Home / Opinion / Columns /  Agility always matters no matter what’s thrown at us

Entrepreneurship is a journey—a hard, lonely one that can drive one crazy at times, but is equally rewarding and fulfilling. It has many highs and lows. In fact, the lows can be especially frequent for women entrepreneurs. We still often face resistance to our leadership, whether from employees, suppliers or investors. When I first pitched a cosmetics business years ago for funding to a bunch of venture capitalists (VCs), most of whom were men, they turned it down. It was probably a business that did not resonate with them. Today, most VCs we meet are astonished by Sugar Cosmetics’ fast growth and we have been getting expressions of interest from some of the biggest VC firms.

While believing in yourself and taking that leap is always a good choice, I believe every entrepreneur needs a strong support system to ride out difficult times. You can have it in your family, friends or even your co-workers. With such a strong support system in place, you know that you can always go to them at moments when your judgement is clouded or you need help out of a tricky situation; and this can help you through your most trying phases. Interacting with this group of people will fill you with positivity and keep your mind healthy and sane.

A lot of people meditate to relieve stress. For me, running is meditative. It does have that breath work; you are one with yourself, and you get that clear, peaceful time. When your schedule gets disrupted and stress piles up, running provides calmness. It is the one thing that happens at the same time every day—and it grounds me. I’ve been an avid runner for the past decade, having completed the Comrades Ultra-marathon, Ironman Triathlon and numerous marathons. I believe that I am a much better CEO, parent and human being on the days I run or workout, so I ensure that I spend at least an hour doing some kind of activity. Being a runner and entrepreneur, I’ve learnt plenty about resilience, for a start. Whenever I felt spent out, for example, I made sure I’d stay strong and bounce back.

Entrepreneurs are expected to always be ready with answers for any question thrown at them at any given moment. As an entrepreneur, being your own boss can be a joy and a burden. You are responsible for tough decisions about how to stay relevant in the marketplace, when to take on more debt, or how to handle an economic downturn. It is never smooth sailing, so learning to thrive and grow in difficult situations is essential to your success.

All in all, my family and friends have always been strong supporters of my dreams of achievement. They get some credit for the fact that, at 23, I was featured on the cover of The Week for being the first and youngest B-school graduate to decline a 1-crore placement offer from a global investment bank to start my own company. It was a risky plunge I decided to take. On this decision, I did get some cautionary advice from a few well-wishers, who thought I should choose a more “ideal" and “settled" option. After graduating from the Indian Institute of Management, I was quite clear about one thing, and that is I did not want to take up the investment-bank pre-placement offer I had just because there was a lot of money in it. Hence, I decided to take the biggest risk of my life by starting a company without any background in entrepreneurship or business whatsoever. I realized that it actually felt quite liberating to take a few risks for something I was so passionate about.

There is a point in every woman’s life when she has to accept her biological disposition and the fact that in all likeliness, she will be doing most of the care-giving for her children, but not thinking about it while growing up made me stronger and helped me accomplish much more in the first 30 years of my life than I would otherwise have.

My advice to other women out there would be that irrespective of what you know about the trade-offs your little girls will have to make, push them as hard as you push your boys, let them have big dreams, so that they have the opportunity to reach their potential. Do not short-change them and never snip their wings.

Another piece of advice. You are a lot more awesome than you think you are, and unless you believe that, you’ll never dream big enough and get what you deserve. Always remember that it all starts with taking a decision that we are going to do this really well. Of course, things may not always pan out that way, but I believe that how we think shapes a large part of what the outcomes of our efforts are.

I have got a lot of inspiration that sustains this attitude from the team I’m working with. I always wanted to build a brand with women at the core and have strived to convert that dream into reality. Today, Sugar can be described as a cult favourite among Gen-Z and millennial Indian women, and I couldn’t be more content and prouder of everyone who made this possible.

Another big learning as a runner and entrepreneur: No matter what challenge is thrown at us, agility matters. Growth is not about how fast you get to it, but how well you sustain it once you’ve arrived. So, don’t fear taking bold decisions you strongly believe in and never short-sell yourself.

Vineeta Singh is chief executive officer and co-founder of Sugar Cosmetics

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