Shivani Garg Patel, co-founder of Samahope, looks back on growing a social enterprise while expecting.
Creating a human being and creating a social venture have a lot in common: Unexpected challenges, incremental growth, and the immense satisfaction of making something out of thin air. Not only do both endeavors involve a tremendous amount of change, but it’s the kind of change that makes you realize your life will always be different from the way it was before.
I launched Samahope, which funds doctors who provide medical treatments for women and children in need around the world, because I wanted to do something deeply meaningful to me. Growing up, I traveled to India to visit my extended family and became keenly aware of the economic disparity that exists there. In college, I led a student-run non-profit that provided free medical, social, and legal services to homeless and low-income individuals in the Bay Area. After initially working at Microsoft as a product manager and then McKinsey as a strategy consultant, I was also lucky to work with social impact organizations like the World Bank, World Health Organization and Grameen Foundation. These experiences instilled in me a desire to use my skills to change the world, so in business school I investigated how technology could help alleviate poverty.
In 2012, I co-founded Samahope from my tiny New York apartment. After a year and a half of working from home as the only full-time employee, the pieces were finally in place to hire a team and collectively embark on a re-launch of our crowdfunding platform. In October of 2013, I moved from New York to San Francisco to build Samahope in a new city with a new apartment and new team, working out of an office versus working out of my apartment.
Days later, I discovered I was pregnant. I was joyful and anxious all at the same time. I quickly learned how difficult it is to deal with low energy and physical limits when you have ambitious goals and want to be a hard-hitting entrepreneur. I experienced many changes, but the biggest transformation was carrying a little person who was changing my life before being born. Now, I look back with gratitude AND disbelief that I managed to survive parts of it.
I had a rocky first trimester of pregnancy. Feeling disheveled and unwell became my new normal. Morning sickness is in fact a misnomer: my nausea showed no restraint throughout the day. And the pregnancy glow wasn’t a real thing for me. I was forced to slow down at a time when I wanted to speed up. My slowing down entailed days working from home, where I could pause conference call team brainstorms to go throw up.
Frustration was a part of my everyday experience. I had always pushed myself to work hard, but found that now I had very real physical limitations. Basically, I just tried to get through the day. I thought about all the women in developing countries that Samahope provides prenatal care to. I developed a new sense of appreciation for what it really means to be pregnant, and how important the access to medical care that Samahope provides is to women in underserved communities.
By the time we re-launched the Samahope website, three months later, I had survived the worst. My team now knew I was pregnant, and they were very supportive. Telling people was a relief, and I could be open about how I was feeling on any given day. My energy started to return, and with Samahope on track, I felt more like myself. I took time over the holidays to start to prepare for the baby by thinking about baby names, strollers and baby planning. I may have also worked on our strategic plan for Samahope for the next year, but hey, some things don’t change.
Samahope’s mission is to reach 1 million patients in 5 years, many of them expectant and delivering women, new mothers, and children. This week we are launching #HonorYourMom, a Mother’s Day campaign that helps mothers in need around the world access critical medical treatments.
The campaign helps us fund pioneering clinicians, like Wangmo Thapa, our skilled birth attendant in Nepal. She crosses mountain peaks over 16,404 feet by foot to get to her patients and conducted over 100 safe births in her first year alone. Upload a picture that will make your Mom (or any mom in your life) smile and add a personal message; she’ll receive a special dedication page and a personalized gift in the mail. Join us and participate in our #HonorYourMom campaign!
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