For most of my life, I never thought I would be a business owner.
For starters, both of my parents started businesses, and I saw firsthand the emotional and financial toll it could take. But I was also an introvert who struggled with anxiety. All of the founders I saw were confident and charismatic, seemingly able to calmly handle every business challenge that came their way and pitch their business on a whim to any stranger they met.
Plus, when you’re dealing with anxiety mixed with introversion, you tend to talk yourself out of the risky moves and bold decisions that are often required to succeed in growing a company. It felt like starting a business would be even more of an uphill battle for me than it is for most.
But then I had the spark of inspiration that starts every entrepreneur’s story—the idea I just couldn’t get out of my head, the vision for the impact I wanted to make on the world. I had struggled so much with finding mentors through the various stages of my career, and I wanted to build a platform to make this powerful development tool easier for anyone to access, Dreami.
Around the same time, I was doing a lot of self-reflection around where I was in my life and my career. I suddenly felt this urge to step away from all the mental limitations I had and step into a more limitless version of myself—which is actually what my name means in Sanskrit: limitless. I wanted to embrace and honor my personality as much as I could, without letting it hold me back from taking steps that would make my life more fulfilling.
I had my vision and the fuel to drive me forward: Now, here’s how I actually overcame my challenges to get my company off the ground, land our early customers, and even get into a competitive accelerator.
I started small to build my confidence
In the beginning, when I was just getting comfortable with the idea of being a founder, I spent a lot of time in Clubhouse rooms. In theory, this was the perfect platform for an introvert like me. The whole point of the app is to make the facilitation of conversation easier, and I already knew I had an interest in common with everyone in the room. I also didn’t have to show my face and could even have notes in front of me if need be.
Best of all, I was listening to all of these conversations that would be perfect for getting the word out about Dreami: women in tech opening up about how they feel unsupported and don’t know where to look for help.
But no matter how many times I found my finger hovering over the mute button, my crippling anxiety stopped me from pushing it. Who was I to say I had a solution? Where were my qualifications? What would others think of me? While anxiety was pestering me from one shoulder, frustration was shouting from the other. How could I keep letting great opportunities slide? Other people would love a forum to talk openly about what they’re working on!
Finally, frustration won, and I wrote down in my planner a small goal that day to speak up in just one Clubhouse room. It went great! The positive feedback and new followers I got from that pushed me to speak up more, and the ball was rolling. It’s not that every speaking gig from that moment went swimmingly, but I understood the power of putting my voice out there. And I had the practice and confidence to say yes when bigger opportunities came my way, like speaking at TEDx and pitching my company to the Techstars accelerator.
I built habits to support my mental health
Even with practice putting myself out there, sales were never going to be easy for me. My introversion made constantly being on sales calls very draining on my energy, and my anxiety made me take every conversation that didn’t end in a “yes” personally. I would sometimes have days when I couldn’t get anything else done because my self worth was deflated by a rejection or lack of response, and I was ruminating on what I could have done better.
I knew this wasn’t a good cycle and that it would lead to demotivation or burnout fast. But I also knew that sales is a numbers game, and that if I wanted to get us those early customers (to eventually be able to hire someone to delegate sales to), I’d have to find a way to make it work. While I worked internally on separating my self-worth from the success of my business, I also implemented some external habits to better take care of myself.