For most of my life, I never thought I would be an entrepreneur.
For starters, my two parents started businesses and I saw first hand the emotional and financial cost it could entail. But he was also an introvert who struggled with anxiety. All the founders I saw were confident and charismatic, seemingly able to calmly face all the business challenges presented to them and present their business on a whim to any strangers they encountered.
In addition, when it comes to introversion-mixed anxiety, it tends to avoid the risky moves and bold decisions that are often required to succeed in growing a business. It seemed to me that starting a business would be even more of a difficult battle for me than for most.
But then I had the spark of inspiration that begins the story of each entrepreneur: the idea that I could not get out of my head, the vision of the impact I wanted to have on the world. I had struggled so much to find mentors through the different stages of my career and wanted to create a platform to facilitate access to this powerful development tool, Dreami.
At the same time, I was doing a lot of self-reflection around where I was in my life and career. I suddenly felt this urge to move away from all the mental limitations I had and go into a more unlimited version of myself, which is actually what my name means in Sanskrit: unlimited. I wanted to embrace and honor my personality as much as I could, without letting them stop me from taking steps to make my life more fulfilling.
I had my vision and the fuel to move me forward: now, this is how I overcame my challenges to make my business collapse, get our first customers, and even get into a competitive accelerator.
I started small to build my confidence
At first, when I was just comfortable with the idea of being a founder, I spent a lot of time in the Clubhouse. In theory, this was the perfect platform for an introvert like me. The purpose of the app was to make the conversation easier, and I already knew I had a common interest with everyone in the room. I didn’t have to show my face either and could even have notes in front of me if needed.
Best of all, I was listening to all these conversations that would be perfect to spread the word about Dreami: women in technology who open up about how they feel without support and don’t know where to look for help.
But no matter how many times I found my finger on the mute button, my paralyzing anxiety kept me from pressing it. Who was I to say I had a solution? Where were my grades? What would others think of me? As anxiety bothered me from one shoulder, frustration screamed from the other. How could I continue to miss out on great opportunities? Other people would love to have a forum to talk openly about what they are working on!
Eventually, frustration prevailed, and I wrote to my planner a small goal that day to talk in a single room in the Clubhouse. It went great! The positive feedback and new fans I received from this pushed me to talk more and the ball rolled. It’s not that all the talk shows since then have gone perfectly, but I understood the power of putting my voice. And I had the practice and the confidence to say yes when I was presented with greater opportunities, such as speaking at TEDx and introducing my company to the Techstars Accelerator.
I created habits to support my mental health
Even with the practice of getting out there, sales would never be easy for me. My introversion made constantly being on sales calls very exhausting of my energy, and my anxiety made me personally take all the conversations that didn’t end in a “yes”. Sometimes I would have days when I couldn’t do anything else because my self-esteem was deflated by a rejection or lack of response, and I was thinking about what I could have done better.
I knew this was not a good cycle and that it would lead to demotivation or rapid exhaustion. But I also knew that sales are a game of numbers and that if I wanted to get those first customers (to be able to hire someone to delegate sales to), I would have to find a way to make it work. While working internally to separate my self-esteem from the success of my business, I also implemented some external habits to take better care of myself.
I started by grouping all my sales calls at the end of the week, giving myself a few lonely days to do the strategic work before any conversation would wear me down or knock me down. Since this would involve long days of consecutive calls, I also worked with a coach to figure out how to take care of my energy. He recommended leaving enough time between meetings to do something that reloads me: write to my planner, take a short meditation, or take a walk around the blog. I was amazed at the big difference between five and ten minutes between calls.
Ultimately, I think this need to be extremely intentional with my time and energy has turned out to be a superpower as a founder. While other business owners may spend years discovering their time management, it was an immediate need for me that was quite natural.
I found mentors like me and mentors who could push me
At Dreami, we always talk about creating your own personal board – several mentors who bring different things to the table. When I looked for other business owners to learn from, I found it helpful to take a similar approach, with a mix of introverted and extroverted mentors to help me work on and overcome my personality.
For example, my introverted mentors have helped me feel more comfortable saying no to meetings that don’t move my business forward (even when I feel tempted to say yes) so that I can preserve my limited energy for the most impactful tasks. I have also been taught that it is okay to be honest with my anxiety or introversion. I always felt like it was something I had to hide, but I was amazed at how understanding people are when I have clear boundaries I need because of my personality.
My extroverted mentors, on the other hand, give me something to aspire to. Every time I have a big meeting or a speech, I imagine the extroverted leaders I admire and try to embody their energy. Suddenly, I find that my anxiety subsides, my voice comes out a little louder, and my presentation becomes more appealing. It’s a weird trick, but I swear that’s what got me through the final launch process to get into Techstars, and it’s helped me every time since I’ve been nervous in front of a crowd.
I know this sounds like a real fake story until you do, but I won’t make it sweet – there are still hard days when my introversion makes me doubt or my anxiety is spiraling me. . But with time and some clever techniques, I learned to recover more quickly from those moments. And most importantly, I don’t think they should stop me from succeeding in business.