Lessons from being an entrepreneur – Part I

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In 2014 I decided to take a break from the corporate world and explore what it meant to be an entrepreneur. It was the era of ‘Start Ups’. Many success stories abounded. New start ups were mushrooming almost daily. The word ‘entrepreneur’ sounded so sexy – someone who was willing to take a risk and dive into something new and different. I too wanted to be part of this journey.

People are driven by their passion to work and bring about change. To contribute. To expand their mind and share knowledge. And in the midst of all this, retirement is a reality. I wanted to explore my own self and get answers to my own abilities to find meaningful work post retirement. I wanted to try out new things, experiment and in this phase also have the option of going back to the corporate world while I still could. Thus, began my entrepreneurial journey.

A lot of water has flown since then. The pandemic has given birth to a new class of entrepreneurs and not everyone is in this journey because of their own quest to find a new meaning. Job losses have perhaps played the most significant role here. I share few of my learnings from that phase and also highlight how some things are different or remain the same even today.

The beginning

Being the CEO of your own business holds a timeless appeal – I say timeless because it is still the biggest lure that incites people to take a plunge and start on their own. But it is always the beginning that is the toughest. I struggled a lot not knowing how and where to begin. Until the day I got my own visiting cards published. I opted for a simple, minimal design that had the worlds ‘consultant’ printed on them and that listed below my areas of strength. It was strange but having that ‘identity’ gave me the confidence and impetus to start approaching start ups.

That was then. Today of course, we live in a more virtually connected world. Even before you arm yourself with a visiting card (which, by the way has become obsolete), you should be out there on social media with a bio that comes alive with who you are and what you bring to the table.

Tapping your network

My next step was an obvious one – I called up friends, acquaintances, known leaders across my network and told them of my new journey. And it turned out that a friend had also embarked on her entrepreneurial journey and was looking for someone to support her with business development. I remember momentarily freezing. Business development was something I had never done before. I had no clue how to go about it. But I did to take the bull by the horns. That is how I ventured into the world of representing an innovative platform that took me through the curves and surfaces of it all. What I learnt through this phase has enriched my knowledge tremendously.

Your network is your biggest asset. Unfortunately, many of us do hesitate to tap into it. We feel shy or embarrassed. Reach out. This is a support system that can change your life for better. A network is meant to serve a purpose. If you are poor in networking, it is time you go out there and start.


Being an individual contributor and leading your own enterprise is no mean walk. You have to do everything from A-Z. I must confess to struggling with this one. It however had the incredible potential of making me accountable for just about every step that I took. If I succeeded, I applauded myself. When outcomes eluded me, I pushed myself to think of a different alternative.

When you are accountable to your own self, it is important to pause at different steps, review and do a course correction. This has become more critical in today’s agile world. The competition out there has grown and if you want your skills and competencies to stand out, a systematic self-review process is integral. A word of caution though – do not end up criticizing yourself. Focus on your strengths and on finding new solutions.

In the second part, I shall delve on marketing oneself and what it takes to make a success of who you are.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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