My Startup Story: 5 Things I Have Learned So Far

I never expected a website that I started as a hobby in April 2016, alongside my full-time job, to become the mainstay of my life. I brainstormed with my friend, and now Head of Promotions, Pavan Daxini, about a cool name for the website. I bought a domain name and a WordPress premium plan and that’s how I got started. In this age of push-button publishing and easy technology, it was really that simple.

I was working with an NGO called Score Foundation when I started interviewing inspiring people for Indspire Me in my free time. I even interviewed one of my colleagues, an inspiring young woman named Binni Kumari, who works as a Helpdesk Operations Manager in Score. I still remember the title of that interview, ‘Binni Kumari: Blindness Does Not Define Her!’

Binni Kumari
Binni has been visually impaired since she was six months old and suffers from glaucoma and micro-ophthalmia. But her condition is not what defines her.

I have always been eternally curious about people and their motivations and rituals

I am lucky in a sense that my friends, family and extended social circle comprise of some amazing people. They are ordinary people, like you and I, but they possess an extraordinary flame within them. This flame of talent, passion, desire, expertise or whatever name you give it – simply must be shared with the rest of the world.

Most online media platforms are only interested in covering people who are proven successes – the big names, the glamorous stories and the exciting buzzwords. We can learn a lot more from people who are two steps ahead of us, than people who are twenty steps ahead of us. This is because it is much easier to learn how to take one step at a time as compared to something larger and more intimidating. Many of the inspiring interviews that are featured on Indspire Me, are really about the unsung heroes that no one knows about yet.

Benita Sen
We interviewed Benita Sen, an animal lover and a supporter of environmental conservation and sustainability. Benita’s books have also been presented to Michelle Obama.

Speaking of unsung heroes, I consider Vikas to be one such person, as he is bringing to light the unheard stories of the women entrepreneur voices of our nation. When he asked me to write an article sharing my startup lessons with the world, I was delighted as well as a bit skeptical. I still consider myself a learner. Did I really have any valuable insights to impart to the readers of HerSaga? After pondering a bit on this question, I concluded that yes, there are some important things that I need to share with you all.

So, here are some of the learnings that I have picked up on my journey. I hope that at least one of them resonates with you.

  1. Make sure that People Benefit from What You Do

If you’re working in the world of online media, create content that your readers can engage with. At Indspire Me, we have a plethora of experts from different fields writing for us. These experts are highly knowledgeable and are the authorities in their fields. These fields include mental health, nutrition, life coaching, travel etc. among others. We give them a platform to shine on. We edit their writing, package it nicely with images and promote it on all our social media platforms as well. They share their published work with their networks, and this helps both them and us, grow.

Indspire Me

Writing for Indspire Me helps people build their personal brand, demonstrate your knowledge and competence and expand your circle of influence. A variety of professional and business opportunities can open up for them.

2. Target the Right Niche and Audience  

It won’t help if you don’t know who your target audience is. You may get tempted to spread your wings all over the place, but that is not the right strategy to grow an engaged audience. People have specific interest areas or themes that they gravitate towards.

You will often be tempted to propagate your own ideas and ideology. But you must step out of your own head and listen to the needs of the readers. Just like any other business, you must look at the pulse of your intended target audience.What are their pain and pleasure points? What is the kind of content that they like to consume?

3. Create the Right Mixture in Your Cauldron of Content

Engage in deep data analysis and extract insights from the data. Make sure that your content has a good mixture of value-adding content and traffic pulling content. In order for content to gain traction, it must be engaging and shareable.

However, you don’t have to let go of your more serious or loftier content that is read by fewer people.

Try to create the right mixture in your cauldron of content, such that it is able to support both your high editorial standards as well as your need for attracting large numbers.

Informative content doesn’t have to be boring and shareable content doesn’t have to be sensational. Keep experimenting with content until you find the right fit that works for you.

4. Empower People to do the things that You Can Do

This is one of the learnings that I feel is extremely important for any startup founder to learn. If you fail to learn this lesson, you will sink. So, it’s better if you learn to swim and teach other people to swim before reaching the critical sinking stage.

Many people refuse to let go the reigns of their work and insist on doing everything themselves. They are afraid that their subordinates won’t be able to perform tasks to their expected standards.

Invest time in teaching people the proper ways of doing things. Once they know the vision statement, the mission and the right way of execution – there is no stopping your team from achieving great heights.

Indspire Team
Indspire Me Team members with the cast of our first YouTube video: Collaboration fosters creativity and growth

When all your time is not spent in micromanaging little tasks, you can actually devote more time to strategy and business development – the two key business areas that need your critical attention as a founder.

5. It is okay to be confused about the direction in which you are headed

Contrary to popular opinion, it is okay to be confused about the direction in which you are headed. The rigidity of mind is a more dangerous state to be in, than flexibility and a willingness to pivot. Only a few people have access to privileges such as a clear and tested vision and impeccable connections. For the rest of us mere mortals, it is okay to move on our path full of twists and turns, even if we may stumble and fall at times.

Currently, I am considering whether fundraising might be the way ahead for Indspire Me in the future. We have been completely boot-strapped thus far. I am a huge fan of bootstrapping. However, in order to execute and launch at a mass level – resources are needed. This is a fact that I am cognizant about. So, I am taking my time to take a call on this – while accepting the fact that it is okay to be confused.

Akanksha Sharma
Akanksha Sharma, Founder Of Indspire Me

I believe that everyone should be an entrepreneur at least once in their lives

Entrepreneurship will bring out the best and the worst in you as a person and force you to face your demons, head on. It will let you know all your strengths and weaknesses in a short period of time. It will teach you to be humble and to recognize the unique strengths present in each person around you. It will teach you integrity and ethics, the two qualities that seem so elusive in today’s time. So, if you get the golden chance to chase that pot of gold down the rainbow, then go for it now.

Website: IndspireMe

About Akanksha Sharma

Akanksha Sharma is the Founder & Editor-in-chief of Indspire Me. She loves to play the keyboard and is a parent to a cute cat called Toffee.

This article is a part of our Founder Series, where female founders share their entrepreneurial journeys.

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