Shared from Starter Story, written by Pat Walls, Founder of Starter Story. Original article here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Rita Kakati-Shah and I helm Uma, an international platform that empowers confidence, inspires career and personal success, and builds leadership and resilience in women and minorities, around the world.
We believe in change, are unafraid to question the masses, make bold suggestions, and aim to change the status quo. Our mission is twofold. We invite individuals to join our community where we provide curated programs to overcome self-doubt, build up confidence and brush up on skills. For companies our array of services are centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion principles and include corporate strategy, mentoring and coaching, building return to work programs, and leadership development and training.
Over the last few years we have grown our presence to include various cities around the world, have successfully helped thousands of women and minorities gain confidence and preparation for the workforce, and have conducted hundreds of keynote talks, taught training workshops, and given strategic advice to Fortune 500 companies, policymakers, and academia.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
So much has changed in the last year. With the global pandemic, like many other businesses around the world, we had to think very quickly about how to remain afloat and swim, rather than sink. Our in-person talks and training sessions had initially halted. However, rather than let that get to us though, we practiced the resilience that we preach to others and pivoted almost overnight to cater to the new climate. Remember that success doesn’t come served on a plate. It comes after much perseverance and dedication.
We transitioned all of our training, talks, and coaching sessions online, partnered with complementary organizations and were very quickly able to offer clients more customized offerings.
Personally, I also co-authored two books on women in business and diversity and inclusion, and am hosting The Uma Show, on Mana TV International, to showcase the voices and stories of South Asian role models around the world.
Interestingly, we have continued to be featured and interviewed in the press and media too. Another feature in the Wall Street Journal, plus mentions on Fox News, CBS News, and Yahoo Finance were very well received.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The biggest lessons were honestly all related to surviving and coming through the pandemic. Learning to react quickly and change business practices and offerings were challenging and yet the most fun to work on with the team.
Resiliency and determination were definitely two skills that were strengthened for sure too. There were days where it would have been easier to just throw in the towel or prolong activities, but instead, we stayed on course, reassessed our client needs, and strategized on the next steps.
The biggest achievement of all was getting used to running Uma across different locations while homeschooling my two kids at the same time! If anything deserves a pat on the back, that does!
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Uma can be described as a journey. It’s been an exhilarating ride so far, and part of the beauty of this journey is not knowing for sure what is next. We have grown according to the needs of our clients. In such a short time we’ve continued to impact women and minority communities in more cities and countries around the world while empowering and motivating our clients here in the US. This year we would seek to foster this momentum to grow and impact even more cities around the world, and act as changemakers to not only individuals and corporations but policymakers, governments, and across socio-economics too. We want to work with companies and institutions to make a positive difference in gender and race equality.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Having been in the entrepreneurial space for a few years now, I would say hands down that gut instinct, street savviness, due diligence, and common sense trumps advice from a book. After all, everyone’s experiences are different and unique to them! Having said that, it would be remiss of me not to mention my most recent book on leadership, resilience, and diversity from leading women businesswomen, Mission Matters: World’s Leading Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Top Tips To Success (Women in Business Vol.1)
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I always tell people that once you have taken the plunge to start your own business, don’t look back. Do have a business plan written up though, as that will force you to think in detail about steps you will need to take. Also, continue to reevaluate your market, and curate your services or products accordingly. Really take the time to do your initial market research to understand the habits of the consumer you are wishing to serve. Frequently update your business plan to reflect the changing marketplace.
Remember that success doesn’t come served on a plate. It comes after much perseverance and dedication. Being an entrepreneur means you are constantly creating new concepts and ideas. Combine that with also being the boss, now you can shape the entire direction and philosophy of your company.
You may find it really beneficial to find a strong mentor too, one that you can bounce ideas off and that can openly help you analyze and critique your current business strategy. Don’t be afraid to change your direction based upon actual market research. As an entrepreneur, it can be all too easy to stick to a particular methodology, whereas your audience is telling you something else. Explore that something else and keep innovating to stay ahead of the curve.