From his mother’s reaction, you might think that Varun Agarwal committed a heinous crime or suffered from some hideous deformity.
“I don’t know what to do. Who will marry him?” the mother cries in Agarwal’s book “How I Braved Anu Aunty & Co-Founded a Million Dollar Company.”
What’s so terribly wrong with Agarwal that causes so much consternation for his mother?
He decided to pursue a path of entrepreneurship rather than the more socially acceptable trajectory of working for a short time after college before getting an MBA and accepting a salaried position with a good company.
I should point out that Agarwal lives in India, where entrepreneurship is discouraged by the older generation because it tends to interfere with the custom of arranged marriage.
“Parents of prospective brides strike me off the list when they find I am a start-up guy,” the author/entrepreneur told writer Saritha Rai in a blog that appeared last fall in the global edition of The New York Times. “They want a safety net for their daughters. They feel I could not provide her a nice house or a luxury car as I don’t have a job and banks will not give me credit.”
Something tells me Agarwal is having the last laugh. In his mid-20s, he’s the founder of a successful company, Alma Mater, which sells logo-adorned merchandise for colleges and schools across India. And his book, masquerading as fiction, chronicles the resistance he faced in fulfilling his dream, has sold more than 30,000 copies and is in a third reprint.
His story, however, makes me feel fortunate to be an American where entrepreneurship is encouraged and arranged marriages are hardly the norm.
As an entrepreneur and husband, I understand the demands of starting a business and how it has the potential to put stress on a marriage. Starting a company requires copious amounts of time, money and energy. But being a successful entrepreneur is not the antithesis of being a good husband, wife or parent, as some might have you believe. I have read many articles and blogs that characterize marriage to an entrepreneur as being a “roller coaster ride,” for spouses who have to deal with exorbitant egos, cash-strapped households and neglect by a partner who is preoccupied with building an empire.
I rather like writer Chris Dannen’s take on the subject. The editor of Co.Labs at FastCompany observes:
“The phenomenon of the entrepreneur with the MBA is a relatively recent one; entrepreneurship programs are sprouting up at universities all over the country, but most of the folks that start businesses don’t have the knowledge or inclination to be ‘empire builders.’ What they do have, however, is creativity, drive, self-confidence and dynamism.”
And there is plenty of advice out there for spouses who might be married to an entrepreneur, whether they are wives or husbands.
Nicole Bailey, wife of Petra Coach founder and CEO Andy Bailey, offered several tips in a story for BusinessNewsDaily. She suggests that couples keep to schedules that allow them to spend time together and get away from it all when they can. She also suggests that the non-entrepreneur in the relationship develop his or her own outside interests.
“Understand how your dreamer thinks,” suggests another writer for wikiHow. “Dreamers are ideas people. They always have a new one. It doesn’t mean that they are going to sell everything and go start that bed and breakfast out in the wilderness. They are just expressing a thought. It’s like exercising a muscle. They work out that muscle every day. So don’t freak out. You never know when that one idea is the one that brings success.”
The blog marriedtoanentrepreneur.com offers similar advice: “As spouses of entrepreneurs, we don’t want to kill the dream (or the dreamer for that matter). We don’t want to be the reason that someone, aka our entrepreneur, doesn’t achieve their potential. We don’t want to thwart their passion or creativity or talent, BUT we would like some piece of mind when it comes to being able to afford groceries next week, let alone college in 5 years.”
Writing for Forbes magazine earlier this year, Anson Sowby owner of an advertising agency called Rocket XL, takes the advice to a whole other level by pointing out the advantages of two entrepreneurs marring one another, based on his experience with wife Ro Cysne, co-founder of JilRo clothing.
Sowby writes that he and his wife benefit from such things as networking together, mutual motivation, short commutes and being each other’s sounding board.
Two entrepreneurs under the same roof: I kinda like that. Of course, my wife might have a different opinion…