I met this incredible lady at UnikBlends Women4Women event where Helga shared her profound story, Part I & Part II. Our paths crossed again at The Hague Garba Night, where she was promoting sweetly scented soaps and lotions, handmade from natural oils and essentials. I was intrigued, as Veena was first introduced to me as a MBA career woman, working at a consultancy. I had to know more, so I asked, to which Veena passionately responded, sharing with me her amazing journey of her hard-grinding banking world in India to running two of her fulfilling businesses, one of which is about luxurious handmade products called Naturally U.
Veena's remarkable story and the fact that her products are infused with natural ingredients, not to mention their irresistible scents, made me an instant customer! I got the mint and aloe vera bar soap at the Garba night. I bet you would fall in love with them, just like I did once you give them a trial... .......just read on.
Cross Boundaries with New Possibilities
I am from South India, where I completed my MBA and for 2.5 years developed a career in an International Bank. My working days were however very busy, very long (12 - 14 hours daily) and I eventually found I was not happy or satisfied.
In 2007, my husband and I built our first home in Bangalore, India, which gave me my first break from the banking world as I quit my bank job. After a few months, I started lecturing to Business Management Students at Maharani Lakshmi Ammani College for Women. I really loved my time here, even though it was for only one semester. I chose to take care of Angelina, my daughter. I was not so comfortable with sending her to a creche at such at tender age. I however continued teaching part time, giving English lessons. I enjoyed my days as a full time mom.
In March 2012, my husband was relocated to The Netherlands and I saw this as an opportunity to discover a new country and continent. It was a really amazing time of exploration for me and my family.
Angelina eventually got old enough to start school and I was alone at home for the first time, which forced me to ask myself "What do I do now?" In late 2012, I skeptically applied for jobs as the market was considered tough, given that the recession period was just coming to an end. My Prayers were answered as we spent New Year's eve with a good friend, I found a part time accounting job at Big Ben Kids. This was a much smaller company compared to working at an international bank but I wanted to try it out as I saw it as a good avenue to meet people and explore working life in the Netherlands.
I worked at Big Ben Kids for almost 2 years, updating their office systems and implemented an entirely new accounting process for the company. During this time, I felt more settled in my new "home" and had a sense of freedom I had not experienced living and working in India. I felt I had and saw more possibilities for myself here. The work environment was very international with quite a few number of Dutch people. Meeting and socializing in this diverse setting was completely new for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Further Exploration and Self Discovery
In Nov 2014, I decided to quit Big Ben Kids, even though I had a great time there and I bonded well with my boss, who gave me the freedom to implement a number of changes in the company. My colleagues, particularly the young ladies who worked with the kids, found me very approachable and would share with me their administrative as well as and other issues in their life. But I got restless with the routine of my actual job and felt I should be doing more, Yes - maybe there is more.
While I have the technical abilities to execute a finance job and did very well at it, it did not touch my soul and I was not working with people as much as I really wanted to. So for about a year, I stayed at home and explored other areas of my life in the Netherlands. I learnt to swim, drive in the Netherlands and took better care of myself by getting fit. I also took up a Dutch Language Course at the VolksUniversiteit. It was at this program that I met a number of amazing people . During this year my relationship with my friend Deepti deepened with whom I now have co-founded Naturally U.
In the year 2015, I went through a number of intense processes to better understand myself and to discover what I really wish to do. I allowed myself the time to explore,heal and engage in a number of activities as well as seminars and in one particular seminar really struck a code with me this year - Shape: Discovering your Spiritual Gifts, Heart/Passion, Abilities, Personality and Experiences. Was a part of a beautiful moms bible study group. I had the opportunity to sometimes teach in the group. After doing a Bible Study on 'Gospel in Life' book by Tim Keller, 2 of my friends (Sally, Heleen) and me committed to meet every week and be a part of an LTG (Life Transformation Group) focused on praying for each other and others. This is my go to group till date, friends I call sisters today.
It was in 2016 I started soap making which was brought by a challenge I accepted. The challenge was to make Sinterklaas handmade gifts and for some reason, I could only think of making lip balms and soaps! My Friends thought "okay, you are kind of taking this challenge a tiny bit too far" but it was through making these beautiful soaps together with Deepti that I discovered so much joy and happiness. Furthermore, I got such positive feedback about the soaps, such as how colourful and beautiful they looked and smelt, it was all so great. When I was requested to make more of the soap for a child who had some allergies to normal soap, I knew there was potential in this and I got thoroughly excited.
Unleashing My Talent
In 2016, I attended a "Find Your Voice" workshop organized by a British School in The Netherlands (BSN) mom, which explored ways for career shift. I was discovered my inclination to 2 paths, pastoral studies and counselling & coaching. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and decided to volunteer as a mentor at my Church and got to see the impact and change brought about in several lives by being a listener. I realized I had a heart that wanted to help people by listening and not judging, as people crave to have someone to just be there for them as listeners - unconsciously, this was what I was doing with the ladies at Big Ben Kids and perhaps the restlessness I felt at wanting to do more.
And so, I decided to become a certified counselor and coach and enrolled at the Academy of counseling and coaching in The Hague. It was an intense part-time one year program, which I felt was where I truly belonged . It was not always comfortable to be challenged this way but I was stretched and molded by the different cultures, beliefs and crisis of others who were part of my formation at the academy.
During this time, an opportunity to mentor and coach a ministry team for a children program came up at my Church. I was approached to take up the vacancy and though I had my initial doubts, my supervisor from the Academy felt it was a good match for me as I will not be directly teaching the kids but mentoring and equipping the adults that would enable them take up the responsibility of teaching biblical education to kids. And yes to anything that builds our future - our children.
With the support of God,my family and friends who encouraged me, I ventured on a busy schedule of the mentoring program at the Church, The 20 hours a week Ministry Leader job as well as my intense course at the Academy. It was a hectic time, with me away from home on 2 weekends for my course, but I felt I was heading in the right direction and also looked with enthusiasm to fulfilling my mission.
Growing through Pain
End of 2016 when I took up the vacancy at the Church, there was a lot happening and change was clearly needed. I entered a team of nearly burnt out people that had faced a lot of ups and downs in the past 2 years. For the first time in my working life I was faced with a lot of resistance to the change and new things that I brought in to the team. My way of working, the way I viewed the role and church was challenged. My work in the Church was well received by the volunteers and the children. However, there were impending issues brewing between the newer members of the team and those that had worked there for a longer tenure. Fortunately, the new boss who was also recently recruited was supportive as he was a visionary leader but it was only two of us against a multitude of indifference and unresolved conflicts.
This became an exhausting and frustrating phase for me as I battled with the conflicts and resistance to truly do what I knew was the right thing to do as well as make progress with my course work at the Academy. In December 2017, my husband was informed about a new project that might mean relocating to the US. Personally, this was a hard time as I had to also battle with uncertainties about our future in The Netherlands while trying to complete my studies and balance it with running things at home and work. To add to the mounting pressure, I had 3 months left to complete Dutch exam. It was a time of pushing myself extremely hard but looking back, it was a time of real growth as I came to realize my potentials. God used this difficult time to mould me and teach me.
In Jan 2018, my husband and I did an online course together called 'In Christ Image Training'. This course had a profound impact in our situation and lives. We learnt so much about Ministry, serving and being a Christ follower, more than ever before. I completed my Dutch exams successfully through God's grace.
After careful consideration, I decided to leave the Ministry job at the Church, to concentrate on my family's potential relocation. I felt it was time to move on.
During this time, I returned to soap making as it was the only thing I did to relief the stress and fear of burn out, I felt was coming up. I was calm and at peace when making soaps as I deviated my thoughts and focused on what I was creating with my hands. This certainly helped as I successfully completed my counseling course.
In May 2018, the tables turned and my husband was placed in a project in NL. So the move was not necessary anymore. With a stressful season out of my way and me being a registered couch, I had more time to invest in what I loved - coaching and soap making.
Change Making in Action
In June 2018, Forerunners Consulting and Coaching was birthed after the birth pains of 5 months. It is aimed at coaching individuals and businesses to explore their dreams and develop holistic solutions to adding sustainable value. Since then, I have partnered with Sunshine Au Pair as HR and Marketing consultant. I provide coaching services to the Au-pairs, who come from different countries, to on board and introduce them to their working life in the Netherlands.
Working with Lucy Lu, Founder of Sunshine Au Pair, showed me my strengths in being a business consultant.
I love working this way as I see myself as a true transformer, enabling people to make necessary changes so that they can create more good. Through my experience, I have developed the ability to look at systems and processes and say "it is time for change and this is how you can change". Change is a hard one to embrace but with the right support system, it pushes us to our next level,our purpose.
One day while having our customary chai, Deepti suggested the idea to make a business out of the soaps and with a clear calm mind, this was how NaturallyU was born, my second business in 2018!
And so for the first time, I am truly doing what I love and that defines who I am. For the most of it, I do not see these 2 businesses as work as I love doing what I do. I have discovered ways to effectively manage my businesses my focusing certain days of the week to each and even have a day free. Though I was taught to have financial success, to get educated and get a successful career but no one ever asked"Veena, who do you want to be"? I had to look myself in the mirror and ask myself that question and super thankful I got the chance to explore what it means in the Netherlands. I am finally able to realize my dreams as I believe in success, which includes financial independence that is achieved through fulfilling ones dreams. My transformation is still ongoing (always is !!), now getting ready to be a Change Management Practitioner.
Looking back at the people I met , the encouraging ones, the challenging ones , I am grateful for all of them, that God placed them on my path to transform me. Value every experience life brings you and give it your very best. Live and Leave a legacy of love, courage hope and purpose.
“Dream is not that which you see while sleeping it is something that does not let you sleep.” ― A P J Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire: An Autobiography