Sangeeta Mulchandani is a third generation entrepreneur. She grew up watching both her parents run successful individual businesses but it took her a while to realise she had the very same fire and innovation within her. Now, after 15 years of success in the corporate world, Sangeeta has been building her own entrepreneurial legacy, and she’s hoping to inspire others to follow in her footsteps. She’s written about what she’s learned in her debut book, Start Right: How To Pick A Winning Business Idea And Make It Successful.
Sangeeta grew up immersed in businesses. ‘It was not just my immediate family, but also my extended family – almost everybody had a business.’
For Sangeeta, it was her mother’s journey from homemaker to entrepreneur that especially inspired her. ‘My mum started her business at 31. She was not very educated but she had great skills. After having me and my brother, she started her business as a dressmaker in a little garage that we borrowed from another family member.’
Sangeeta credits her parents with teaching her the importance of ‘consistency’ and ‘being comfortable with change’ from an early age.
Finding your sweet spot is more than just knowing what you’re good at
Sangeeta believes the most important trait of an entrepreneur is their mindset. Her book Start Right begins with a discussion of the ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ and explores finding your ‘sweet spot’. According to Sangeeta, ‘Your sweet spot is the crux between what you’re good at, what drives you, and what people really want.’
Like many entrepreneurs, Sangeeta found her sweet spot over the course of her career by trying, failing, and trying again. Having built a career in finance across various organisations in West Africa, India and Australia, Sangeeta had already established her skillset.
But while she knew what she was good at, she found playing the corporate game to be unfulfilling. After some soul-searching by way of adventures across 25 countries, Sangeeta came back to Melbourne with an ambition for entrepreneurship. She took a career break to enrol in a Masters of Entrepreneurship at the University of Melbourne’s Wade Institute.
The challenges of entrepreneurship and shaping a new identity
Sangeeta wanted to try her hand at entrepreneurship, but throughout the journey, she was mindful of the risk involved. Hustle and grind culture often glorifies the prospect of quitting one's job and diving into setting up a new enterprise despite financial struggles, but the reality is much different. Recognising this, the second chapter of Start Right is about embedding safety nets when thinking about starting a business.
According to Sangeeta, one of the biggest reasons ‘companies fail is because of financial mismanagement.’
Beginning a Masters of Entrepreneurship, one of Sangeeta’s greatest challenges alongside accepting the instability that comes alongside entrepreneurship was ‘switching out of an “employee mindset”’. A big part of her entrepreneurial journey has been shedding her corporate identity and forming a new identity as a Founder. ‘I had to start asking myself questions like, “What is my appetite for change? What do I want to bring to the table?”’
These questions led Sangeeta to pursue her first venture. Inspired by her own zest for travel, Sangeeta co-founded a travel business called Culture Week.
Understanding what drives your passion
While Culture Week got off to a great start, Sangeeta felt dissatisfied with the direction the business was going in. Hard work and grit are necessary skills for any entrepreneur, but equally important is recognising when to pull the plug if something isn’t working.
“People couldn’t see what I was trying to get at and at the same time I started feeling like I would eventually become another travel agent.’
Sangeeta realised early on that her journey with Culture Week was coming to an end.
“I knew I didn’t want to be managing logistics for people and that wouldn’t satisfy me. So, I decided to shut the business.”
From this experience, Sangeeta learned ‘it’s not your passion that should be turned into a business, it’s the underlying factors that drive your passion. You need to create a business that will satisfy those drivers for you.’
Upon reflecting, she realised her true drivers were curiosity, constant change, learning and meeting new people – all traits consistent in every part of her life.
Sangeeta then went on to co-found a food business called Foodtropia. Inspired by her own encounters with people when travelling, Foodtropia was about creating unique cultural dining experiences, bringing together strangers in private homes.
Foodtropia was a great success but became difficult to sustain over COVID-19 and was shut down.
Finding the true ‘sweet spot’
After a few months back in her corporate job, Sangeeta opened up her own entrepreneurship consulting business, Jumpstart Studio, where she found her true sweet spot. Combining her skills in business, her passion for meeting new people, curiosity and change, she tapped into a market where customers wanted her mentorship and coaching.
At Jumpstart Studio, Sangeeta mentors budding entrepreneurs in designing their business strategies, testing out their products, finding the ideal customers and launching. She has worked with the founders of Own Your Health Collective, My Career Angels, AMK Law and more.
While starting Jumpstart Studio, Sangeeta wanted to make the most of the extra time on her hands and decided to pursue her childhood dream of writing a book.
‘My dad has a huge wall full of books. And I used to say, one day when I’m old and grey, I will write a book that sits on my dad’s bookshelf.’
Dismantling barriers in business for women of colour
Sangeeta explored many ideas for her book during the development process, and the nature of the project changed several times. But one constant throughout was her desire to reduce the barriers for women of colour to succeed in the start-up space.
‘Women of colour find it challenging to voice their opinions or be seen and heard like they should be. But for the longest time, I never felt like that. I used to tell them you need to be doing things better and it’s only more recently that I’ve really started seeing the true nature of the problem.’
Sangeeta describes her journey climbing the corporate ladder as quite linear. ‘There were a few shake ups but nothing to write home about.’
‘But when I really heard from people of colour who migrated to Australia about the challenges they faced, I felt like I had the capacity to help with this book. To show them things myself and other people of colour have done to be seen and be visible.’
Women of colour in Australia face major systemic barriers across many industries that prevent them from equal access to opportunities, and the start-up space is no different.
The Creative Cooperative, a social enterprise bringing more women of colour into start-ups, conducted research into support available for start-ups founded by women of colour and found that out of $10 billion invested in start-ups in 2021, women of Colour accessed a mere 0.03% of that funding.
With 178 pages and 40 exercises, Sangeeta aims to give aspiring entrepreneurs, and in particular aspiring entrepreneurs who are women of colour, the tools and inspiration they need to succeed in becoming independent business owners.
Start Right: How To Pick A Winning Business Idea And Make It Successful is available now via Amazon.
Harshdeep Kaur is the Editorial Lead at SAARI Collective. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.