Doing What they Love: 3 Entrepreneurs Share How

A few years ago, a colleague from my days at Citi, Raj Gilda talked about making a difference and did just that. With his wife, Sunanda Mane and the support of a few friends, Raj started Lend-a-Hand India (LAHI), a non profit on top of his full-time job at Citi. While I have kept up to date with LAHI’s events via facebook, I had yet to attend an event until this past Friday. An Evening with Grass-root Entrepreneurs was a fun and informative evening, graciously hosted by A.T. Kearney.

The panelists included:

  • Tawny Ong who transitioned from the world of finance to cupcakes.
  • Quentin English who in addition to his day-job, created Quentin’s Friends, an invitation-only paid subscription online community; and
  • Melanie Kanokada, an ex-McKinsey consultant who decided to leap into the world of acting to reignite her childhood dream of becoming an actress.

Here are some words of wisdom they shared on doing what they love:

  • Sometimes you just need to make the leap, to figure out (i) if you like your desired path and (ii) whether you are good at it. While Tawny was good at what she did in the finance world, she was not happy and felt somewhat lost. One day, she was captivated by the amazing aroma of a cupcake bakery, she walked in and immediately felt good. This encounter prompted Tawny to resign and respond to the help wanted sign at Magnolia bakery. With no baking experience whatsoever, Tawny spent two years working at the bakery getting hands on experience as well as studying at the Institute of Culinary Education. I sampled all of Tawny’s treats at the event (for research purposes of course) and I have to say her cupcakes and banana pudding were simply delectable!
  • Put your whole heart and soul into it, with no back up plan. Melanie, hosted two television shows on top of her 80 hour work weeks as a consultant. When she made the leap, she chose not to be distracted by part-time jobs. She advised that you do need to be realistic but saving while you work would help you stick to your plan. This approach has worked so far for Melanie as she shared a number of exciting projects in the pipeline including her first lead role in Bicycle Bride which will be released this year.
  • Determine whether you are going to be self-employed or whether you are building a business. Quentin balances his day job at Citi, with Quentin’s Friends, which initially started out as a hobby with 25 friends in 2000 and has since grown to a community of several thousand friends of friends. Quentin shared some of the lessons he has learned along the way: (i) If you are building a scalable business, create systems to support  growth and operations; (ii) Pay other people to do the administrative stuff, so you can focus your efforts on the strategic aspects of building a business. (iii) Find a wise, experienced coach, that you respect and can learn from to keep you moving forward.

Lend-a-Hand India is an incredible organization, I was impressed and inspired by their accomplishments. If you are in the New York area,  save June 18th for their next event: Chocolate & Cupcakes. Visit to learn more about upcoming events and to support it’s mission to equip 20,000 girls and boys from 100 high school based in rural India with job and life skills.

Feel free to share your tips on how you made the leap to do what you love, in the comments section below.

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