September is the month of beginnings. The season of both reflection and action is upon us and has arguably been intensified thanks to the pandemic. After a year that has made the months between March and September feel blurred into one, many of us have reassessed where our priorities really lie.
And while the back to school vibe of September can make this an inspiring time, many of us are facing tough decisions, making the final quarter of 2020 overwhelming, too.
Here at the Restless Network, we’re big believers of Big September Energy, (our back-to-school attitude is firmly institutionalized within us), so we thought we’d ask the business world’s toughest players, female founders, how they maintain their purpose during such unprecedented times.
A sense of purpose is bigger than any job title or career. Purpose is what keeps you going, uncommitted to one company or brand and is able, even in the most difficult of times, to ebb and flow with change. It’s what keeps you on the path that’s right for you, and helps you move past setbacks. And hasn’t this year so often felt like one set back after another? Female founders have found their purpose, they have to, to successfully create and steer a company that reflects them and their values. Now let’s see what the experts have to say.
Valentina Milanova, Founder of Daye
Valentina Milanova founded Daye, a women’s health platform and maker of sustainable, clinically validated, OBGYN-approved tampons, when she recognized that one-size-fits-all healthcare doesn’t work for women. Daye is founded on ‘radical transparency’, you’ll get honest answers from how much their bio-based sugar applicators cost to how they test their tampons. Milanova also interprets sustainability holistically, and doesn’t believe you have to pay a pretty penny to have medical research at your fingertips.
For Milanova, working amidst the data as well as feedback within her “warm and close-knit” Daye community is how she maintains her sense of purpose. “If I’m ever tired and feeling less in touch with our purpose, I go and read our user feedback”.
“I’ve had this habit since the start of the business when it was still a one-woman show, after an investor rejection or another difficultly, of reading the feedback from our clinical trials and from the patient’s diaries.” Milanova’s point being to use the community around you, whether it be personal or professional, to remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s a reminder for Milanova, especially when she herself is having a “low day”. Whatever your purpose is, your community can help you stay on track.
Anisah Osman Britton, founder of 23 Code Street
When learning to code, why wouldn’t you want to want to also help other women advance? At 23 Code Street, for every paying student, the coding school teaches digital skills to a woman in the slums of India.
Founder of 23 Code Street, Anisah Osman Britton always refers back to her list of yearly goals to maintain her sense of purpose. “At the beginning of the year, I wrote in my bullet journal a list of what I want to achieve by 2020, therefore everything I do should be towards fulfilling those goals.”
Whether it’s bullet journaling, writing out monthly intentions, logging your eating, spending, emotional, mental and physical habits creates a structure for goal setting that tends to work. However, it may be take some time to trial and test what kind of goal setting works for you.
Britton says, “I break them down into smaller tasks every month so that they become more tangible (i.e. I want to write more becomes this month I will write two articles).”
On the other hand, when trying to maintain your sense of purpose, particularly in trying times, it’s important to work out what drives you. “I’ve tried to keep the focus on the goals that benefit others as I’ve always found that that gives me a sense of purpose and a strong work ethic,” says Britton. The key takeaway here? Lists are your best friends and take time to pay attention to other people.
Asma Bandey, founder of Kashmiri Tea House
‘Teatime’ is a sacred time in many of our homes. It doesn’t matter if your table has a victoria sponge or handesh among the chai, there’s always something comforting about a good brew.
For Asma Bandey, founder of Kashmiri Tea House, it was when she was looking for something that was lightly caffeinated, natural, low in sugar as well as hydrating that ended up with her eventually creating Botanical Cold Brew Teas. Her sense of purpose came from sharing her family’s centuries-old Himalayan tea culture. She wanted to create a drink that doesn’t mess up our natural, gentle, energy, as that’s what she believes needs to be preserved.
Launching a product a month before COVID-19 struck meant that she felt these past few months hard. Indeed, “motivation has been a pretty strong theme for me this year,” says the founder. On top of that, Bandey recognizes that her biggest challenge, both professionally and personally is self-criticism. Her answer in maintaining her sense of purpose is frankly, gratitude.
“I write down my achievements in a weekly calendar. It doesn’t have to be only the big wins. The point is to create a record of the sheer volume of work that goes into building the pipeline to your goals.
“These individual small wins lead to the eventual break-throughs and successes. It’s very easy to forget this when you’re in the fog of a setback, even more so when you’re a sole founder”.
So what does she do when she’s having a bad day, week, month or even year? “Instead of extrapolating this one ‘failure’ onto everything else you’ve done and your entire set of abilities and self-worth, having a physical record of all the hard work and things you’ve succeeded at really helps to reset your mind,” says Bandey.
As it’s easier to focus on the negative while at home, isolated in one’s own space, writing down and looking back on weekly achievements, whatever that may be, has provided context for Bandey. “Okay, this time it didn’t work but look at all the times it did. I can do this and just keep going,” is a mantra she says she sticks by, especially in pressing times.
Another tip Bandey has for maintaining one’s sense of purpose is to try to reflect on what you’ve been able to do (so far) at the beginning of every month, “regardless of the positive/negative state of mind”. “This helps to anchor this exercise as a positive affirmation, rather than only as a treatment for when self-belief or motivation is low.”