We are delighted to share our recent conversation with Ms. Meghna Singh where she spoke about her journey from an IT expert to a mental health professional. Her journey is one that most of us will relate to. She is the Founder of PeaceOfMind. Let’s read more about her inspiring journey.
Tell us a little bit about your start-up and or your journey.
I think it is something to do with one’s late thirties and forties, especially us women, where we start revisiting our lives, our aspirations, and our dreams and where we are heading. Something similar was brewing inside me, and I just did not want to continue with my MNC job, although it was paying high. In 2010, with one kid and the second one on the way, and fulfilling the responsibilities in/of a joint family, I took a break. For the next six years, I did all kinds of freelance jobs online and worked explicitly for some esteemed clients like Dr. Vikas Kohli, a renowned pediatric heart surgeon, while looking after my kids and family. All this led to immense churning and self-analysis. Eventually, I gathered that I was very good at resolving people’s problems, had great communication skills and that I wanted to do good, help people around me genuinely, somehow bring joy to them.
It was not an easy path for me being formerly an IT consultant to switch gears to studying Psychology and eventually finding great interest in peoples’ thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviours. I was gripped completely and understood why professional degrees were required, especially for such career pursuits. In the process, I learned immensely and found some loyal friends for life.
How did the idea for your business/start-up come about?
The idea was always there in-fact the moment I decided that I needed to study Counselling Psychology the idea was ingrained that once I finish my course, I would just start. I did not have it planned but was sure to do it one day.
From the beginning, it was clear that I wanted my setup where I shall work for people in my unique way. Hence after completion of my Masters and PG Diploma in Counselling Psychology and with lot of brainstorming and support from a very like-minded friend of mine, who was a fellow student and a psychology aspirant Harsharan K. Randhawa, we formed our start-up PEACEOFMIND COUNSELING SERVICES.
My IT background helped me design and develop all our online presence, our brochure, pamphlets, our promotional activities, and our print documents/materials. Harsharan helped with the logistics and liaising with her contacts to find a suitable place. We started by renting out a classroom at a nearby school, in the evenings to begin our practice – spread the word through WhatsApp groups, pamphlet distributions, print ads.
Things were not picking up, although we did get assurance from the school management to provide us with clients (students and teachers). Mostly there were no clients, but we did receive on and off clients through references from friends, family members, but mainly by word of mouth.
We tried to remain positive and continued our promotional activities. During this phase, a lot of investment was done from our end. Our only profit was the smiles we received from our clients and a constant elated feeling since we were in the right place.
On self-assessment and our learning, we realised we required a proper place, and God answered our prayers, thus soon we had our rented space at one of our client’s properties. I cannot explain the exhilaration and joy we experienced setting up our small office and decorating it and adding our personal touch to it.
We can’t say that we have arrived, but definitely, we are content with wherever we are, and it is mostly because of the support received from our families and the trust shown by our clients to our way of counseling approach.
What was your driving force to become an entrepreneur?
Independence and extending help to others were the two main driving forces for me. I did not want to get into the grind of 9 to 5 job and wanted flexibility in all that I do. For me, my family is my priority, and if I am unable to spend time with them or give them my attention, then what is the use of having a family in the first place. I need action; mundane tasks can bore me because I am the happiest when I have a list of things to do every day, and my work does exactly that.
How did you come up with the name for your business/startup?
Being professionals in the field of mental well-being, we did a lot of brainstorming, and finally, we zeroed in on PeaceofMind. Each one of us is seeking peace of mind in our jobs, relationships, and ultimately life. That is what is missing from the lives of so many. Hence we became ‘Peaceofmind Counseling Services’
What service(s) or product(s) do you offer?
We offer counseling solutions in various forms and to different age-groups.
Our services are:
Group Counseling for schools and institutes,
Workshops and Webinars/Seminars for Schools/Institutes/Corporates.
Why should people choose your product/services?
We ‘listen’, that is our selling point. We do not want to jump the wagon to provide therapy or administer tests. We listen to our clients, and we do it intently. Most of the people who come to us, experience that they are not being heard, especially from the people around them whom they love or expect that they will be heard. It is ironic but true that most cases that come to us are people suffering either because of themselves or due to people around them.
We provide a workable, SIMPLE approach, and our objective is to enable the client enough to seek the solution on their own. We are not sitting with report cards and or answer sheets.
Another aspect of why people should choose our services is the core counseling ethics and values we follow with every client that is empathy, trust, building a healthy-cohesive relationship, confidentiality and genuine willingness to heal and help.
How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful?
Our profession is not a business since it deals with mental health and people suffering in different ways, so it’s not that we are selling products that people can buy and feel happy about.
Additionally, people who are suffering don’t want to seek counseling at all, it is indeed still a taboo in our country, and hence which marketing strategy shall work is still a big guessing game.
However, we have tried to tap into all social media that includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and our Blog mainly. We also use an online booking platform Lybrate. Conversion of online visitors to clients is still a mystery for us.
The most effective tactics have always been and shall always be the traditional ‘word of mouth’. It has been the most fruitful strategy for us.
What are some of the challenges you have dealt with?
– Not having clients for days!
– Marketing and conversion
– Low turnout on workshops when we expect a full house
– Working for free, which we do often.
– Not getting paid for our services
– Juggling between personal and professional life
Have you considered any alliance/partnership/funding?
Yes, we are part of multiple networks of counselors, psychologists, researchers, doctors, and other like-minded people from our field, that allow us to learn and grow but we don’t see any new partnership at least for now. But yes, we do plan to expand in the coming years to a full-fledged Holistic Counselling Centre that is indeed my/our dream.
What are your responsibilities as the business owner?
Never-ending responsibilities. It can start from cleaning our office to marketing strategies to pursuing associations with other organizations to counseling sessions, to making videos and presentations, handling all the operational logistics, to managing the finances, writing blog posts, updating our website as and when required. Both Harsharan and I share the responsibilities, and luckily it has worked out very well for both of us.
How many hours a day do you work on average & can you describe/outline your typical day?
Our typical workday can start at 10 am and go until evening at almost 7 pm. In between, we do shunting between our home responsibilities and office. Typically we spend 5-7 hours a day. But we do get many duck days too with zero clients. We try to utilize these days to plan our further goals/targets and or writing reports, discussing our progress, and investing in social media activities.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage it?
I do not have any great fear regarding our work since there is nothing to lose. As I mentioned earlier, this is what I want to do my entire life.
What comes first for you, money or emotions?
Money is required. Both my partner and I prefer emotions, and hence we are still very low-profile. We are happy taking up one to one clients and conducting workshops free or at nominal rates. And it doesn’t bother us for very long.
Tell us about your early life. How has being an entrepreneur/professional affected your family life?
I was a happy and highly motivated child. Even in all the negativities in my family, I always looked at the brighter side. I had a big support system in the form of my friend, philosopher, and guide – my Mother. I completed my Masters in Electronics from Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyala, Indore in 2001 and selected through campus for an MNC Belgian GIS company. Yes! I am a technical person and worked for several years in IT setup in different domains and organizations- Tele-Atlas, NIIT, Orange, Wipro Infotech to name a few.
I received a lot of moral support and guidance from my then friend and now husband Vinay. He stood by me in every thick and thin of life. We got married in 2003. Marriage brought in a whole lot of new dimensions to my life. I am a very traditional cum contemporary individual. And now that I think of it, it has worked in positive ways more than in negative.
I did not give up any responsibilities of house, children, chores. I am not sure if my professional pursuits ever affected my family life adversely. But I do know there is a certain level of flexibility in our home; people give you space for your work life too. I make it a point to compensate for any time or effort that I miss out. So, spending quality time with my family is one of my priorities.
All this works out well for me!
What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who want to become entrepreneurs/mental health experts??
Please look inside your heart; there should be a burning desire to help people no matter what. They must have the immense mental strength to work with people with complete dedication.
Life experiences are a must. Counseling cannot be just another profession where you study and start working. A lot of observational skills, empathy, broad perspectives, a strong knowledge base, good communication skills – all these are requirements to become a Counsellor.
Apart from that, please STUDY seriously.
And yes, do not expect huge gains soon. My best wishes to all who are pursuing Psychology to become mental health professionals.
Follow the link to read the story of PeaceofMind’s Co-Founder – Harsharan Kaur: