You Can Do It!
How EJCP became the entrepreneurial launchpad for a journalist.
I have been a multimedia journalist for more than a decade. Ideation, writing, traveling for stories, editing, and planning, I got a taste of everything. It was in 2020, however, that I realized I could also build something. The thought first hit me when I did a Facebook Live about my experience of using the menstrual cup in the Marathi language, spoken by 80 million people in India and the world. In days, the video was all over social media. I just had my first inspirational moment as a creator!
The menstrual cup is not yet normalized among women, and less so among women in India and the Marathi community. Further, nearly all information about menstrual health and hygiene on the Internet is in English. When I spoke about it in the native language, it got immense attention.
This series of events after that Facebook Live during lockdown signaled to me that I should create digital content around menstrual hygiene. Taking a cue from that, I launched the Streelok podcast, the first Marathi podcast that talks about menstrual hygiene, on the occasion of International Women’s Day of 2021. I produce it once a month, and I am reaching newer audiences with every episode.
Serving the Marathi audience, especially women, with such content was the very simple aim I had in mind. It was like a seed, and it was germinating. Undoubtedly, I wanted it to grow. But frankly, I was clueless about how I would do that. At about the same time, I applied for The Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. I thought about it as a golden opportunity for a journalist like me, who had never worked outside my native language, with a chance to interact with the best mentors in journalism in the world, and creators-to-be from across the world. EJCP gave me not just this, but showed me direction at every turn, gave me tons of confidence, taught me to have realistic goals, and most importantly, helped me think about my creation as a product, and how to generate and engage the audience.
We had two sessions each week, and that part of the week was most enjoyable for me. Learning was never daunting at EJCP. The credit goes to Jeremy Caplan, the director of the program. He is like a lighthouse for me, someone who showed me direction. His is the one who helped me understand the nuance of my project. He shaped my project from its raw form, like how a potter gives shape to clay. My project walked ahead, one step at a time, every week, as sessions progressed.
There are a few specific things I learned that changed my outlook during the 100-day program.
Understanding the community
Ariel Zirulnick’s asynchronous and live lessons helped me develop the value proposition of my project. A reality check of how painful the problem I am trying to address is, and how the solution I am providing will help the community, helped my project go on to the next level.
Delegating work, turning data into actionable insights, aggregating priorities, and dividing tasks into buckets: each of her insights was extremely important for my project. She taught me how to design a path with multiple goals.
Most of the instructors had this advice for us. If you start small and keep adding features to the product, one at a time, it is a near-perfect recipe to help the project grow. I told myself this: I have started the project, Streelok, with a podcast. I will keep adding new digital products such as a YouTube Channel, a Facebook private group, and a website, as I go ahead.
Friends, not competitors!
The partnership exercise where she asked us to write down the names of potential and like minded partners I would like to have in this project. This was the most valuable because it made me think of how necessary it is to have right person as a partner to take this venture on the next level.
Also, maintaining relationships with others who do similar work, and looking at them as friends and not competitors, was a key takeaway from her sessions. This prodded me to connect with some of the amazing people in my community working on the ground on the subject of menstrual health and hygiene.
My project is for the public good so I can’t keep it behind a paywall. I learned various other ways to generate revenue through membership during this program. Giving ownership of the project to the community members is what I will be following up on. Generating revenue through my project is challenging, but I am going to reach out to influencers, potential sponsors, non-governmental organizations in the space, and corporate donors for collaborations.
I am really in awe of the efforts Jeremy Caplan and Danielle Bonnici had put into designing and running this entire course. Every week was full of excitement and new learnings. I enjoyed watching the introductions of others in the cohort on the Flipgrid app at the beginning of the course. It gave a fabulous start to the course. The discussion I used to have during break-out rooms were fulfilling. During coffee hours, I loved to share about my city, our culture, and my family. This diverse sharing helped all the thirty participants in the cohort to know each other and become friends. We shared our favorite music on a Padlet and, thanks to Danielle, for she put it all in one playlist! I listen to this EJCP playlist almost every day now :)
I am glad to be a part of this cohort and super happy to have made new friends. I am excited to implement what I learned and refine my project further. In the next 100 days, I will try to launch a YouTube channel and a website entirely dedicated to menstrual health and hygiene in Marathi.
My mentor, John Samuel Raja, who runs How India Lives, gave me insights into his journey as he built his product, which is now a company! His first-hand experience in building a venture was a lesson in itself.
I admit that I was naive at the beginning of the project. I knew what kind of content could serve my community, but I sidelined the crucial aspects that could help sustain the project. My efforts will now follow a clearly carved out path. Achieving this seemed like a larger-than-life dream at first, but now it feels like it will be fun. Further, I will look at it as my business now.