Interview with Harsharan Kaur| Counselor| Co-Founder| PeaceofMind
Meet Harsharan Kaur Randhawa the expert mental health professional and the proud Co-Founder of PeaceOfMind. Harsharan is fierce and bold in her approach and is determined to establish her name in the field of counseling. Let’s learn more about her inspiring journey.
Tell us a little about your startup and/or your journey.
My journey to becoming a psychologist has been very interesting and challenging. It was interesting because I was very keen to study Psychology. I was always curious to understand the mind, how it thinks and how our thoughts are so powerful to control our lives. I used to wonder about this mysterious work. Moreover, I was clear with my vision of becoming a psychologist or a counselor. I used to feel very distressed whenever I came across anyone feeling stressed, nervous, anxious, lonely, or struggling with any other psychological problem and wanted to lend a helping hand. This feeling led me to become a psychologist to help people with life-challenging issues and guide them to deal with them positively and lead a more meaningful life.
It was very challenging too because I also had my household responsibilities. Though I was already in a profession of teaching and was managing my work and family, to study Psychology along with all this was quite a challenge. But as it is rightly said, “where there is a will, there is a way.” With determination and hard work, along with God’s will, I was able to achieve my aim.
I have completed my Master of Arts in Psychology (2018) from IGNOU and currently pursuing PG Diploma in Counseling and Family Therapy from IGNOU. I am also a Master of Arts in English from Pandit Ravishankar University Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
Since from the beginning it was very clear that I wanted my humble setup where I shall treat people in my unique way. Hence after completion of my Masters and PG Diploma in Counselling Psychology and with a lot of brainstorming and support from a very like-minded friend of mine, Meghna, we formed our start-up PEACEOFMIND COUNSELING SERVICES.
I took charge of the operational material and liaising with my contacts to find a suitable place. We started by renting out a classroom at a nearby school, in the evenings to start our practice. Spread the word through WhatsApp groups, pamphlets distributions, print ads we ventured into counseling. Meghna’s IT background helped us design and develop our online presence, brochure, pamphlets, promotional activities, and print documents and materials.
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.
How did the idea for your business/startup come about?
As I had mentioned earlier, I was always sure that I will have my startup. I always felt that I cannot work under any kind of restrictions. I am not made for a 9 to 5 job. It was my dream to have something of my own. So, after becoming a psychologist, my dream came true.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
I wanted to do something of my own. I strongly believe that women should be economically independent. This gives them a sense of happiness and satisfaction. It is not always about money, it is about their worth, their place in society. In the Indian context, we do talk about women empowerment, but I feel that there are still a lot of loopholes that need to be addressed. There are many personal experiences that I had, which were the key driving force to become an entrepreneur.
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. Although Peace of mind is a very common term people use it all the time differently, still it addresses the core need of our profession (counseling). Each one of us is seeking Peace of mind in our jobs, relations, and ultimately life. This is exactly 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 Counselling solutions in various forms and to various age-groups.
Our services are:
– Child/Parent Counseling,
– Adolescent/Parent Counseling,
– Relationship Counseling,
– Individual Counseling,
– Career Counseling,
– Group Counseling for schools and institutes,
– Workshops and Webinars/Seminars for Schools/Institutes/Corporates.
Why should people choose your product/services?
I believe counseling is required in almost all fields may it be, schools, corporate, relationships, etc. With the modernization, stress levels have also increased. Work pressure, expectations, problems in relationships, adolescent issues, all these have become common nowadays. This furthers leads to psychological problems and these problems, if not addressed on time, can result in disastrous outcomes. These issues can be tackled with timely and proper guidance from a professional. Therefore, counseling is of utmost importance and highly recommended.
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 so many different ways, so it is not that we are selling products that people can buy and feel happy about.
Additionally, people who are suffering do not 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 in all media and have focussed especially on Social Media i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and our Blog mainly. We have also registered ourselves on the online booking platform Lybrate. Conversion of online visitors to clients is still a mystery for us.
The most effective tactic though has always been and shall always be the traditional word of mouth and this has worked for us always.
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
The above are some of the major challenges that we have faced and keep facing.
It is like we are completely disheartened when things do not go as planned, but we pull ourselves back always. We just try to learn from our bad days and start afresh.
Have you considered any alliance/partnership/funding?
Yes, we are a part of multiple networks of counselors, psychologists, researchers, doctors, and other like-minded people from our field. This allows us to learn and grow, but we do not see any new partnership at least for now. But certainly, we do plan to expand in the coming years to a full-fledged holistic counseling center. That is indeed my/our dream.
What are your responsibilities as the business owner?
To make continuous progress in one’s business is the responsibility of the owner. It is the responsibility of the owner to look for new ideas to enhance one’s business, be it the environment, personal set up, or learning. Learning has no limits. So, we should keep on learning new things to make our performance better in our field. The more we learn, the better services we can offer to our clients. The biggest responsibility in my view is client satisfaction. We must ensure that the issues or expectations with which the clients approach us, should be completely resolved, and met.
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.
We have to tell people who are reading this that the job of a counselor is not easy at all. Day in day out listening and thinking about our clients their stories, problems, and contemplating on treatment, etc. takes a toll on our self. Each client comes with his/her own traumatic experience and life story which can impact us a lot. On average, we spend almost around 90 min with each patient although the standard time is 50 to 60 min. Hence being empathic and remaining detached is a huge ask.
And YES our job never ends after a session but it starts, joining the dots, preparing a treatment plan.
And then when we think we are progressing the client just stops coming. This is the biggest setback for clients who are suffering but are unable to pull through the entire treatment. Hence chances of relapse increase.
We want to use this platform to convey to all readers and people going through counselling treatment or even thinking of treatment that kindly go through the entire process, leaving in the middle shall never resolve your problem. Of course, monetary concerns we understand and most of us offer discounts but at the end of the day, if as individuals we are unable to cope and manage our issues and problems, the issues and problems shall always remain, hence never forget that of all YOU are your priority. Our Bhartiya mindset restricts us to think like that most of the times.’
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage it?
I have no fear as such to talk about but yes, I do think about the progress of my business. I sometimes worry about marketing, as to how further can we improve it. I along with my friend, colleague, and my business partner, Meghna Singh, have discussions and brainstorm to find out new ways that can help take our work to new heights. This, I think is the best way to manage my worries.
What comes first for you, money or emotions?
For me, emotions come first. Money has never been my priority. Many times, I have come across people suggesting me to be more professional in my dealings related to money. Unfortunately, this strategy has never worked in my favor. Whenever I need to choose out of money or emotions, I always give in to emotions. My profession is such that when clients come to me, they are already disturbed and passing through a turbulent phase of their lives, therefore, it becomes difficult sometimes to emphasize on the money. Honestly, I have never regretted doing this. It has always given me a different kind of satisfaction that can’t be explained in words.
Tell us about your early life. How has being an entrepreneur/professional affected your family life?
To become a professional along with family responsibilities has been a priority concern for me. I am too not spared from this. Initially, it was not much accepted in my family. My husband did support me but was not totally into it. It was always expected from me to manage both the roles like a superwoman. As my in-laws live with me, I had more expectations to fulfill. I was balancing different roles while I was raising my little one. I did have a helping hand at home but to instruct her and make things happen according to my requirements was also quite stressful. Taking time out to study and preparing for exams was no less. But despite all these facts, I was focused on my goal and was well determined to achieve it.
When I started my business, completing my household work starting from early in the morning, and getting ready to reach my center on time was extremely tough for me. Moreover, my husband got officially transferred to some other place leaving more responsibilities on my shoulders. Till date, there is not much change in my condition, but yes, my husband has become more supportive as compared to two years back and this is my driving force. It gives me constant motivation and keeps me focused on my work. I am very thankful to him for all that he has done and continues to do to support me. I am also grateful to my son who has now grown up and understands my work and my busy schedule. But above all, I am thankful to the almighty who has always been with me, giving me the strength and courage to keep going, and has never let me fall apart while facing difficulties.
What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who want to become entrepreneurs/mental health experts??
All the college graduates who want to become entrepreneurs or mental health experts, just focus on your aim and keep going with full determination. Your journey will no doubt be full of challenges but always keep one thing in mind – it is your journey, no one else will walk for you, you only must make your way. Do not rest until you reach your destination. Quoting a few lines from the famous poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Follow the link to read the story of PeaceofMind’s Founder – Meghna Singh: