If No One's Doing It, Be The First One
Sitting here on my couch on a bitter cold blue evening here in Berlin, Germany, is the first time in years that I stop and look back at my life, and it is giving me the jitters to realize how far I’ve come. This is making me realize how important it is to have faith.
I’ve lost faith many, many times but it’s the times when I’ve held on to it that I’ve made progress.
I, Reema Singhal, started working at the age of 17 as a raw Delhi girl and would never have thought in my wildest dreams that I would be an entrepreneur, running her business alone in the European Union, shooting videos for her YouTube channel as a historian and travelling every 3 weeks to a new place to meet clients.
The first thing people notice about me is this shining story and soon enough they ask me questions - How did you do it? Did you borrow money from your parents? Did you know someone already living in Europe? And my personal favourite - You must be there with your husband, right?
The answers are no, no and NO to the last 3 questions.
When I moved to Europe half a decade ago, I had no idea of how I would survive and I had no local friends. I just knew one thing - that I really wanted to succeed as a businesswoman. And I wanted this whole planet to be my playground.
Today, I am grateful for a life where I work with clients from different countries such as Germany, Spain, UK, Puerto Rico, Korea, Romania, Sweden and France. As a communications strategist, I help them sell smarter and make a profit. Adding new clients like Unilever or the European Union Commission to my life is one of the single biggest joys. It makes me feel like I’ve finally built my place in the world where people know me, appreciate me and love me for my contribution to their business and life.
Training a Swedish business team on communication strategies to sell more.
One of the major reasons for my success has been the ‘problem’ that I am never satisfied with anything, I'm very restless. I call it a ‘problem’ here because that’s what my seniors dubbed it at the beginning of my career in Delhi.
But this constant restless itch is what I am most thankful for. It’s because of this itch for more that despite the fact that my business is expanding gloriously, I started on yet another dream project recently.
Most of my friends asked me, isn’t the age of 32 a bit too late to start again? Hell no!
One Dream Isn’t Enough
I recently started my own YouTube channel on a life-long passion for history, its mysteries and marvellous stories. Recording myself in front of the camera and putting myself ‘out there’ on a large public platform was scary and I had long bouts of self-doubt. In fact, I contemplated on my first YouTube video for 2 months. I would edit it, reshoot it, hate it, then get sad about how tough it is.
It was difficult and I constantly kept wondering about public’s comments and how much viewers would hate my work. All the reasons to not do it crossed my mind. But there was one reason to do it - I love history and want to tell wonderful stories from our history to the whole world. Life has taught me to honour this one reason above everything else.
So I did it. I released my first Youtube video. I had no editing skills or on-camera skills. Shaking with fear, I shared it online. All my school friends and ex-colleagues were baffled and wondered if I am serious about my life at all. What are you doing, Youtubing on history so late in life? – they asked.
Shooting in Munich for my Youtube channel.
I didn’t answer because they wouldn’t understand and it doesn’t matter. Then I closed my eyes and shot another video. And another. And then more.
Be The First One
Reading all of this, you might assume I had lots of family money and support to make all this happen. Again, the answer is no.
I was the first girl in the family to have completed a postgraduate degree. I am the first woman in my family to have a career and earn her own money. In fact, in my family, women have never even travelled outside the house alone. And here I am, living thousands of miles away, alone.
Achieving all this was a tumultuous journey with lots of challenges and serious doubts. Feels funny and ecstatic now that I look back!
There was no one in my family or school who had actively carved a path out of strict family traditions. I had no one to turn to for help or advice or sometimes just emotional support. Before every major step in life, I found myself alone. No one to talk to and worse, no one who understood what I wanted, why I was doing it and whether it was the right thing to do or not.
I grew up in a rich, orthodox family where women couldn’t go about freely and their only career was to get married and cook. Hence, since a very early age, I found myself alone, silently screaming in outrage at this orthodox lifestyle.
When I started my career in publishing, it was supposed to be great and I was expected to finally settle down - after all, I had finished studies and had a job. What more could I want?
Well, that itch inside me was craving for more. It got rough, it got lonely. People said I was crazy and confused. I kept on moving ahead into roles that demanded more from me, where I started doing stuff no one else was doing. At 25, I was self-employed and had clients in India, Malaysia and Japan. I was alone and didn’t know how to do it but I wanted to do it, so I went ahead.
This doesn’t mean there weren’t troubles. One common situation I faced was male clients who repeatedly tried to mansplain me and tried to define my prices for me. Because after all, I am a woman and I don’t know anything, right? So many clients wouldn’t take me seriously because I was 1) so young and 2) a woman.
It was heartbreaking when I had to beg people to allow me my rightful space. I spent countless nights crying just because no one would take my capability seriously - and for the simple reason that I am a woman. It’s so illogical that it’s frustrating.
Which is why, when I was chosen among the 30 handpicked women entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs for a full-paid entrepreneurship program, it was a heartfelt honour.
Because others haven’t lived your journey, they will always tell you to back down. Or they will criticise you as being too pushy or too impulsive or too unstable or too confused. It is at this point that you become your best friend and your inner voice becomes your guiding light.
It’s scary but so is a boring life!
The funny thing is, in hindsight, all those troubles and failures that gave me sleepless nights of worry and tears, are the very things that I’m thankful for. They made me stronger, they made me love myself more and they made the wonderful woman I am today.
With social entrepreneurs from all over the world whom I trained on best ways to pitch to get investors.
And this isn’t it. I have more dreams. I am writing my first book on History. I am making more Youtube videos bringing out more cool stories. I am adding more clients to my business. I am learning to roller-blade and revising my French. And soon, moving to a new country – because we weren’t born to live and die in the same place forever!
Reema Singhal lives in Berlin, Germany where she runs her strategic communications consultancy for business clients all across the globe. She is also a YouTuber for Historia Maxima - where she channels her passion for History and aims to take it to television soon. Combining her business and passion, she lives her life dedicated to further discoveries, mastering roller skating and sailing, helping people shine and working on her first book which is set to be published in late 2018.