By Nadra Shah.
So, is the grass really greener on the other side of the corporate fence? It is a question I have asked myself over and over in the past year. I didn’t work in a corporate environment, I loved my job working at a dynamic social enterprise in Soho, London. But, like many of us out there, I wanted to build my own company, I was fed up with seeing my ideas driving others forward and compromising at times when I knew fundamentally I was right; trusting your gut only to have someone ignore what was staring them in the face. I also wanted to bring together everything I had learnt and experienced in my life and build a company that combined wellbeing and mental heath, two areas that I am passionate about. It is the idea of being control of your own destiny that draws people to the dazzling lights of starting your own business.
The thing is we are (sometimes quite rightly) perceived as quite a crazy breed, I mean leaving ones’ lovely safe job to go it alone in the unknown (broke) world of running a start up must mean there is a degree of fearless abandon.
It’s hard not to get pumped up; once you are tapped into f*ck it do what you love movement (this is actually a book by the brilliant John C Parkin) it is hard to control yourself. There are so many inspiring people building great things, creating amazing companies and generally paving the way for people like me to think, goddam it I can do this!
It all sounds very jolly doesn’t it. And it is, at times. However, you rarely hear about the other side, some might say, the dark side.
Shall I enlighten you?
Okay, here are some facts:
- It is bloody hard, anyone who tells you it isn’t is a bare face liar.
- You have crashing moments of lack of belief and self-confidence. Many of these have resulted in me becoming very attached to my kitchen floor, it is heated and I was probably cleaning it.
- If, like me, you run a business from home, you spend a lot of time on your own, and in my case, staring at a white kitchen wall. Now the irony in this is that the whole premise of my business is to promote mental wellbeing. Ha!
- You earn NO money in the early part of your business. You juggle running your business with a job, family, children, pets like an amateur circus performer or you take the plunge, give up your job and juggle running your business with a family, children, pets…. you get the idea.
- The idea of bouncing an idea around may lead you to sit in a darkened corner of a coffee shop to give you a somewhat slightly different perspective in the hope that the person next door pays you some attention. As I said, it can be a lonely business.
- You have to face up to what you are not good at. There is no room for ego (leave that to the people in the business books skipping over a rainbow), you have to face up fast. It can be both a painful and humbling experience depending on what day of the week it is and what task you are trying to complete.
- You have to develop a skin, no, several skins of an elephant to take the crashing knock backs that can sometimes feel you are naked on safari (maybe that’s just me then).
- I don’t have children but when I described how I felt to a friend that my world had become really small living day to day in my house and in the surrounding area, she said she felt the same when she had a baby. The bright cultural lights of Soho feel like a distant memory belonging to others. Sadly, I haven’t come across many start-up incubators in The Chilterns. There is a definitely a gap in the market for all you budding entrepreneurs out there.
So after all that positivity is there a flip side? Why do it I hear you cry, if it is so goddamn awful and by the sound of it you hate it, why do it? I can almost feel that you have your arms crossed at this point!
Well, for me it is about purpose and belief. I truly believe there is a place that highlights mental health in a positive way and champions the connection between food and mood. Kitchen & Soul is a manifestation of those beliefs, the range of natural energy balls have been developed as a starting point between nutrition and good mood; providing people with a tasty, fresh and naturally healthy snack to enjoy, but it won’t and can’t stop there. My vision for Kitchen & Soul is for the brand to be a voice for mental health and the reality of wellbeing, warts and all. It also should be a meeting place for people to come together and connect in a meaningful way.
I am proud of where I have got to in my business, securing a start up loan through Virgin, acquiring a loyal following of people and retailers that love the products and believe in where I am trying to take the business. It is a business that has started and grown locally and that means something. It’s also mine. So, whatever happens in the future and whatever path it takes me on, they were my choices, decisions and creations. That is the flipside.
Everything I have ever done in my life has been driven by believing in what I was doing, the minute I questioned it then I knew that it was time to re-evaluate. I suppose that’s what make people start their own business and keep doing it through the dark side; the deep rooted belief of creating something that aligns with their truth (sorry that sounded terribly self-help).
Do I think I am a natural business woman? No not really, I struggle not being around people, I thrive in the realisation of ideas, I am a creative being and there are aspects of the business I have created that have so far not allowed that to materialise. Believe me people I am not one to spend more time than is necessary on an excel sheet or Xero. Do I consider myself to be an entrepreneur, if by definition launching my own business makes me one? Then yes I am.
Like all matters of mental health, we need to be more open, yes we need to champion the wonderful aspects of running your own business but we also need to speak truthfully about the parts that are downright difficult, that challenge us, our partners, family and friends. There is an aspect of running a business that requires you to be selfish because your focus is turned inward, having been both on the receiving and the giving end of that, it isn’t easy.
So, the moral of this story? If you want to launch your own business, go for it, but do so with all the facts and prepare yourself for a rollercoaster of a journey oh and you will need lots of energy. Luckily I know someone that can help with that.
Nadra runs Kitchen & Soul. Find her ‘Good Mood Food’ at www.kitchenandsoul.uk