Born and raised in India, I grew up seeing almost all women around me depend on their men for money. They never had money of their own. They asked for money from their fathers, husbands and sons. I believed that women did not need to own their money. They should let the men be the custodian of the money in the family. As a result, all my life, whenever I earned money, I let the men in my life keep them. I did not keep any money for myself. In fact, I came to Canada with only $250 and the moment I landed here, I gave all of that money to my husband then! I lived eight years of my life, working for my ex husband and never asked him to pay me for all the work I did to support and grow his business. Over the years, my ex- husband’s financial profile grew exponentially. I would feel ashamed to ask him to be paid for my work. Later in life I realized how important it was for me to have my own money. I was diagnosed with cancer and prescribed a needle that was not covered by Health Canada. It cost $2000. My ex husband refused to pay that money because he did not think it was necessary. I had no other family here to support me. Our very loving tenants, who are women entrepreneurs and run a women’s clothes boutique, secretly gave me the money for my injection. It was a reality-check for me and I realized that my life was not worth $2000 for a man who had three children between us. I had sincerely served him with all my skills for years and never counted pennies between us. I continued to live a life of emotional and financial abuse because I had no money. I was afraid that I would fail to support my four children financially. Having no money of my own meant that I had no freedom to choose differently. I had no money to break free from my ex husband’s ultimatums and create my own life by my design.
This experience was the biggest learning I had in my life. I did not want to ever be without my own money again. I could do a full time job as a licensed Ontario Certified Teacher or be an entrepreneur to earn my money. I chose being an entrepreneur as it allows me to be a mother to my children and spend time with them. I have flexibility to work from home and I have freedom to plan my calendar. I know what it feels like to not have money. That frustration fuels my passion. Being an entrepreneur allows me to choose where I want to invest my time and money and fits in with the idea of supporting other women. As I fulfill on my purpose of empowering women, my life’s purpose sustains me. After my divorce and on regaining my health, I invested in programs on self empowerment and leadership and sought mentorship from successful women entrepreneurs to get to where I am today.
Be Your Own North Star - I do most of my work over the phone or on Skype. I meet them in person if it is helpful to do so. I have mostly worked with women on a one- on-one basis as a women’s empowerment coach. Most women are reluctant to speak about their problems in a group setting. I am presently creating an online program for women that they could access from their own homes.
Immigrant Women in Business – India Chapter - As a founding member of Immigrant Women in Business (IWB), I am representing India. Under the mentorship of Founder Svetlana Ratnikova, we are collaborating with other women entrepreneurs in the organization, to launch our platform in Brampton to empower women. Women who are dealing with various challenges like being new immigrants in Canada, women who are enduring domestic abuse or struggling with language proficiency and financial challenges, and, are looking for a breakthrough in their lives. Our goal is to empower them and support them to become entrepreneurs.
Spoken Lives - I run the Toronto West event under the mentorship of Elizabeth Verwey, the founder of Toronto Lives. Once a month four inspiring women share their stories in a room full of listeners. These speakers are not trained and professional. They have a story to tell that will touch, move and inspire others. The event is announced on Eventbrite and the tickets include dinner!
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdle is to find an answer to where do I start?
The best way to overcome the hurdles of not knowing what we don’t know is to ask someone who has already been there and done that. The other hurdle was not having enough money to invest in mentorship. I was taking on a new way of living so I had to plan my day differently. It is challenging on some days to keep my word because there is a lot to do as a mother of four children and then to pursue my own dream of being an entrepreneur. My word is what keeps me going.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I am reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and highly recommend it.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it?
No I have not dealt with any contention from my family and friends. I am so blessed and lucky that they are proud of me and cheer me on.
What would you do differently in hindsight? What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
I would have first gained work experience and earned my own money and created a financial back up before I got married.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I have learned that it is very important to build a team of people, your inner circle -the people who have your back. You do not have to do everything alone. Create a powerful team as we are stronger together (IWB motto)!
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
You are the risk takers the game-changers! Believe in yourself. Any idea alone is just a concept, take action on them to solve meaningful problems. Be willing to learn from other entrepreneurs. Embrace failure as your biggest learning experience to not give up. Break your bigger goals into smaller achievable daily goals. Create a weekly action plan. Review the action plan at the end of every week. Don’t take things personally. No as an answer does not mean never! Launch your business. Don’t wait to feel ready!