After experiencing 2020 as a year of contemplation and retrospection, we’ve decided to dial things up a notch and make life more action-driven for 2021. This year, we launch our ‘New You’ series. It’s a chance to potentially embark upon exciting, novel adventures. You know - the ones that linger in your mind from one year to the next, but which rarely materialise...
Like launching a start-up business, perhaps.
Whilst we know that’s the kind of new challenge that pushes boundaries to their limits, we never imagined it might also be a path to improved well-being. That was - until we met Sujata Rastogi.
As part of this ‘New You’ series, we caught up with Sujata to learn how a start-up didn’t just redirect her career; it rebooted how she perceived and valued her approach to the workplace, workforce and work/life design. Through You’ve Got This!, the professional future of work, B2B/C talent marketplace she and her team have built, CEO Sujata champions the change in the world that she wants to see not only for herself, but the clients and talent who benefit from her SaaS platform. We find out more.
The corporate connection
A graduate of The London Business School, prior to launching her business Sujata held a senior position at HSBC. As part of her role, she worked alongside start-ups and fintechs and saw first-hand the conundrum facing so many of them; how to find, and then fund, the right talent in order to scale up.
In many cases, Sujata would lean on her own network, reaching out to fellow graduates or former colleagues to see if they might lend their expertise to ‘such-and-such’ a new venture. It was a particular process to find the candidate who not only had the necessary skills, expertise and values, but also the willingness to come on board for a finite period. When the right match was made, it enabled the start-up to build more diverse and higher-skilled teams, with a lower burn rate..
Sujata soon recognised that the need for hands-on specialist expertise in business and finance wasn’t just an occasional need - it was a common thread that linked most of these fintechs and start-ups. Moreover, she realised it wasn’t simply an introduction she could facilitate, it was an opportunity for much, much more.
And so the seed for You’ve Got This! was sown.
There’s an attitudinal undertow happening in the workforce right now
Digging deeper, Sujata realised the professionals didn’t have to be established contractors. There was a wealth of appropriately skilled talent lying dormant in the wider community. Mums on maternity leave; the retiree population in search of stimulation; individuals keen to ‘dip their toe in’ and seek new direction and stimulus; professionals seeking an interesting side hustle - so much untapped expertise and potential! Sujata not only identified the demand and supply, but also the fragmenting divide that existed between the two. It was a gap, she suspected, that she could fill.
This insight coincided with deeper observations Sujata was making about the workforce. Talking to her first 150 registered users, she heard stories of people enduring jobs they didn’t enjoy. She recognised not just the inefficiencies, but the inability to be truly satiated in a nine-to-five workplace when so many people have multiple skills and abilities that aren’t being fully flexed. Sujata could also see the various obstacles faced by anyone searching for their career joy.
So few of us are fortunate enough to take a single step that lands us right into our professional purple patch. More often than not, it’s a pathway of swings and roundabouts that takes time, learning, trial and error. Embedding oneself into a full-time role with the same business isn’t likely to expedite the journey. As David Epstein explores in his seminal book, ‘Range’, the big break-throughs come when we sample widely; when we step off the path to explore the detours and, in doing so, we diversify and broaden our range and relevance.
Sujata had instinctively and almost inadvertently identified not just a new business, but potentially an entry point into, and platform for, a new career ecosystem.
The leap - empowering herself to empower others
For Sujata, work and self-care have a symbiotic relationship. One can’t flourish without the other. Conversely, if one suffers, then both do. Few things are more powerful and positive than believing in your work. Although there are exceptions, when we’re working for someone else or we’re stuck in the nine-to-five grind, self care isn’t always a holistic reality. Your values might not be one hundred percent inline with your boss. Every idea you have might not get a green light. The anxieties you face might not be considered as significantly challenging by your manager. Such barriers can infringe upon and, over time, erode our well-being.
For Sujata, starting her own business was an opportunity to explore not just a new way to fund her life, but a new way to fulfill it. Truly believing in what she was doing; having a hunger to work hard in order to experience the results directly; owning her hours; magnifying her values in a meaningful and tangible way; bringing her whole self to work every day; these were all fundamental to Sujata’s self-care regime.
The real epiphany came, however, when she realised it would also be the ticket for so many others. Connecting these start-ups with the right skillsforce was an obvious positive outcome. It gave them a leg-up to succeed that might have otherwise sent them into the red before they had a chance to even crawl let alone walk. Less evident, though, was the impact this could have on the talent. Here was their chance to dip a toe in, to mitigate risk and maximise range.
And so, You’ve Got This! was founded. If you’re a skilled professional who wants to enhance your range, if you’re a start-up in need of high-level talent, then this marketplace is worth your attention. If, however, you find yourself on the cusp of turning an instinctive idea into a reality, the following might be useful...
Sujata, what were the practical steps you took to start your business?
I reached out to entrepreneurs who had been down this path - I found out what it took for them. Speaking to potential investors was also important - I wanted to know I had the kind of concept that would attract a capital raise if ever that became a consideration. Testing was crucial - finding initial users and getting their feedback. In those early stages, you need to be able to find a way to test your product as often as you can, as cheaply as you can.
What’s the most important thing to consider when starting a business?
What is the hardest thing about starting a new business?
Having the courage to do it in the first place.
So, what gave you the courage?
My gut. It wasn’t so much a case of me being unhappy in my previous role and really wanting change. It was more so a case of my gut telling me that here was the chance to do something really special, something that would make a tangible and meaningful difference not just to me, but to others. My instinct and an aversion to regret helped fuel my courage.
What is the best attribute for someone starting a new business?
The ability to back yourself. I’m also lucky to be surrounded by a fantastic team of energetic, go-getter, creative problem solvers who have all contributed to our success to date.
When you first started, what did success look like?
It comes back to growth - growing as a person, growing in my skills, learning how to build a business and driving the changes that I want to see in the world. This supply/demand model gives both parties a chance to edge in and get a feel for each other and the work. In doing so, it becomes a passive way to mitigate unconscious bias; people on both sides are more likely to take a chance on the other and fill gaps in the team’s skill set. We found that professionals want to feel like part of the team. For some that means working together in person once a month or two days a week. For now everyone on the marketplace is essentially remote, making it very accessible for start-ups in regional areas or smaller, less well known businesses that might not otherwise have access to such a talent pool.
Is a downward shifting economy really the right time to take a leap into the unknown?
Adversity can bring great ingenuity and opportunity.
Does starting and running your own business increase your workload and stress?
The way I work now is different. Firstly, I don’t mind working after hours or over the weekend because I know it’s an investment into my business, and myself. Also, when you’re doing something that is genuinely so rewarding, it doesn’t feel like work. If I want or need a break, I will take it. I also set my own schedule and my own pace.
Is networking important for new start-ups?
Having a large network has certainly been a benefit. As have been the warm introductions to others. Networking can infer having an objective in mind. Nowadays I prefer to build connections with people who share my values. This is organic and genuine. As you move through life, you tap into different relationships that you trust and respect for different reasons.
What advice would you offer someone considering starting their own business?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get other people’s perspectives that you trust - ask them how they might do this, or how they might respond to that. Don’t feel you’re in this alone and therefore everything is down to you. Be open and fluid to smart feedback. Use it to help guide your decision making and stay agile. I say guide because ultimately, as previously mentioned, you have to back yourself.
What does work/life balance mean to you?
I walk a lot and spend much of my spare time reading, and in my local community. I nurture a small group of valued family and friendships.
How do you manage stress?
By being mindful of it. That awareness creates an opportunity to step away from it. I don’t mind the stress I deal with in my business, because I have control in my business. Previously in the workplace, my stress was often beholden to other people’s decisions and actions.
What did you not anticipate about starting a new business?
There is so much going on that you have to be selective in your priorities. You try to do five things, for example, but only three eventuate. That’s still progress, so you must learn to see it as such.
You love to read. Can you recommend some bedside reading material for a start-up?
- ‘Range’ by David Epstein because it champions a bold new, but realistic way to look at work and the workforce.
- ‘Invisible Women’ by Caroline Criado Perez because I want to do what I can to help empower more female talent in the workforce.
- ‘The Hundred Year Life’ by Randall Fitzgerald, because health is life.
Have you had any pinch-yourself moments?
I get a real pleasure from people reaching out and saying they’ve been following the business and they’re excited by what they see. When we first started, we knew all the professionals who were signing on. Now, we don’t have direct connections with our users, and that’s really exciting. It’s also fantastic to meet so many people beyond my own background. I’ve been exposed to some phenomenal founders and thinkers who very generously share their knowledge. I feel very much part of a bigger landscape, and that is hugely rewarding.
What has starting a new business taught you about yourself?
That you can learn at any age. Technology changes, ideas never stay fixed, and so we all evolve. I know I have to embrace evolving, and keep moving not just towards what the market is telling me, but what seems authentic. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to judge myself. I just focus on what I know I need to do. I know now that as people, our identities extend well beyond our job titles.
So, would you like to explore whether a new business could lead to a ‘New You’? Maybe start by taking inspiration from a book, or looking for a supply and demand opportunity in your everyday life, or reaching out to someone who’s already on that journey.If you’re a professional seeking a new work opportunity, or a business looking to grow your team then visit You’ve Got This! You may even want to touch base with one of our Edible Health founders, Corinna. As ever, we are here for you, wherever your 2021 adventures may take you. Dream BIG!