"I'm now able to say no confidently": CEO Mom Vasundhara Patni on launching a company during a pandemic
The founder of beauty brand Kiro tells us how she gets it done
This year, Vasundhara Patni wasn’t only home schooling two kids during a pandemic, she also launched a brand new business — Kiro, a ‘clean beauty’ brand with a strong Indian essence. An interesting choice for a woman who admits she didn’t grow up a makeup junkie, and only started paying attention to what she was putting on her skin after becoming a mom.
Building a new brand from scratch with the kind of uncompromising attention to detail that Patni demands, along with raising kids and keeping her brain creatively occupied, is exactly why the entrepreneur features in our CEO Moms series.
Here, we ask women who seem to be able to juggle professional achievements, personal goals and self-care, just how they get it done. We know that what you see on Instagram is never the full story, so we’re asking these inspirational women to give us their cheat sheets, dirty diapers and all.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a business, or getting back to work (during a worldwide pandemic) and are worried about balancing work with your kid time, let Patni offer you her blueprint.
The Kiro founder on launching a beauty brand during a pandemic
View this post on Instagram
How do you get through a busy day with your sanity intact?
Be flexible with your schedule and accept a certain amount of fluidity. We launched Kiro in the midst of a pandemic and have been working from home ever since. I’m not an early morning person, but from the minute I wake up, I’m juggling mom and Kiro responsibilities — making sure that I am on time for scheduled calls, home work is done and spreadsheets are looked at — while ensuring that bath and lunch time is not chaotic.
Some days I’m fortunate to actually get done with my work by 5pm and spend time with the kids or do what I want to do, while on others, I’m working past midnight.
A schedule is an essential time management tool, but being a mompreneur in a WFH situation makes you hustle. It forces you to realise that the minute you have time, you need to finish all the jobs that need to be done, even if that’s not when you planned to do it.
When I get a couple of minutes, I knock a few tasks off my checklist and that has helped me get things done through the day.
How would you describe your approach to efficiency: multitasking, one task at a time, delegation?
Multitasking is my mantra. There are tasks that fluidly go into the next set of tasks and I have to constantly juggle. That’s taught me patience and how to be more flexible. Delegation is crucial too. It’s impossible for one person to do everything. Having a strong supporting team is a huge advantage, to delegate responsibilities on both the entrepreneurial and mom front.
What’s the one area you’ve seriously improved on, from when you first became a CEO mom?
To know that things didn’t go as per my schedule, but I will get to it eventually. Women naturally want to please our loved ones, and by default, don’t say no. We stretch ourselves too thin.
I’m now able to say ‘no’ confidently, and clarify that ‘this is beyond my abilities and priorities right now’. This helps me manage that guilt. This has also reduced unrealistic expectations from myself and from people around me.
What’s the one area that you still struggle with?
Organisation and time management. When you’re multitasking, you have your head in different boxes trying to fulfil multiple roles. We are a very small team and there are days where I’m doing what a peon would do or what my supply chain staff might do.
WFH has taught us various skills that we thought we didn’t have, but I still feel that when you have the basic skill of being organised and managing time, it’s much easier to get things done.
How important is the role of the spouse in being able to do what you do? How did you arrive at the dynamic that you currently share?
The idea of starting a clean beauty brand was my husband’s. When he spoke to me about it for the first time, I wanted to jump onto that bandwagon immediately, but I wasn’t confident. My husband and family encouraged me to get back to work.
In all entrepreneurial journeys, there are times where things go right and when they go wrong. Having a supportive partner who’s aligned with your thought process and understands your journey is a huge asset.
How do you balance your ambitions with working parent guilt?
The first year-and-a-half of work was mentally and emotionally disturbing because of the guilt — when I was in the office and I could not give enough time to my kids.
We need to start going beyond that guilt. We need to manage the expectations that we have for ourselves, and even those people have for us — the solution lies in realising that everything is not in our control.
Do you carve out time for yourself as an individual? How do you spend that time?
I spend a lot of time painting. It really helps me relax and get into zen mode on days where I get too overwhelmed with work.
What are the advantages and disadvantages, in your experience, of being a CEO Mom in India?
There are way more advantages than disadvantages. The most obvious being the strong support system of people around me.
Mompreneurs have multiple responsibilities — being a mom, a wife, running a home and a business. Having a supportive family, help at home, mindful and conscious partners at your work place, is something we have in India.
I wouldn’t have been able to start this journey had it not been for my family and their support. They reassured me that my kids would have somebody to take care of them and my team members are mindful of the fact that I have two small children.
My parents and husband are encouraging, and it’s so important emotionally — because when things go wrong and you feel disheartened, this support system carries you through.
How do you want your kids to view you, and what are the ways in which you’re establishing positive gender roles in the home?
I want my kids to view me as a mom, as somebody that they can come to with any problem and I will always be there for them. They are my number one priority. Of course, I want my kids to look up to me and feel proud of me. It would be great when they grow up to say that they wish they could be a little bit like their mom
What’s the one piece of advice you were taught or learned the hard way, that could seriously sort out a lot of fellow professionals?
Ask for help. As moms, as people who may have not taken a break from work, we hesitate to openly ask for help. Over time I have realised that when you ask for advice or support, people are happy to contribute — both on the personal and work front.