Tuesday, March 31, 2020

My Simple Stay-At-home Birthday & 8 Things I'm Grateful For

Hi friends! I celebrated my birthday yesterday. At home, with my family and with a simple but scrumptious selection of homemade treats. So, even though I didn’t go out, have a party or have friends over because of the lock-down, I absolutely loved the slow, simple birthday I had yesterday. And you wanna know the truth? I didn’t miss the hullabaloo, the frenzy of making a birthday extra special, the expectations…one tiny bit.

chandana banerjee
My simple birthday at home & my homemade chocolate cake :)

Here’s what I’m grateful for this birthday:

Another year on Earth! I’ve never felt sorry for myself for growing older – I mean who says that only the “youngistan” years are the best??!!! And when you stop to think of those who lose their lives so young, then you realize that each moment, each year you get to lead a happy, healthy life is a gold-wrapped gift to cherish.

The extra silver in my hair - I've seemed to have had a bonus this year :D. I’m unapologetically a “salt ‘n’ pepper” gal. No artificial dyes out of bottles and packets for me. Thank you very much.

The gift of slowing down. Even though the circumstances surrounding the lockdown are not something to rejoice about, this has forced the whole world to dial down their pace, huddle at home and give Mother Earth a chance to heal and repair the damages that we have caused as a human race. I’m a homebody in a frenzied social world and finally, this situation has let me be the true me. A homebody in a world that is staying home. Maybe not for long, but at least for now, no apologizing for being a social misfit; no worrying about another party around the corner; no fretting about yet another meeting to go to. At least, on my birthday, I could stay home, be the homebody I am and enjoy the slow pace of life.

homecooked food
The Home-baked Life - Mini pies made by the hubby
A family I enjoy hanging out with. I’ve heard people saying they get stir crazy if cooped up with their family for a whole day. But I like nothing better!

Work that lights me up. I write books, blogs and content for my online courses, And paint. And all of it from home.

A basket-full of hobbies to dip into. I’ve been hearing a lot of comments, the gist of which is “I’m going crazy sitting at home!”. I offer up a quick prayer of gratitude here because I’ve got so many things to do at home that I’m hoping I never have to step out to another party where I fritter away time chit-chatting about inane things (charged as guilty - I'm TERRIBLE at small talk). (P.S. If you need ideas on how to spend your time well at home, do drop me a comment below and I’ll be happy to make a video or write a post on this.)

Our homeschooling life. Most of the time, I’m that “weird lady who keeps her son at home”. But now with the quarantine on, there’s a sudden interest in how homeschooling parents homeschool their kids. A lot of parents are tussling with the idea of having their kids at home 24x7 and wrestling with the syllabus, assignments and their own need for “me-time”.  But now as the world slips into a mandatory home-based routine that many are finding downright crazy, we are carrying on with what we’ve always done i.e. be at home and learn together.

The need to be a homebody. Confession. Most of the time I don’t feel thankful for being an absolute homebody. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve wondered why I do not enjoy parties, welfare meets, Ladies’ Clubs and coffee morning like other fauji wives. Where other ladies literally jump with glee at the whiff of a social “obligation” (well, that’s what I call all of these), I cringe at the thought of yet another event to be ticked off the list. But with the lock-down and social distancing mandate, I can finally be in my element. Now, when the majority are wondering how to stay happy at home, I’m in my groove. I know I will  be compelled to return to the normal world i.e. a world where social overdrive is the norm...but hey, why not enjoy the slow down as long as it lasts, eh? :)

Here’s to a slow, simple, home-based life and some of the things I’ve been grateful for this birthday. 

#birthday #gratitude #workfromhome #homeschool #beathome #slowdown 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Brigade that Builds Brands: Army wife, life coach, NLP practitioner & business owner Priyanka Kumar shares her entrepreneurship story

Hello friends! Today we have Priyanka Kumar - Army Wife, Life Coach, NLP Practitioner & Co-founder of WINGS Team with us at The Brigade that Builds Brands - a series that turns the spotlight on fauji wife entrepreneurs. I first got in touch with Priyanka a few years ago, when I was interviewing her for an article about military spouse entrepreneurship for a national magazine. Over the years, we've followed each other's journey, and I've been looking forward to featuring her in this series. I admire the gumption and enthusiasm with which Priyanka and her business partner + best friend, Payal Mittal Talwar (you can read her story here) have grown their brand, while juggling their Army wife responsibilities. Let's dive right into her story on how she has built a brand with her best friend.

Fauji wife entrepreneur
Priyanka Kumar in action mode at a NLP workshop

CB. Please tell us something about yourself – what do you do, where are you based and how long have you been a fauji/military wife (and which service are/have been part of i.e Army/Air Force/Navy).

PK. Growing up as an army daughter was fun, and as an army wife, now it’s been nearly 27 years of even more fun.

I am a student of psychology (LSR, DU) and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NFNLP, US and Neoway Academy, Bangalore).  I am extremely passionate about working with people. I am also an entrepreneur (now am running my second business – WINGS Team, with a business partner, Payal Talwar). The thrill of more people joining WINGS (by way of it expanding its impact and reach) keeps me motivated every day.

Today, WINGS is into Training (NLP practitioner level, NLP based trainings, soft skills and personality development), Life Coaching (where we support people achieve their goals, help them heal from allergies, traumas and phobias, limiting habits) and Content (creation, editing, proof reading – anything with the written word!)

military spouse entrepreneur
Priyanka - always a picture of grace 
CB. What has been your business or creative journey been like: how & when did you start your brand/business/creative career?

PK. I used to run a recruitment business for the telecom sector from 2006 – 2010, in Gurgaon, while my husband was posted elsewhere. Supporting all verticals of the industry (hardware, software, infrastructure, ISP, handsets, operators) was a learning and highly enriching experience for me.  During the period, the business grew to 7 times its original investment. 700%.

In 2010, I realized that my daughters needed a childhood of safety and adventure that the army provides. So, the girls and I went back to the army, to have a wholesome family life again.

In 2011, the entrepreneur bug hit me again, and with my business partner, Payal Talwar, we started WINGS Team. It’s been nearly 9 years since WINGS started.  WINGS, an acronym, stood for Women In Need of Grander Success.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

5 Homeschooling Ideas to Keep Children Engaged & Happy at Home

We’ve been homeschooling for the past two years. What started off as a temporary situation as we were living out of a suitcase in a hotel room for three months, turned into a full time, long term schooling option. And let me tell you, it was Not easy in the beginning.

homeschool life
Homeschooling in India
Like most moms, I yearned for alone time, when I could think my thoughts, work and do whatever it was I wanted to do without keeping an eye on the small person in the house, or a small boy trailing me and peppering me with questions every waking hour. But as we forged on, things became easier. In fact, now I can list out several pros to the homeschool life.

Now with children at home and exams on hold because of the shutdown worldwide, I’ve been getting questions for other moms about what they can do with their kids to keep them engaged and learning.

Here are some of the things we do with our son to encourage his interests and introduce him to new skills.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Brigade that Builds Brands: Army wife & handmade entrepreneur Mukulika Sengupta's multi-passionate approach to launching creative businesses

Hello friends! Today we’ve got a multi-passionate fauji wife entrepreneur & serial business creator over at 'The Brigade that Builds Brands' series that turns the spotlight on military wife micro business owners. Meet Mukulika Sengupta, an Army wife, baker, soaper, decoupage artist, photographer and handmade entrepreneur. I love the enthusiasm with which Mukulika always carves out a career around her many passions, and the prolific way in which she creates and launches her many micro businesses. What I really enjoy is how we both share a love for proactively creating happy careers for ourselves and always finding something we can do from whichever place or situation we are in. 

milpreneur mukulika sengupta
Meet the multi-passionate milpreneur - Mukulika Sengupta

I hope you come away inspired and totally charged up to create a small business for yourself :). (Note: Stay tuned till end of this post to find out about the soon-to-be released online course for aspiring #workfromhome military wife entrepreneurs.)

CB. Please tell us something about yourself – what do you do, where are you based and how long have you been a fauji/military wife (and which service are/have been part of i.e Army/Air Force/Navy).

MS. A fauji daughter, studied in Sainik School Tilaiya, and married to my fauji for 20 years...I have been part of the organisation all my life. 

CB. What has been your business or creative journey been like: how & when did you start your brand/business/creative career?

MS. My creative journey happened by chance. We were posted to a small town in Assam. Those were the days before the online shopping boom and it was a difficult task getting stuff at such remote places. My son who was  9 years old wanted a beautiful birthday cake and all we could get was one of those artificially coloured pastries. So I promised my son to bake “the best” cake for him. And therein I discovered my passion for baking. I went on to do courses in baking and chocolate making from Neeta Mehta Academy, Swati Jain’s Sugarcraft India, Wisk India (Mumbai) etc. I started taking orders and conducting workshops. I started my own food blog called www.apigeonnapie.blogspot.in

baking as a small business

food blog as a small business
Mukulika's scrumptious home baked treats

The only bane of a fauji’s life is getting posted to remote places where accessibility becomes a big problem.  One such not-to-be-found-on-the-map station forced me to take a sabbatical from my baking venture. 

Next step in my journey took us to the city of dreams-Mumbai. To cut a long story short I learnt the art of making soaps from a reputed soaper who is the only soaper in India to have a Govt of Telengana certification to run a soap academy. I also learnt to make creams, lotions, shampoos, gels, scrubs, etc. What started off as a hobby saw me becoming an online entrepreneur as I launched my brand Skindulgence. My usp is that I do not compromise on the quality as I and my family use the very same soaps. So it is only the best for my family and those who buy from me. And by God’s grace I have a regular clientele and apart from individual orders I also get a lot of orders for Ladies meets. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

6 Time Management tips for work-from-home military wives

Social commitments are part and parcel of the military life. Like many military wives, I spend several hours per week at various welfare meets, parties, and volunteer events. Add to that, last moment event announcements and unplanned stuff popping up every now and then, and I find some of my golden work hours spent attending a social event instead of working.

time management for work-from-home mompreneurs
Time management for mompreneurs & milpreneurs
So, when you’re working-from-home (construed in the military community as a super-flexible career) and also are the primary caregiver to your child, it needs a fair bit of planning and time management to get any work done.

Here’s how I try to make time for my work:

1. Mine your fringe hours. The trick is to create time when your day looks full already. When I look at my schedule, it looks pretty full. With homeschooling, the commitments at the base and my own needs for leisure and fitness, the day already seems packed. But if I stretch it a little bit more, there are the early morning hours and afternoons. I could also use a few hours over the weekends to finish a painting order, complete an article or record a video, or even schedule a coaching call. I do believe that if we really want to do something, we can pull out a couple of hours here and there to do it.

2. Create a rhythm to your days and slot your work.  Earlier, when I wasn’t a mom, I used to be pretty strict about working to a schedule. But with a homeschooled kid in tow, a schedule just does not work. So instead, I’ve begun creating rhythms and chunk time into blocks. For example, I try to wake up at 5 am to work before my son wakes up and try to get in a solid chunk of time writing and recording material for my various blog series, books and courses; mornings are spent homeschooling; afternoons are for my painting orders; and evenings are for social commitments or family time, or a spot of social media marketing, depending on what’s the need of the hour.

None of this is set in stone, but knowing the general flow of the day helps me squeeze in extra work hours. And if your child goes to school, even pre-school for a few hours a day, then on most days you have a block of time to work in.

3. Make time for work. The general assumption about working-from-home is that you can work or not work whenever you want. If you’re doing a self-paced project, then it might sometimes feel like that to you too. But factoring in work into your schedule and assigning yourself goals can help you stay productive.

Friday, February 14, 2020

8 bite-sized steps for setting up your work-from-home business

Are you all geared up to launch that micro business from wherever you are based and with whatever time you can scrape together to work in? Try out these teeny-tiny steps to create your dream work-from-home business.

Here are some first steps you can begin with:
1.     Write down the basics of what you need to do to launch your business/brand/service/career. When you create a map of the direction you need to take, the journey is much easier and there are fewer chances of getting lost in a cloud of overwhelm.
2.   Assign timeframes and deadlines to the baby steps. When you do this, you strive towards finishing up the tasks within a reasonable amount of time, instead of letting those stretch. You’re also more inclined to stick to some kind of schedule when you know the timelines of your to-dos.
3.   Set up a web presence. Whether you’re creating a virtual venture or setting up a brick-and-mortar shop, you still need to create a web presence these days. And when you work-from-home from the boondocks, then a web page or even a Facebook business page goes a long way in letting your target community know about the services or products that you plan to offer.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

5 Kinds of Military Wives who start Work-from-home Entrepreneurial Careers

Over the years, I’ve met lots of service wives, all talented and well-qualified, but very few who take what they have to start a meaningful work-from-home venture, from where they are. I agree that the challenges of the defence services lifestyle are unique and not exactly nurturing towards lady wives with long-term careers. But still, it is NOT impossible to be a work-from-home diva. 

Successful Milpreneurs

It was this quest to connect with other work-from-home lady bosses that nudged me to start The Brigade that Builds Brands, a popular series that turns the spotlight on fauji wife entrepreneurs.

I’ve found that there are certain kinds of traits that make these ladies launch a venture from remote areas of the country. 

Here are the 5 kinds of women who strive to create brands from the boondocks, while making their home in fauji/military bases across India:

1.     The “I see the glass as half-full” kind of fauji wives: Like I said before, we have plenty of variables in our military lifestyle that can throw a spanner in the works when it comes to working-from-home in a self-created venture. But these ladies always see what’s working in favor of them in any given situation or posting and use it to their advantage while creating work schedules and career goals. Instead of choosing to find problems that hold them back, they look at the positives i.e. they don’t say the glass is half-empty, but instead, it’s half-full.

2.    The “Take the bull by the horns” kind of fauji wives: Whether it’s a welfare meet or Ladies Club program to arrange, a party or official do to be attended, a business plan to be created or a professional course that’s necessary for their career development, these military/fauji wives just go ahead and do what’s needed without spending too much time talking about it. I’ve noticed that when you jump into the rabbit hole of too much planning and discussion and mulling over the if’s and but’s (very apt for all those long “meetings” that fauji wives are famous for while planning their events!), there’s more chatter and less of productive action.

Monday, January 27, 2020

5 Work-from-home Online Business Ideas for Military Wives & Moms

Don’t you think one of the most common obstacles to actually working-from-home is finding a tangible idea to run with? Maybe you would like to turn a passion/hobby/skill into a career but aren’t sure where to start. Or, you already have a qualification that you can build on by getting a few more degrees but aren’t sure which direction to take. Or, maybe you’re just confused about what you can do from where you’re posted?

5 business ideas for milpreneurs

Here are 5 online work-from-home ideas that can help you start thinking:

1.     Blogging: If you're planning to step into freelance journalism, content writing or self-publishing, starting a blog can be that first step to showcase your writing to the world. Eventually, you can create a portfolio on your blog and use that to pitch for creative writing or freelance journalism projects.  I started my personal blog www.chandanabanerjee.com to jot down my early motherhood snippets and my take on situations happening around, but over the years it has grown into a place where I feature my freelance journalism portfolio as well as offer ongoing series to inspire fauji wives to create work-from-home brands.

2.   Counseling: If helping people is your forte, you can think of offering a counseling service via the phone or Skype. For this, you will have to get the appropriate education in the field, create a website and build a client base. With the increase in mental health issues and the need for good counselors, this is a field through which you can help other as well as earn a fee for doing what you like. Interestingly, if you’re a counselor or want to train as one, you can also offer your services to the people at your base.
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