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On March 17, 2023, Peerbagh was officially a 501c3 nonprofit. When starting a new business, you must take into consideration that most businesses struggle within their first year. And for laughs or ideas, we are also sharing the 5 mistakes we made and how to create a great first year in your non-profit. It is important to set up your business the right way with purpose and thoughtfulness.

Let’s get started!

How to Create a Great First Year in Your Own Business and Our 5 Mistakes in Year 1

1. The Supermom syndrome – things will go wrong, ask for help

Part of running a successful business is understanding what your business does, where it excels and where it could use a bit of help. The supermom (or dad) syndrome often means that we assume we can do it all. In reality, we can not.

Here is an example – When we did Varta, our storytelling festival in Dehradun last year, we had to cater to about 3,000 people. We were not at a scale as an organization where we could handle this. So, we had two partners. But all the partners did not have the same ideas. And doing the program in a different culture, in Indian settings meant that there was a lot of last minute work.

Many things failed, and many people cancelled last minute. Would we still do it? Absolutely! Did it go well – yes, in many ways, but we also had many learnings on how to handle things at scale.

TIP: Ask for help and get more help in advance. Having this in mind will help you tackle any unexpected obstacles, which come your way. Expect obstacles, but always be prepared.

2. Have a simple answer for what you do

People will ask what your business does. They don’t want to hear a long, drawn-out answer. They also want to see how well you understand what you do. If you’re confused, then no one else will get it. Your job is to share your nonprofit mission and vision better than anyone else. In addition, you never know when you might meet a potential volunteer, donor, or member. So, prepare.

We learned this the hard way. It took us emails, phone calls, and meetings over many months to be able to have the right way to introduce ourselves. Long emails that we wrote to potential partners were totally ignored. Till we had to print materials, and needed the message to be direct and clear. Much of our messaging was similar to what we had brainstormed before the nonprofit was formed. But it did take effort to go back to it and have clarity. It required practice to make it easy to grasp.

TIP: Meet, talk, and connect with potential partners, customers, and others on a regular basis. It helps you perfect your pitch and get real time feedback.

3. Focus on the big picture

It is so easy to get dragged down in the day-to-day operations. It almost feels like you can’t get your head above water. But you don’t want to lose focus on where you want your business to be a year, five years or a decade from now.

Our main fail in this regard was our social media and marketing work. It felt like we were consistently living to just post one more message. We were initially sending out one newsletter a week. We had to adjust this to sending one newsletter a month to get breathing space. For social media we now work with a little team and try to schedule ideas in advance. We also instituted a think-day to focus on larger themes.

TIP: You won’t have a leadership frame of mind if all you’re doing is busy work. Your job is to figure out how to get your business where it needs to be. If you need help with day-to-day operations, then find others to assist or plan ahead.

4. Determine where you can add the most value

The issue of representation that we are aiming to solve for is a large problem that has existed for many centuries. We can’t single handedly solve all the problems. There are many pieces to the puzzle and we solve one aspect with our work.

We tried many different things in the last year. This was because it felt like we could. And that’s not the wisest thing to do. This is mainly because we all just have 24 hours and things do get overwhelming. It is especially true as a new nonprofit. So, it was important to review and focus on what made sense.

TIP: Stay focused on activities and programming that is aligned with the vision of your work. Don’t add things because they are the next shiny object. Do what you can, and do it well. Just because something feels urgent for someone else, does not mean it’s urgent for you.

5. Building relationships that grow and asking for feedback

Nonprofits do not grow alone. They grow with the support of volunteers, donors, members, and partners. Finding the right partners takes effort, trial and error, and process.

We failed twice in this. Once in India where our partners did not have the same plans as us, and that was a miss. We should have listened to our gut instinct more in that case. Another case of a fail was here in the US, where we decided to partner without more agreed-upon processes. This meant that there was a last minute cancellation. Usually it should not happen so with a registered business or organization, but it’s all too common.

Another related point is about criticism and feedback. It’s important to identify which feedback to take and what to ignore. It’s okay to have differing perspectives, but it is important to know where you stand. You might love everything your company offers, but there may be some who don’t. The last thing you want to do is have tunnel vision.

TIP: Take your time with partnerships, and be sure that you understand the goals of each side. Seek feedback from those you will seek advice from. Often people give personal opinions and share their taste instead of constructive criticism. And that’s okay, move on and focus on what truly matters.

This has been a great year of learning, evolving, and moving forward. A great first year in your non-profit will go through ups and downs. Obstacles will show up, but the greatest strength as a nonprofit we need is clarity in vision. And our need to make a difference. The WHY is always the force that centers our work, and that’s what we hope to take with us.