When we moved to India in 2010 I never imagined I would leave one day as a social entrepreneur. At that time, I didn’t even know what that meant.
While my husband and I worked on graduate degrees we ran a small graphics business to help make ends meet. He also worked early mornings at a shipping co., worked at a local church during the daytime, and we both attended classes while adding two more kids to the mix for a total of three when we left for Delhi.
So in reality I was an entrepreneur, although I never called myself one. There was a disconnect for me with what I thought that word meant and how I viewed my own work. Entrepreneurs wanted to make money and grow a business; I worked to make money, yes, but my goal wasn’t to grow a large business– graphics were a means to an end, so we could eat and move on to the next phase of life. And honestly, I had 3 children ages five and under– it was enough to see myself as a mother, wife, student, and part-time designer preparing to move overseas so my husband could go into business. The entrepreneur in the family was him, not me.
Fast-forward to 2014 when I was asked to take over a small income-generation business in Delhi. I had creative gifts, a strong sense of justice, and a heart to see women thrive. But running a business was not yet something I felt empowered to do. In fact, it has taken a couple of years to be able to truly see myself as more than a do-good, justice-loving owner of AshaBelle.
Putting your own skin in the game will change your perspective eventually. And for AshaBelle, I can say that I have definitely gone all in to build this brand. So have the other six people in our family. I’ll admit too, that sometimes, too much of me–my time and resources– have gone into it.
I didn’t realize until grad school, and even more so now, what a perfectionist I am about my creativity. If I create, write, design a piece I want people to love it. If I show my art to the world, I want you to see beauty in it. Designing jewelry, empowering the women who make it, putting it on a website, these are endeavors that have my fingerprints all over them. They are personal and represent the best I am able to give as I learn to juggle this life as a social entrepreneur. When things come up less than perfect I struggle with being okay with that.
Part of learning to see myself as an entrepreneur has been to learn to recognize my lack of gifting in an area isn’t failure. It’s an opportunity to have someone who IS gifted come alongside me and join me in what I’m doing. And it’s taken a long time to get to this point– where I feel settled enough in a place to reach out, and that there are women looking for ways to engage outside of their normal everyday in something that has the potential to see lives changed for good.
This next season feels big. I don’t really even know what this means, exactly, but it feels like God has been preparing my heart for plans he’s had all along. Plans that I have been hesitant to fully embrace because there is still a part of me that questions God– “Really, you want ME to do this?” I feel like this often because as a business woman I have miles of growing to do, and because it’s a weighty responsibility, and mostly because I have a big family that has so many moving parts right now, it’s easy to start to feel crushed by the weight of everything when I’m operating in my own strength.
I’ve had another post on my mind lately– I wanted to share a little bit about what it’s like to run a socially conscious business. The highs and lows, struggles and joys, etc. A reflection on what we’ve experienced over the past 2, almost 3 years since we took this on. I’ve had several people communicate to me how wonderful it must be to run something like this because it’s purposeful and serving a greater good. And I get that. However, at the end of the day, it’s a business, and small businesses are full of unexpected snags, long hours with no results, and learning how to navigate the ever-changing retail scene. Things I had no idea about before starting AshaBelle (which is probably a good thing!).
So that’s what’s next here in Part 2. I’m happy to be writing again. It’s been sporadic and almost non-existent and I have missed it so…