Updated: Dec 7, 2021
In a world where women are 24% more likely to lose their full time employment (than men based on Catalyst Research Feb 2021) or stay-at-home-mums fear the stability of their partner’s job and family income, a new wave of women entrepreneurs is emerging.
I’m Nav Kumari, mother of 3 (all born within 3 years), a wellness advocate, certified yoga teacher and founder of SATTRA in 2020. I have worked for global branding agencies in Europe and Asia for 15 years but always had a passion for wellness whilst practicing yoga and learning about nutrition everywhere I’ve travelled.
In June 2020, I was made redundant. What would usually have been considered an unfortunate situation left me feeling over the moon. I took it as an opportunity to build and create my wellness brand, SATTRA which, up to that point, I’d been working on during the evenings and weekends when my children were asleep.
In the course of a global pandemic it is no surprise that more women like me have been taking the leap of faith into becoming business owners by unlocking hidden creative, financial and digital talents that are far more than just a pastime – and they’re making valuable economic contributions. Worldwide, women now own 36% of small businesses and employ over 9 million people (Women Entrepreneur Statistics Feb 2021).
Now combine this with motherhood! Science proves that motherhood changes the brain on a neurological level. As women, we start to question our life’s purpose (I most certainly did!), and the thought of going back to work after maternity leave fills many of us with dread. Becoming a business founder and owner gives us a sense of purpose whilst allowing us to be flexible and present for our family. That being said, it's not always an easy path or one where you work less. Oftentimes you may work more and potentially are stretched thin.
Among my friends alone, I’m seeing women who are showing the balls to set up business during the pandemic. Sarah Baker, a mother of four young children, introduced her Story Cashmere brand using fabric products from Mongolia. Rajul Shah took it upon herself to train in culinary nutrition and is compiling nutrition programs for busy families looking to introduce vegetarian mindful eating into their homes with Vegetarian Healing Kitchen. And Sarah Kalmeta launched 2 businesses - Aveita and Pivot Point - providing products and services as a success coach & educator, corporate wellness trainer and authenticity advocate. Set up before the pandemic, but flourishing during it, Malabar Baby was conceived when Anjali Harjani – a Hong Kong-based young mother - realised the need for great quality and affordable gifting items for women and their growing families. There just didn't seem to be anything available in Asia to fill this gap, so with a family foundation in textiles in India, she created a business of giftable organic cotton and now ships worldwide.
More woman based in Hong Kong who give us great inspiration are Sarah Keates founder of boutique marketing and PR agency, White Orchid Insights, Stephanie Poon mother of 3 from HK provides fun arts & crafts through her Little City Tales platform, and Dervla Louli Musgrave – pregnant with her first baby – continues to advocate luxury wellness destinations even though travel is restricted. Dervla has been sharing beautiful home baking during the global lock-downs. And my mentor, Mindy Tagliente, Head of Well-being at Wellness for Life, is a Life Coach, Mindfulness and Meditation teacher and Yoga Instructor leading inspiring wellness retreats, workshops and experiences for schools, corporate businesses and private students.
All these ladies have endeavoured on ventures which have been nurtured from a place of deep insight, personal experience and a strong will to drive a business that reflects their own passions.
IT’S A RESOURCEFUL WORLD
Setting up a business is not so daunting these days. In 2020 Hong Kong was ranked 3rd easiest country to do business in and rated 4th out of 180 for starting a new business by the World Bank, Doing Business 2020 report (right behind Singapore rated 2nd and 4th respectively). InvestHK is a government advisory body in Hong Kong providing free guidance from incorporation to market research and beyond. From personal experience, OSOME HK makes incorporating your business overnight a seamless introduction to setting up and running a business in Hong Kong.
Specifically for women, there are many resources globally that support such as Women in Business Club, and Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide who give access to inspirational business women from all over the world. And HK Momtrepreneurs or Tribe Hong Kong (founded by a Hong Kong Mom and vegan chef, Kanchan Porta-Panjabi) offers support specifically from Asia. Anca Griffiths, CEO and co-founder of Om Experts has done an exceptional job with creating a platform for women’s health and wellbeing, provided by women for women.
A BUSINESS MINDSET
“We don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are” Anais Nin.
When setting up your own business, never lose sight of the passion that is driving your intentions. Having spoken with many women who’ve set up their dream job during the pandemic, here are some juicy insights that are common amongst them all.
Authenticity from the heart - As females we are far more driven by our intuition and that shows in how we tell the story behind our service. Create bonding relationships that are engaging, as your customers/clients are looking for brands that tell a story and are personable. Show yourself as the founder of the business to portray your values. Only do this if it feels authentic to you as anything false will scream volumes louder.
Driven together - Be prepared to work hard. There is a lot that goes into a new business set-up, but be reminded to never work in isolation. Many find that networking amongst women can feel seamless, presenting a beautiful sisterhood for collaboration and skill-sharing opportunities.
Multi-mothers - Set a clear structure when juggling business, meetings, home-based e-learning for children, and household tasks. But even with structure, be prepared for sudden changes and in those moments stay mindful of what is most important at that given moment. Do I tend to my upset child amidst a tantrum or do I concentrate on finalising the next business opportunity? Only you will intuitively know what is the best thing to do at that particular moment. Be easy on yourself.
Take-a-break - Take time to incubate. Take time in nature as creative ideas come from giving our mind a break to come up with innovative ideas. The “hustle'' can become a very demoralising way to conduct your business. Lead from a place of authenticity, continuously reminding yourself of your WHY. Patience has been the greatest virtue for me personally, and by using our instinctive nature to trust there is a larger plan that will unfold if we watch carefully for the signs before we take action. Life is bigger than us and everything always works out exactly the way it is meant to be.
Reflect, relearn and refine strategies - If your sales revenue isn't as you’d expected it be due to (COVID) factors out of your control, use this time to up skill and implement marketing and business operations. During the great depression it was recognised that businesses who increased their marketing efforts/spend during the low times, reaped the benefits by staying front of mind for consumers and clients once the economy re-established itself. I also used this past year to up skill and complete an additional 300hr yoga teacher training course with Patrick Creelman.
RIDING THE WAVE
We’re all part of a significant historical event and we’re building skills of resilience and rigour that we’d never have been confronted with before the pandemic. When given restrictions we learn to think creatively within the parameters of constraints brought on by social distancing and trading.
If you too have started out your business during the pandemic (or are thinking about it) you are not the only one to feel the challenges and pressure! Be kind to yourself, have patience and seek your tribe for support and open collaborations. When starting your own business be prepared for challenges as you take the wonderful journey of taking your deep-rooted passion and calling in life to the people who need it. This all takes a lot of courage but it is extremely rewarding!!! You got this….!!!
About the Author
This article was originally written in collaboration with Malabar Baby to celebrate entrepreneurial women. Nav Kumari, founder of SATTRA, is a wellness advocate, mother of 3 and certified Yoga teacher who shares the benefits of the sacred arts to all life stages including families and prenatal.
SATTRA exists to create authentic and inspiring Wellbeing experiences. Alignment yoga teaches us to live & move with dignity & grace from a deeper presence. Our teachings are offered as private sessions, corporate wellbeing, group classes, retreats and prenatal support.