We solopreneurs are a crazy lot! We’ve all chosen to follow our hearts, because our minds would not be at rest if we don’t! We dream, doodle and plan a lot and then procrastinate for rest of the time! We always take on more than what our plates can carry. If we are our own boss then we are also the sales, marketing, receptionist, peon and driver for our business. Ask us and we will also be ready to walk from door-to-door to sell our products and services! Or stand at traffic signals dishing out pamphlets! Our mind is always cluttered with people who we want to work with or meet and talk to, yet we all walk a very personal and lonely journey. We feel over-worked, nervous and excited all at the same time. Our passion fuels us more than the revenue that we earn and even then we land up questioning our dreams, passions and journey every single day.
“I’ve stopped thinking about it,” said Richa to me. “Whatever happens will happen. I will carry on till I can and then see where this takes me!”
I began the week on a very positive note, as I met a creative entrepreneur in somewhat the same shoes as me. Meeting someone from the same area of work is great thing, and I have decided to do this as often as I can!
For one it gives you enough fodder for an exciting conversation. Imagine sharing clandestine notes in class! Something to giggle, laugh and guffaw about!
Second, it gives you chance to tell your story without being judged. Somewhere, somehow you meet on ground zero where you are not competing, or spying on each other. You are genuinely laying your heart bare. You reveal your insecurities, the hurdles you cross and how vulnerable you feel. This is really the most difficult part of the journey. And I think sometimes it is easier to share your fears with a stranger.
Thirdly, it gives you plenty of ideas to begin collaborating with on another. This may not happen at one go, but yes there is a strong chance that when two people who share the same passion meet, they may eventually be tempted to work with each other.
Fourthly, sharing stories gives you a lot of hope. ‘So there is someone who is as crazy as me!’ you would say. It makes you look at another’s life closely. And then somewhere you begin looking at yourself objectively! You begin to look at your challenges as minor when compared to the others. If you ask me now, I’d say, I think her shoes have sharper teeth than mine!
So who did I meet?
There’s nothing that makes Richa Jha happier than snuggling with a picture book. Yes, she is the chief snuggler behind the immensely popular Snuggle With Picture Books. So intense is her love for picture books that she was perhaps almost haunted into writing her own stories and wait, that’s not all…even go and publish them herself!
“Why are you getting into it? Everyone I met at the book fair (World Book Fair concluded in New Delhi concluded last Sunday) asked me this! Don’t get into publishing, it’s a treacherous world out there. Stick to writing and stay happy!” she said. “But I can’t help it!” she said wrapping up pretty much the story of her solo struggle to write, create, sell and survive with her picture books!
As we talked over popcorn (no we were not in a cinema theatre!), Richa and I shared our helpless love for children’s books. We lamented that there is complete absence of pleasure reading. Why are parents pushing their children away from picture books anyway? Why aren’t adults reading children’s books? We shared our bitter-sweet stories of how finding an audience for our work is more difficult than keeping them happy! We shared notes over illustrators and illustrations. Our own struggles with all that we want to really do but can’t do effectively. I learnt how difficult it is to balance the tight rope between quality and content when it comes to picture books. That with 3000 copies in her bag as Richa makes way to Bologna she knows she may go completely unnoticed there. But she knows it would give her the strength that she tried with all her might! And that is really what unites people like us. In our little world, with our businesses and our passions to drive us (even crazy sometimes!) we go to bed every night knowing that we tried our best! In our own unique ways we found solace and strength from each other.
Richa has a renewed energy about her with her new imprint Pickle Yolk Books. We hope to work together and even though we have not laid out a plan, we have both expressed an interest in co-working. That’s a start!
The life of a solopreneur is full of highs and lows. There are periods of dizzied highs and then there are some wallowing lows. There are moments of uber confidence, like there are moments of hollow trepidations. There are moments when you have many people around to hear you and you have nothing to say, and at others you may have so much to say but no one to hear! We live in a world where we have more virtual friends than real. Where people make more connections based on their mutual likes and interests. Where conversations happen online and where we find collaborators, co-founders, affiliates through social media! We live in a world where we are always surrounded by people and yet so lonely as we work from our home offices. Even then we seldom share our stories! So one has to really work hard and step out. One has to make the effort to step up and make a connection; to reach out to hear and share one’s story. The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship is a glaring reality, one that we must all be sensitive of. The only way to resist being sucked in and beat the darkness is to come out and share your story.
When was the last time you did that?
I started the week by hearing the story of someone who has followed her heart. I started the week by sharing my own story, quietly validating it with, “I am not the only one!” I hope to end the week similarly as I hope to meet another co-conspirator later today. And guess what? I have one lined up for next week as well! That’s enough fodder for to keep me going for some time now! Soul stories coming my way…more stories of solopreneurs filling my story bag!
What about you?