By Rishin Paonaskar, Yoga Teacher and Founder of "Rish's Dishes" healthy snack bars!
"Some people work their asses off for 48 weeks a year so that they can spend 4 weeks of the year doing what they enjoy . I spend 52 weeks a year doing what I love"
Those were the words of my Welsh scuba diving instructor (who had left a banking career) in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt where three of my friends and I decided to go to celebrate the end of our last set of university exams in 2003.
Within 6 months, all four of us were working in banking or finance in roles where we would be working our asses off 48 weeks a year so that we could spend 4 weeks hopefully doing things we enjoyed!
That is pretty much how I spent the next 8 years - working to pay for holidays and it was on a trip to Belize when yet another scuba diving instructor happened to say: "Find a job you love and you will never work another day in your life". A similar sentiment to the one expressed 8 years ago but this time the words really struck home.
It made me think about the life I had chosen. Sure the money was decent I had made some great friends but deep down I knew that I was operating on autopilot. I wasn’t passionate about what I did. With hindsight, the only reason I got into the corporate world was that all my friends at university were going down that route and it seemed like a logical extension to my education at university. I didn’t want to look back in 20 years and think “what if… .?”
When I got back to London, I tried to work out what I would do if I left banking. I had skills but had no idea how to transfer these to an area I was passionate about namely food or travel. Then I watched a commencement speech Steve Jobs made at Stanford University in 2005 when he talked about his own journey. He focussed on what he was passionate about all the way through his life. They may have been hobbies as abstract as calligraphy which at the time didn’t have any clear value but years later, it is precisely that abstract skill which made Macintosh computers so unique.
It was around this time that the street food scene in London really took off. The perceived ease of starting a street food business made me see opportunities where previously I wouldn’t have dreamt of looking. I poured over numbers and I estimated it would take me about 2 years to save up enough money to get a basic food business off the ground.
I decided to set myself a target of leaving banking in 3 years. This would give me enough time to manage my financial obligations, save some money and most importantly focus on the things that I was passionate about with a view to develop work skills in those areas. As Steve Jobs mentioned in his speech, you have to trust that the dots will connect in the future.
A few months later I injured myself cycling in the Lake District, tearing muscles in both rotator cuffs. What ensued were some very painful sessions at the physiotherapist who advised me to take up yoga to maintain joint mobility and rebuild the strength in my shoulders. I was sceptical. My previous experience of yoga had been at school in India where a frustrated teacher fruitlessly tried to get 40 hyperactive adolescent boys to sit still and do some static stretches. Nevertheless with nothing to lose, I signed up for an intro offer at a yoga studio opposite my flat. I was surprised that I really enjoyed it and made time to go to a yoga class almost every day. After a few months, I began to explore the idea of training as a yoga instructor. I cant help but laugh at how a painful injury ended up opening a door for me!
I got my flat valued by an estate agent and worked out that by selling it, I would be able to able to free up enough capital to accelerate my startup timeline and pay for yoga teacher training while simultaneously releasing myself of any financial obligations.
TAKING THE PLUNGE
A few months later, I had resigned from my banking job, put my flat up for sale, signed up for yoga teacher training and threw myself into networking with food entrepreneurs to get as much advice and information as possible which made me realise that the logistics of starting a street food business particularly around scalability, storage and moving equipment were far more complicated than I had initially thought. Having taken the plunge off the metaphorical cliff, there was no turning back though and I began to explore ways in which I could make a food business work.
I often took homemade energy bars on bike rides or runs. I shared a couple with some friends and people at my running club who said “I should totally sell these”. I thought about it and the logistical issues I was experiencing with my street food ideas could easily be avoided if I were to make and sell bars. It would be relatively easy to set up a supply chain for sourcing and delivering products with a relatively long shelf life. This was just before I began yoga teacher training and I realised that health conscious yogis were also interested in my bars. Soon after I finished my teacher training I began selling bars in market stalls and approached local cafes asking if they would be interested.
I now split my time between teaching yoga and making bars. I am happier and feel freer than when I worked in banking but it is not without its challenges. I no longer have a steady paycheck, the hours are far more irregular than they were in banking – sometimes I have to be up at 5am to teach a class and stay up late to prep for an order). I have had a number of frustrating experiences with the council, with packaging regulations and logistical problems are always there but despite trials and tribulations, it never feels like I am working. I love teaching yoga and I love making food. The sense of delight I get when one of my students breaks through mental barriers to execute an arm balance for the first time or when a new retailer expresses an interest in stocking my bars is far greater than anything I felt when working in banking and makes it all worthwhile. I see new opportunities everywhere I look and am even able to fund holidays by teaching yoga classes when abroad. I can look back and actually see the dots connecting!
If a young graduate were to ask me for advice I'd probably crank out a plagiarised "Rather than working 48 weeks a year so you can have 4 weeks off, do what you love and you'll never work another day in your life. Do what you enjoy doing and trust that things will work out".
Rishin used to work in banking but after almost 10 years, decided to leave to start his own business. He is a qualified yoga instructor and now balances his time between his raw food business and teaching yoga. He also loves travelling, doing triathlons and is training as a yoga sports coach.