Insights from My Early Days of Entrepreneurship
Two months ago, I quit my job in economic consulting. The two and a half years I spent in the industry were some of the most transformative years of my life. I developed strong quantitative and critical-thinking skills, interacted with incredibly passionate, motivated individuals, and saw how a well-functioning company operates. But, I was also moonlighting as a social entrepreneur, running my own venture, and I could not sustain both paths. So, I made the big leap, quit my job, and now run a social venture – Pasand – full time.
Pasand, the Hindi word for “a desirable choice,” empowers young women in India to make choices for their own health and dignity by improving access to top-quality health education. By bringing together the best of adolescent health research and human-centered design, we are building a movement to transform health from a barrier to an opportunity for young women in India.
In my posts, I will share some of the lessons I have learned through starting a social venture as a young female entrepreneur. Some of the insights I share will speak more to being a woman and others will speak to being an entrepreneur. Some will speak to both. To get started, I figured I would share some insights I gained early in my journey.
- Leverage opportunities to learn and develop new skills. Although I established Pasand while I was in college, working at an established company prior to running my own company was one of the best decisions I made after graduation. I had free skill development, an instant professional support network, insight into what makes a successful company, and financial stability (which gave me additional flexibility to work on Pasand, travel for meetings, and so forth). My colleagues, Aunna and Ashley, even received financial support and mentorship from their consulting firms to work on Pasand. We would not be where we are today without the support and training from our respective companies. Do not sell yourself short if you choose to work for an established company before venturing off on your own.
- Mentors are an invaluable resource, not just for your organization, but for you, too. Having a personal mentor can be one of the best relationships you develop over your lifetime. For me, it’s been best to let the relationship grow organically. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “mentor” around my mentor. My mentor has given me such meaningful advice over the past three years, both for Pasand and, more importantly, for my own personal growth. She was the person to convince me that starting my career at an established firm was the right choice for me. If possible, find someone you share something with outside of career-related objectives. It will give you a personal bond and strengthen the relationship.
- Change is good. Believe it or not, we started as a sanitary pad company, hoping to sell biodegradable pads for a penny. Needless to say, we are no longer a pad company. None of the co-founders had a background in engineering, and there were already a range of affordable sanitary products available on the market. What we did know and understand was cultural issues and health education. Thus, we transformed into an organization that builds markets for sanitary products through health education. Our initial foray into sanitary pad production only provided us with more insight into the industry.
I will use this column to reflect on lessons learned in life, business, and the intersection of the two. I encourage you to reach out to me to me, either through this column or on social media, to share your stories and connect with me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: REBECCA SCHARFSTEIN
Born and raised in Boston, I’m a lover of seasons, pumpkin-based dishes, and Head of the Charles Regatta. In addition to being a proud Bostonian, I enjoy reading, spinning, and traveling. While I’m not enjoying all that Boston has to offer, I run a social venture called Pasand that empowers young women in India to make choices for their own health and dignity through top-quality health education. Previously, I worked in economic consulting where I was able to nerd out on data on a daily basis. In addition to my professional experiences, I’m passionate about serving my community and sit on the Board of Trustees of The Rashi School, an independent Jewish school in the Greater Boston Area. I graduated from Princeton with a degree in Public and International Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School and am pursuing an MPP/MBA from Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School.
Read more about and from the author: Rebecca’s WiLab Profile