Want to make the leap from working for others to working for yourself? One female founder shares her experiences of taking the plunge and making the transition from employee to entrepreneur.By Pooja Gugnani (CEO & Founder of Organizing With You, Inc)
Since I was ten years old, I have always dreamed of running my own business. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit despite coming from a very 'non-business' background. If anything, my family had always spoken to me of their belief in ‘playing it safe' and they sought to instil their standards of stability and risk aversion in me. It must have taken my family by surprise, then, when I expressed the desire to be a business owner at a young age, but their influence won out and I started working a desk job with a company I liked (I was a Membership Development Manager at the State Medical Society). Whilst I enjoyed my job and I could see how working for someone else seemed like the logical thing to do, my dream of being an entrepreneur gnawed away at me. I couldn't shake it off.
That dream finally came to fruition when I set up Organizing With You, Inc: a company offering home, office & relocation organizing services, across the whole of Chicago. I have achieved my goal, but it hasn't been an easy journey. When I found I needed to quit my job (I was getting married and relocating to Chicago), this presented me with the perfect opportunity to think about what I wanted to do next. I tapped into my passion for organizing, honed my skills and launched my professional organizing business. I won’t bore you with the logistics of setting up a business but making the transition from a desk job to entrepreneurship was tricky to say the least.
Prepare Yourself for the Challenges Ahead
Even though I never doubted my decision or zeal, stepping into an industry that was unique and still unknown to many presented its own challenges. The reality of being a minority business owner was also something to consider. And the hardest of all? Having to explain to friends and family why I wanted to strike out on my own, feeling the need to justify why it was the right time for me and that it was a promising venture. There were a lot of questions to be answered, namely: why wasn't I continuing to make use of my degree and accept other positions I was being offered? What shocked me the most was how so many people who I had thought would be ecstatic either expressed worry or didn’t take me seriously. I felt under pressure to make my business flourish. Plus, I had to deal with my own doubts that came up occasionally.
The transition itself as a personal experience was tough. Because I have always been independent, I wanted to ensure that my venture would allow me to remain independent, regardless of an encouraging partner. If you’re an entrepreneur you know that the initial years in business can be unpredictable. You have to wear many different hats and be your own boss, assistant, marketer, accountant... and the list goes on. It was exhausting and I admit to missing the ease of performing a job with the role already carved out for you. Some days I really missed the comfort of showing up, doing the tasks and getting paid without fail. I can say with certainty that owning a business is not for the weak hearted. It was only grit, determination and perseverance that carried me through.
I had my own share of private fears and mental blocks to overcome devoid of any external circumstances. Making this transition was a huge adjustment to my lifestyle and I needed a major overhaul when it came to my own thinking. Juggling business priorities required a change to my style of working, taught me streamline processes and meant I had to be thoroughly organized. Since I was working from home, I had to balance my personal home environment with a professional one. My new business has meant working much longer hours, but I don't want it to affect my relationships with others or my own personal development. This has probably taken the most effort. Sure, my previous job experience had equipped me with good multi-tasking abilities, but the nature of those tasks was now very different.
The Support of Other Female Entrepreneurs and How It's All Paid Off
And not to sound like a clichéd feminist, but being a woman who is a small business owner has presented its fair share of hurdles. I attribute much of my success to women’s networking events and other women’s associations. When I met other female business owners and built a network with them, it gave me an added sense of security and solidarity. It was fantastic to receive advice and share experiences, and I craved the time to connect with other women entrepreneurs. If you’re a sole business owner, networking is a really great way to substitute the camaraderie that working for a larger organization can provide and which you're likely to miss.
In addition to all of its challenges, having your own business also has many perks. The risk that I took has paid off in more ways than I can possibly count. Today, I can dictate my time, work from home and go to yoga in the middle of the day if I want to. If you're thinking of switching paths like I did, I have two key pieces of advice for you. Firstly, don’t let anyone deter you from your business idea, however unique it may be. And secondly, always have a mission to go with your plan: in the end you’re answerable only to yourself.
Women 2.0 readers: Are you thinking of quitting to make your dreams come true? Do you feel prepared for the challenges ahead?
About the guest blogger: Pooja Gugnani is a professional organizer and owner of Organizing With You, Inc, which she founded in 2009. Before that, she worked as a Marketing and Communications Executive for a non-profit healthcare organisation. As well as running her own business, Pooja is also a proud member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Follow her @naikpooj Photo credit: Victor1558 via Flickr