14 Years of Entrepreneurship

A few days ago I completed 14 years of being an entrepreneur. I did a Twitter thread on it. Replicating here. I am grateful for all the attention it got, and the great responses I received. There are more people like me, going through the exact same struggles. And there are people who thought it was an inspiring story, and that of grit.

So here goes:

I complete 14 years of entrepreneurship today. Lots of feelings – from being joyously inspired to dredging the depths of despair- often on the same day! Here’s looking back at each year to identify the key state of business, and the state of my mind! 1/n

2005: Start up | Excitement

Co-founding Knowiz as a content services company. Co-founder is the brain behind it. I have no idea what’ll happen, or how. I trust her to figure it out. Each proposal is a high, each small deal evidence to a biz model. 2/n

2006: Hard work | Fun

More work comes in, and we deliver working late nights and super early mornings. We hire an office space and our first employees. Every project is challenging, but we overcome them. 3/n

2007: Hard work | More fun

More clients, more work. The team is growing. More challenges. And to keep the cash flow going, we still don’t take salaries. But we are still enjoying building the company. 4/n

2008: Not enough money | Worry

There are not enough projects to keep us afloat. Plenty of competition out there: from big wig mag companies to freelancers. We take on projects that are not core to our skills, but we still deliver. 5/n

2009: Recession hits | Stress 24×7

Clients back out from retainers, projects dry up. Media and IT, our focus industries, are badly hit. And so are we. One by one, people leave. From a team of 12, we are back to just the two of us. 6/n

2010: Co-founder quits | Fear

Co-founder quits, I pay her off with money I don’t have. Why? No real reason, but a voice in me that says, Keep going. Shouldn’t listen to voices, but I did. Start building a team again. 7/n

2011: Learning the ropes | Courage

I sign up for an entrepreneurship program that makes me see my blind spots. Also start exploring meditation and spirituality. Somehow find the courage to keep learning, keep going. “Just show up, dammit.”  8/n

2012: In debt | More fear

Not enough cash in the business, but I continue to find new projects. Hard to get retainers, but keep trying. Team puts up with delayed salaries, rallies behind me. I hide myself in the loo and cry. Often. 9/n

2013: Merger | Panic

Meet a spirited, high-integrity person who set up his agency in 2011. We eventually merge to become a digital marketing agency. I am in panic. Company financials are a mess, but he bravely takes it on. He believes in the merger, our values, vision. 10/n

2014: Inefficiencies | Stress

Business starts picking up, deals are now larger. Little tolerance for inefficiencies and incompetence, thanks to new partner. Working style clashes, client issues, cash flow: stress aplenty. Meditation keeps me sane. 11/n

2015: Another partner | Excitement

We set up a product company, with a new partner. Decline funding, decide to do it ourselves. We grow the service company, with new offerings, bigger team. Tough, but mostly fun. Joyful. 12/n

2016: US focus begins| Hope

Services stay stable, product development is slow. A client goes bankrupt, wiping off lakhs from receivables. Yet we persist. Shift focus to US market. New highly competent team change the pace and game! 13/n

2017: Heartbreak | Stoic

Year of heartbreaks. More inefficiencies. Fights. Partners say they quit. I hold them back. We plod through depression, lose key team people, deal with bad clients. US market improves cash flows. Ease, in sight. 14/n

2018: Ease | Free

Finally, with more clients across the world and a highly competent team, we hit ease in biz. Lots of projects, delivered well, continuous cash flow. I have phases when I don’t even know new client names: yeah, that good. New product idea. 15/n

2019: Measured growth | Detached

There is more ease in doing business. Cash! Team is growing. New product is out; could be a big one for us. Two more products taking shape. Tech team looks real good. Services growing well. But I am detached. Just keep doing. 16/n

Mine is not a story of success by regular standards; it’s simply a story of persistence. You can only persist when you know your Why. What’s ours: We are here to build a culture that enables people to be themselves and get better at that, and find joy in work. 17/n

You can only persist when there are people to support you: business partners, spouse, kid, team, clients, random strangers who help. And angels. And be grateful for that. 18/n

You can only persist when you have it in you to believe in light when it’s all dark around you. And get others to believe that there is light, we just don’t see it yet. 19/n

But you know my story is a story of success by my standards: we have clients who rave about us. We have super success stories of people who have found themselves at Niswey, and we know we are making many more. 20/n

We are focused on profitability, believe in measured growth, and in integrity and joy at work. We know our way of doing business is not the normal way, but we believe this is the new normal. We are successful, in those terms. To more success! n/n 

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