Meha Agrawal grew up in Santa Barbara, California, studied Computer Science and Business Administration at the University of Southern California, and worked as a software engineer and product manager for companies like Goldman Sachs for over six years. “I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug,” she said. In college, Agrawal founded organizations around women in computing. At Goldman Sachs, she worked in financial services where she ultimately “felt unfulfilled by the work I was doing, which was not as relevant to a customer base I could identify with.” She quit, and after a few years, set herself on the entrepreneurial path.
Silk and Sonder (Silk+Sonder) is a physical self-care monthly planner and journal subscription service. You get a planner in your mail every month. And it comes with an element of surprise — the cover and the content are different, stylized and curated. Before Silk and Sonder, Agrawal worked for a startup with only eight people because she wished to learn the art of building a company from scratch. “I had worked towards becoming a product manager but didn’t know being a founder, or CEO, was an option – growing up Indian, you’re not told that you can be these things,” she said. While gaining exposure to New York’s tech and startup scene, she geared herself for what lay ahead.
“In South Asian culture, coaching and therapy aren’t things we really talk about,” said Agrawal, explaining the rut she found herself in after a career and relationship slump. “I was feeling unfulfilled, imbalanced, and finally resorted to self-help and productivity books,” she added. Silk and Sonder was built with the motive of extending such help of women all over. “When I found out that we had customers in all 50 states, I quit my full-time job to focus on fundraising, hiring etc,” said Agrawal. The startup found customers who were willing to share keen insights about their internet life, emotional life and mental health journeys. They’re profitable now, and Agrawal has decided to accelerate growth and launch an online footprint as well.
“One of the ways we’ve been able to grow organically and quickly is through word of mouth,” Agrawal said, of the role played by South Asian women in her entrepreneurial performance. “Naturally, I have a lot of support from other female founders who are South Asian as well as women who are customers.” South Asian women have not just been supportive by signing up and being customers but also spread the word through blogging and social media.
Agrawal believes it is symbolic to receive support from South Asian women in her venture related to mental and emotional well-being particularly because “these are the areas that have been stigmatized in our community, forcing women to come to the forefront because they know something needs to be changed.”
Some of Silk and Sonders’ current customers, for example, are mothers with adult ADHD, women who have “fallen back in love with themselves” and so on. The future lies at the intersection of forming a technological leverage and expanding business to change more women’s lives, hopes the founder.