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Lessons from my first year as an entrepreneur

5 min read

It’s been a year since I quit my job to become an entrepreneur. I took the plunge into the magical world of entrepreneurship with no connections. My only connections were the books I read on startups and successful entrepreneurs.

The possibility of combining creativity, knowledge, passion to build something was profound!

I knew this path would have barriers as an immigrant. Nonetheless, I was willing to give it my all to figure out the right direction. So one chilly day in the Fall of 2019 I quit my job and began to call myself an entrepreneur.

Here’s how I got started and what I have learned in my first year as an entrepreneur.

 

Finding my why

I decided to take a few months to recoup from the burnout from work. When I thought about my experience at work, I had met with resistance to my career growth. I started talking to more women to find out if they had similar experiences. To find more clarity, I read research about gender inequality in the workplace. I attended several meetups and webinars. It turned out to be much deeper than I had imagined.
 
I had found my WHY. I got to work by thinking of ways of highlighting the voices of women working in STEM. How can we understand the problems faced by different ethnic groups? What are some ways to bring autonomy to women working in a corporate or academic setting? How can we advocate for equity for minorities in these fields? How can we see more women in leadership roles?
 
With these thoughts in mind, I started the podcast to interview women. It’s only the beginning, but once I found my why, it’s been much easier to cut out the noise.
 
 

Thinking like an Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur goes far beyond building a product. We have to build a network, know how to market, learn sales, build a team and the list goes on.

How do you learn all this? Research like crazy! I read books, articles, news every single day. I went on social media and followed several accounts to consume content. I lurked around many communities to learn how to be helpful and note the questions people asked.

There is no alternative to this! If someone says they’ll teach you all this, think again. Once you have enough information, execute. Start small and test your ideas. It can be in the form of articles, a community, or a podcast! Get started, I assure you things will get easier with experience.

 
 

Stop the hustle

It’s easy to get sucked into the hustle culture, with many believing that’s the only way to be successful. In reality, it’s quite the opposite. I spoke to several entrepreneurs who got exhausted from hustling. After a while, they had no idea what their purpose was. They were all in search of a more meaningful lifestyle after that stint.

To begin with, I sat and defined what success looks like to me. Taking into account my present stand. It could be- working only 5 hours a day, helping a community, traveling the world while you work.

 

Defining success

Here’s my definition of success for now – use technology to solve a problem, be a thought leader, wholesome living, and be a global citizen. Let me explain why these are my core success values.

 
  • Thought leadership

Two issues I wanted to tackle this – complicated thoughts and unable to engage in conversations online.

I had complicated thoughts because I thought I did not know enough and compared my work with others. It was imposter syndrome along with information overload!

So I analyzed the best way to have small conversations and confirm my thoughts. One-on-one conversations brought out the best in me. So I decided to start my podcast to interview creators, makers, and entrepreneurs.

With practice, I can structure my thoughts on topics like- entrepreneurship, gender equality, and data engineering. The validation was when I got invited to be part of 2 panels as an entrepreneur and women in data.

  • Wholesome living

Working alone is more strenuous than it looks. Yes, I have the freedom to define how my day looks. At the same time, I have no idea what is working out for me and what is not!

I spent my days procrastinating and nights thinking about all the work I should be doing! As a result, I felt cranky most of the time, started putting on weight, and did not do much work.

When I read books like Atomic habits, I found that I wasn’t the only one going through this phase. I saw the importance of having a wholesome practice, where I take care of my mind, body, and work.

By making simple changes and creating a routine, I could see positive results. Now my weekly routine includes – working out 5 times, recording 1 podcast, writing daily, and work.

  • Being a global citizen

The dilemma of most immigrants- debating if they want to stay put or go back to their family in their home country! It’s confusing because I have been here in the USA all my adult life and I know this is where my career can be the best it is. But it’s not easy to leave my family behind in my home country and live here forever.

The emotions immigrant families go through is not discussed enough. Some friends have not seen their families for over 5 years, afraid of losing their visas on traveling.

For me, the family has always been a priority. I have ensured to visit my family at least once every year for the last 6 years(except for 2020). Entrepreneurship is my way of being a global citizen and overcoming restrictions.

 
 

Execution Time

  • Choosing the right type of project

First, let me clarify by stating there is no right or wrong way of building a product or startup. You need to figure the way that suits you the best. For my journey so far, I have tried several ways to do this – podcast, writing, community building. Not everything has been successful, but I learned what works best for me.

Here are a few examples – Non-developer wanting to build a tech product can use no-code tools.

People who enjoy expressing thoughts by writing can start a newsletter. People who enjoy having conversations can start a podcast or YouTube channel. There are plenty of ways you can solve problems.

  • Finding the right mentors

In line with the previous point, you can find mentors if you know what exactly you are building. For me, tech founders are ideal mentors since I’m building a tech product and I’m a developer. DEI leaders are also ideal mentors since I’m trying to understand and fix the diversity issue.

It’s crucial to identify the right mentor for you based on your interest and expertise. Remember mentors are a great asset, you can avoid making so many mistakes by asking for help. They are also great at guiding you towards success. So choose them wisely to build a long-lasting relationship.

 
 

Parting Advice

Always place family & health over professional success. Nothing in your journey is worth losing your mental and physical health. When you are getting started focus on building a sustainable lifestyle for the long term. You don’t have to wake up at 5 AM every morning and hustle for 12 hours each day!

Build a process that works best for YOU. Decide how much time you want to invest in something. Decide who you want to spend your day with. Take out toxic people and processes from your life. The pandemic has only made it clear what is important to us.

Lastly, believe in your intuitions and have faith in your abilities. Start small and be persistent.

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