A New Chapter: How Meha Agrawal is Harnessing the Power of Pen and Paper to Transform Self Care

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds, raised funding, and are now leading successful companies.

Meha Agrawal, CEO and Founder of Silk + Sonder headshot


Meha Agrawal, CEO and Founder of Silk + Sonder, is transforming the way people practice self care and mental wellness at home.

After finding herself in an emotional rut, Meha discovered the therapeutic power of pen and paper. Since then, she’s become committed to modernize the way modern women reflect, rejuvenate, and achieve through journaling, data, and community. Her company, Silk + Sonder, is a wellness platform and community that makes daily self-care easy and fun from the comfort of members’ homes. 

We asked Meha about her journey in bringing disruptive solutions for emotional wellbeing to customers everywhere and the challenges she has faced in scaling, funding, and branding her impactful business. 


Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding: What led you to start this business?

A: Three years ago, I felt trapped in an emotional rut with the same disjointed, isolating, and self-navigated options most of us have today: therapy felt intimidating, coaching was expensive, anxiety medications seemed risky, and meditation apps were quite frankly…boring. While all potentially viable options for improving my mental wellness, simply finding and engaging with any of these felt onerous and insufficient. I felt this way to begin with because I lacked connection and that, along with accountability, was exactly what I was seeking. Then, however ironically, I finally discovered the therapeutic power of pen to paper and peer-driven support. Its profound impact on my own life left me no choice but to dedicate all my time and energy to bring a more approachable and impactful solution to mental wellness to others worldwide. We launched Silk + Sonder: a subscription for mental wellness that includes a guided monthly journal (yes, analog!) and access to an online community of peers who inspire and hold one another accountable.


Q: What problem does your company solve, or aim to? When it comes to that issue, what are some of the most meaningful impacts your company has had to date? 

A: In today’s digital world where we are bombarded with endless notifications and picture-perfect comparisons, we’ve forgotten to lean on simplicity and science. As humans, we crave intimacy and connection with ourselves and others. Journaling and writing happens to be the best medium to disconnect in order to reconnect. We are so proud to have thousands of Silk + Sonder members across every state already. Their backgrounds, values, and goals are uniquely theirs, but their commitment to themselves and to seeking and giving support to one another is ubiquitous.


Q: In what ways do you think differently about your industry than others do? In what ways are you disrupting your industry?

A: Our analog-first, community-driven approach is rooted in principles of positive psychology. We want to solve the emotional health epidemic for our customers versus be a band-aid fix. At its core, Silk + Sonder is a space for mindfulness, journaling, planning, tracking, and creative expression—all in one. By delivering a new journal every month, we’re able to provide our community with a fresh start and a blank slate, reminding them that they don’t need to wait for a new year to begin again and reevaluate their goals. This also eliminates the pressure of perfectionism and maintains the excitement, focus and energy around committing to yourself. We also take it a step further by offering Silk + Sonder users a community that both serves as a reminder that we’re not alone and allows us to collect real-time feedback that we’re able to utilize to build and enhance our products on a regular basis. 


Q: At what point in your business did you decide to fundraise? Why was this the right time and right approach for your company? 

A: I decided to fundraise when there was: (1) noticeable product-market fit, (2) clarity on how I would use the funds to carry out my vision, and (3) growing demand from customers. As a nights and weekends project, I grew Silk + Sonder to over 1000 paying members. I conducted hundreds of interviews with users to confirm my hypotheses, clarify what was working and where improvements were needed. Because I had a vision that far extended the current business and was able to demonstrate traction with early users, fundraising made sense so that I could efficiently grow and hire. 


Q: What was your biggest challenge during the fundraising process, and how did you mitigate it? 

A: There are two major challenges with the fundraising process: (1) managing time effectively so that you don’t lose momentum on your business and (2) managing your self-confidence. It’s a delicate dance, but allocating time to recharge and build is critical to stay connected to your mission when you receive “no”s. 


Q: How did you identify and approach the right investors for your company?

A: I love this question and can’t stress its importance enough! In the same way you pick your life partner and your friend circle, you can run a process that allows you to choose the right investors for your business. This all stems from your personal and company core values. For both my pre-seed and seed rounds, I chose investors who not only had high conviction in the business and me, but also those who demonstrated thoughtfulness, humility, and curiosity. Much of this can be tested in the questions they ask, their receptiveness to your answers, their willingness to challenge you, etc. Every one of our investors brings something beyond the capital and a willingness to roll up their sleeves and be helpful through the good and the bad. 


Q: What was the best piece of fundraising advice you got?

A: Investors will provide unsolicited advice and feedback—some of it might be relevant and useful, but more often than not, it’s distracting. Don’t dwell and second guess, be selective with the feedback you want to react to and move on. 


Q: How important have you found branding to be for the success of your company? 

A: I think brand is hugely important—it sets the tone, the feel, the vibe for every communication exchange and product experience for your customers. Having consistency across your brand voice, pillars, and identity is crucial. I think of branding like building the foundation of your house. If the roof has nothing to stand upon because there are missing pillars and walls, the house is unlivable. You can build a brand inexpensively by just being thoughtful from the start—don’t underestimate the power of it!


Q: What are the most important branding lessons you’ve learned along the way?

A: Don’t take brand for granted—everything you build can be lost overnight. Take your brand seriously and thoughtfully every step of the way; experiment occasionally but stay close to your brand values at all points. 


Q: What are the three most important things you look for when bringing on a new hire?

A: Hunger, humility, and radical thoughtfulness. In the early stages of a startup, you have to hire for capacity to absorb, adapt, and accomplish—everyone across all levels and departments is always operating outside their comfort zone, a playground to be challenged and massively rewarded. Candidates have to demonstrate a willingness to be entrepreneurial and curious in their own ways. 


Q: How have you grown as a leader since starting your company?

A: I continue to grow as a leader since no day looks the same and there are always surprises and challenges. One of the most challenging experiences has been moving from playing “team captain” to “coach”. As a founder who has touched every part of the business, it’s tempting to jump back in the weeds to help, but then you miss out on a potentially better, more clever way. That growth is particularly rewarding to me because I now get to learn how to manage different personalities, extract the best from everyone, and ensure that everyone feels motivated and energized by their contributions. 

Silk and sonder grow your own way image with customized journals

Q: What is one challenge you have faced as a female founder? What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in a similar situation?

A: Ha, so many! Fundraising is hands-down way more challenging as a woman, and especially as a solo, female founder of color. My advice is (1) to bring men along for the ride so they can witness the double standard and (2) ask for what you need from your existing supporters. Given how much harder it is as a female founder, there’s nothing wrong in asking for others in seats of privilege to pull their weight. While it’s unfair and unfortunate, I do think we underestimate how much others are willing to help make this path more possible, more successful for us. 


Q: Which books, podcasts, educational programs, or other resources have been most helpful to you since starting your company?

A: I still use books and podcasts as a source of inspiration. Some of my favorite books include: The One Thing, Essentialism, The Score Takes Care of Itself, Power of Branding, and The Art of Thinking Clearly. The podcasts I listen to on repeat are: How I Built This, Second Life, and The Pitch. Apart from these educational resources, the #1 resource for me has been a squad of founders who I can call any time of the day to troubleshoot any problem. One of the best things you can do is find a few founders who you gel with that you can trust and call anytime. 


Q: What advice would you give someone starting out on the journey you’re on?

A: Along your entrepreneurial journey, you will come across numerous nay-sayers from strangers who don’t understand your vision to those nearest to you who project their risk aversion onto you. A lot of people will over-index on the financial risk to starting your own business, but folks rarely talk about the emotional risk of not chasing after your dreams. In my opinion, the emotional risk far outweighs the financial one. Remember, you don’t have to justify nor over explain your entrepreneurial decisions—in fact, my best advice is to keep your plans to yourself, build a product, speak extensively with your users, pivot, learn, and grow. When you feel fleeting self-doubt, embrace the fact that you’ve chosen the path less taken and that you’ve signed up to operate outside your comfort zone every day. Keep your nay-sayers away! 

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  • Originally published November 12, 2020