Founders’ Story of 3 Women Entrepreneurs

FWD Insights. Originally published at fwdbusiness.com on April 5, 2017.

Photo Courtesy: Various Sources

Entrepreneurship is not defined by gender, skin, colour or cadre, it defined by your preparation, attitude and will to succeed, come what may. Everything else is secondary. I’m a huge believer of Sheryl’s Sandberg’s ‘Sit at the Table’ analogy. Either you are offered a place or not, I always went for the chair, spoke for my voice to be heard, listened to the conversation and learned something when I’m there. I’ve never doubted even once, that I couldn’t accomplish what a man of my qualifications could. The key to being successful in your part is being prepared, making sure you do your home-work and bringing your best to the table.

Things that has helped me overcome every hurdle

We can always say that society is male dominated, that it is partial with no support system to nurture women, to teach and to spoon fed us when it is called for. Let’s get one thing straight ladies, if you are an entrepreneur, you are in it for your own passion and benefits. No one is going to spoon feed you. You are on your own. Don’t expect everyone you meet to be nice to you, because you were competing for the same opportunity/money and equally qualified men and women are a dime a dozen. Given, when an option of choosing a project or job is to be given to a man or woman, if your future boss has to baby sit you to get the job done, then it’s no surprise when they choose an option of least resistance.

Lack of education, resources, limited mobility and finance are excuses that women tend to make for themselves to justify not working. These things become obstacles when you take your focus off the goal of running your business, if you needed to win as badly as you need to take your next breath, you will figure out a way to make it work and win the day, that’s how you define your path to success. Nobody can define it for you, you alone have the power to do it for yourself. I have asked two leading women entrepreneurs whom I have known for years to share their experience in this edition. I hope it encourages and inspires you to take on the challenges of entrepreneurship and give it your best every day, one day at a time.

My story at Fundcloud

My limitations in starting Fundcloud were initially in establishing credibility, getting to know how the market behaves, learning to speak the local business language and at time the time, shortage of funds for lavish office spaces and coffee meetings, and being new to a communist state. When I did my homework, I reached out to mentors, advisors and peers who were more than willing to help, offer the right advice, point me in the right direction and get me meetings with every business man in town, if my intentions and their purposes of interaction meet. It’s called a hustle, and it’s been my mantra to keep going until every door opens.

Community Problems

When I started living in Cochin two years ago, I noticed that inspite of being a highly literate state where women outnumber men, women from local communities are suppressed and never voice their opinions in public. Most are self-imposed limitations, which can be overcome. I have also met some amazing women in Kochi from legendary old school businesses like Sherlyn of Milan Designs, Ambika Pillai of Ambika Pillai Salons, Beena Kannan of Seemati, Sheela Kochouseph of V-guard, to new generation of tech entrepreneurs like Chandra Vadhana of T4Trainer.com, Parvathy of Tastejet. com, to Sreevalli of Bariks, every one of them is impressive in their own right, managing family, work and kids with a system of support in place. The common thread among them is that these women are open to new ideas, improvise as they go and never let the societal challenges bring them down.

The local competitive community will always hit you hard and given the nature of our middle class upbringings, it’s easy to be addicted to excuses. But in order to be successful in a career or a startup, women must resist the need to feel validated.Obliging to favours to feel accepted should not be a priority. If you end up looking like a rebel, if you are outspoken or even outcast, don’t be discouraged, people will always walk back to you once you are successful and shining your own limelight. I have observed, many times, that it is women, and not men, who are the worst critics to fellow women. Often, men mind their own business, but women don’t. It’s about time we encouraged fellow women at work, on the streets, and in our community so that everyone can have a chance to build their dream and make a meaningful life for themselves and their families. Sometimes all you need is a little pat in on back to get one going. Let’s be a force of good.

Chandra Vadhana R

Chandra Vandhana, CEO, T4Trainer.com

Chandra Vadhana R Founder & CEO , 4Tune Factory & www.T4Trainer.com NASSCOM STARTUP WAREHOUSE, Kochi. 4Tune Factory is a Skill development and Human Resource Consulting company. www.T4Trainer.com is India’s Premium portal for hiring, networking and development of Trainers, Speakers and Educators.

How did I Start up?

Right from childhood I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Coming from a middle class family, business was not considered something to aspire for. I went on to complete my MBA and MSc (Psy), then took up multiple jobs in corporate, social and education sector for ten years. Later, I decided to enter into training business as a Freelance Trainer along with a recruitment service. However, that’s when I realized that the trainer ecosystem in Kerala was highly competitive and price sensitive. Many of the clients whom I tried to send proposals had two complaints: one, trainer fees are high. Two, previous training programs did not yield the desired results. On further research, I could found that high skilled trainers were charging exorbitant fees which companies could not afford, whereas there was another group of low skilled trainers who were willing to do programs even for free. This had made the marketplace a mess in the state.

I then started my initiative towards bringing together the trainer community by arranging meet ups, training programs and conferences. My initial attempts failed. But once I started my online marketplace concept www.T4Trainer. com, which got selected as a NASSCOM 10K Startup, things started to change. We started to organize regular monthly meetups called K-NET Meets (Knowledge Network Meets) for trainers where trainings on various subjects were imparted and junior trainers were mentored by seniors. This helped in improving our training services as well.

When we started providing companies with our ‘verified’ and ‘trained’ trainers, our quality of service was rated high by corporates and institutions. Today we have clients all over India and trainers from various parts of the world. Our next step is to provide ‘certified’ trainers where trainers are assessed for their competence and clients can be sure of the quality. My dream is to make T4T as a symbol of high quality trainer hiring. I also have other entrepreneurial dreams in the education sector which I hope to materialize one by one! Recently we organised the Trainer 4Tomorrow: National Trainers Summit jointly with Indian Society for Training & Development and Jan Shikshan Sansthaan (TVM), which was probably the biggest trainers’ event in the state.

As a woman, what challenges have I faced?

Firstly, I don’t wish to brand myself as a ‘Woman Entrepreneur’ because I think, once you enter entrepreneurship, the playing field is the same and hence expecting any favours just because you are a woman doesn’t work! Infact I have felt the reverse wherein I could easily get attention and better reception being a woman in meetings. Well, I don’t think I had to face too much challenges being a woman entrepreneur. The only challenge was to convince my family to let me do what I want to! For woman, some of the challenges in starting your own business is convincing and getting family support, being mobile (not depending on someone else for going and meeting a client), getting rid of selfdoubt, and finding the right mentors.

Tips for fellow women

If you have a dream go ahead and do it. Nothing can stop a person who has a right dream and acts towards it! And yes, don’t quit when you fail.

Stephanie Rozek

Stephanie Rozek, Executive Director, Hive

Stephanie Rozek: Executive Director, Hive Waterloo Region, Advocate for Diversity & Inclusion. Hive Waterloo Region is an independent not-for-profit, member of Mozilla Leadership Network, promoting digital literacy and open access to the web particularly work with youth and women, giving them the technical tools to discover and shape their world.

It’s not easy being the outlier. For over twenty years now I’ve followed a path where I often find myself in nontraditional roles, primarily those of a woman in the technology sector. Like many young women, I chose to study engineering because I was good in math and science, and it seemed to offer a more realistic career path than the music and arts I was equally skilled at. However, again like many women, over time I grew to realize the challenges and realities of working in a predominantly male field. My strong sense of social justice has guided me in various iterations towards the work I’m doing today, acting as the Executive Director of Hive Waterloo Region, a Canadian not-for-profit working to foster digital literacy skills and promote diversity in tech.

The best advice I would offer to my fellow female entrepreneurs would be to:

Surround yourself with strong women (and men) who will mentor and sponsor you. Learn resilience: how to rest and not to quit. Check in regularly with your values and make sure your goals are still aligned with them, so that you continue to be inspired by your work. Be brave — know you are standing on the shoulders of so many women before you who are cheering you on.

Closing Notes

In the words of Nobel Laureate Fraser J. Stoddart -You need the strength of a horse, the hide of an elephant and the work ethic of a honeybee. If you want to be the best in whatever you do. Decide whether you want to do it or not. Once you decide, there are no shortcuts, no excuses in life and in business. Creating something of value, is always a long hard path with sweat, mud and emotional challenges that you need to overcome to outgrow your present self and emerge as a better, more successful version of yourself. Let’s stop making excuses in the name of being women, instead let’s rejoice celebrate the skin we are born in and make the world a better place, one day at a time.

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