purpose of life nor would I have had the courage to risk all to realize my greatest dreams in deepest communion with my highest self.
On Mountain 2, I broke many business models to live the mission of Mums At Work™ - from delivering groceries to women at KPMG, trying to take hobby classes to work-place to reduce the stress that women face, part-time corporate jobs for them so that they didn’t have to quit their career for good in order to raise kids, train the trainer program with NIIT so that women could become free-lance trainers at their own time, travel consultant program with Club Mahindra, inspirational talks at Bank of America, Sapient on Women’s Day. Nothing I did created any sustainable value. I nearly shut down Mums At Work™ in January 2013 but what held me back was that I had employees and thank god for that. In that phase of darkness, suddenly I saw light at the end of the tunnel when in April 2013, the first batch of Realize Your Dreams (RYD) Entrepreneurship Program started with 6 women to support them to transform their passion into their profession; into sustainable, profitable, successful business. It was a huge personal success for me. In order to be self-sustaining, we had begun to charge Rs 600 as annual membership fees in 2012. Now, we were creating so much value that people were willing to pay Rs 6000/- to be in the first batch. That was in 2013. In 2017, we have been able to exponentially increase the value that we are delivering that we have customers queuing up for annual membership with Mums At Work™ Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence at Rs 2 lakhs for the year. Mums At Work™ is really a Realize Your Dreams Gym for women to create wealth by realizing their greatest dreams in deepest communion with their highest self and have it all. Having transmuted my anger at being a woman to deep gratitude for who I am, I am looking forward to making Realize Your Dreams Gyms available to both men & children in the future. Those are 2 new business models, 2 new organizations, still pregnant with possibilities of the direction they will take.
I finally found what created value in 2013, what was missing that would make a difference. It was validated as missing in the world as customers signed-up for the program and paid money for it. With an idea of what would create value, I started to climb Mountain 3 in search of a repeatable, scalable, business model that I could potentially scale-up after creating a successful self-running prototype. On Mountain 3, I have again broken multiple business models to finally create a 3-centre model for Mums At Work™:
After 6 years of boot-strapping from my home, Mums At Work™ has finally found a home in Inhwa Business Centre in Gurgaon. The reason I never ventured out for funding is that I believe funding should be sought only on Mountain 4, when you are scaling up and not earlier when you are really in the search mode. Also, external funds bring in with it a pace that I may not want to have. I believe in being a tortoise than a hare because I want to be true to the philosophy and technology of life and business that Mums At Work™ stands for.
The biggest challenge for me has been retaining people long enough. This is totally a function of my leadership maturity. I always say the biggest barrier to Mums At Work™ is Jyoti Gulati. With the velocity that I will become wiser and grow as a leader, with that velocity will Mums At Work™ grow. Just as we are creating momentum to scale up, our Head of Operations put in her papers, leaving me as a solopreneur. I completely support her decision because she wants to step out to realize her dreams. I am delighted that she has the courage to be authentic to her highest self. As I reflect back, the velocity with which I have course-corrected would have been totally disconcerting to the staff members.
In all the highs and lows, left-turns and the right-turns, forwards and backwards; what has truly sustained me is the progress that our customers have made in having it all. When Kanika Singh joined, she was an unhappy corporate professional. In her third year with Mums At Work™, she has established herself as an Artist Entrepreneur with her beautifully hand-crafted vibrant Mosaic Art Work that are much sought for. When Deepti Arora joined in, she was a home-maker with no clue of what she wanted , only that she wanted to do something. In her third year with Mums At Work™, her business Deliver Delights is working with schools and young mothers to transform picky eaters to happy eaters; which she’s totally passionate about. More than the business success, what fulfills her the most is the respect that she is now experiencing as a working professional. Aditti Gupta (Founder, Ppro Foreign Education Consultancy) and Shefali Dehl (Founder, Ombre Craft) came in as partners in a business which was not doing well financially. Within the Mums At Work™ program structure, they got in touch with their own passions, shut down the original business that they had joined for and set-up businesses deeply connected with their passion, their purpose. They have been growing consistently month on month over the last two years with Mums At Work™. Infact, Shefali recently gave birth to a baby girl (her second baby after Ombre Craft) and as per her, it has been a joyful effortless journey to transition into motherhood because of Mums At Work™.
Raising kids is a weak excuse to not live your greatest life because you can do it all; infact raising extra-ordinary human beings can only happen when you are living an authentic life, realizing your greatest dreams in deepest communion with your highest self so that your children can learn how to. Pull the world to your peace than be drawn to the chaos in the world. All it takes is you.
10/1/2017 04:49:20 pm
Jyoti, I was a part of the the NIIT Tain the trainer group in 2012. I worked with Genpact for a year and then moved to Berlitz Language Center and was their Head of Pedagogy for over 2 years. In 2015, i moved out to venture on my own and currently i too work from home- I have converted 2 rooms into classrooms and teach English to people from 7 to 65 years. Thanks to you, i found my calling -Teaching Communicative English to foreign nationals from my school called Global English Ecole.
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