One Founder’s Unique Approach to Everyone’s 2021 Resolution: Journaling

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As we exited 2020 burnt out and scared, mindfulness and self-care have become the focus of the cultural conversation. With that, many are trying to create better daily habits in 2021, with one particular resolution standing out: journaling. No longer seen as a frivolous hobby for teenage girls, journaling has caught on, and often has, in creative circles, among Silicon Valley’s elite quoted in summaries about the habits of successful leaders.

Meha Agrawal was way ahead of that when she started building silk + special in 2017 creating a monthly subscription plan that includes a how-to planner journal. She set out to avoid distractions from technology, but wanted to avoid the intimidation of staring at a blank notebook.

With monthly themes such as “Admiration” or “Vulnerability,” the service offers a mix of productivity, introspection, mindfulness, and most importantly, the opportunity to turn to a new book each month and start fresh.

I spoke to Agrawal at the start of the new year to hear her take on resolutions, goal setting, and how people really benefit from committing to a regular practice of journaling.

Amy Schuhnthal: Tell me how you came up with the idea of ​​Silk + Sonder and how you started to build this company.

Meha Agrawal: I’ve seen people get discouraged with bullet journaling, in part because they couldn’t get theirs to look like they were seeing it on social media. I wanted to create a women’s wellness platform and community that makes daily self-care easy and fun from the comfort of your own home. As part of their membership, customers receive a maintained journal and virtual programs for peer-to-peer support and accountability.

Schuhnthal: How did you come up with the name?

Agrawal: I found it really difficult to find a word in the English language that expresses something deep, meaningful and bigger than ourselves. One day I came across the word special in the Dictionary of Dark Sorrows.

Schuhnthal: Wait… the dictionary of what?

Agrawal: It is real! It’s a dictionary of made-up words that have a heavier meaning than what you would find in Webster’s. Sonder’s definition is, “Realizing that every casual passerby lives a life as vivid and complex as your own, peopled by their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited weirdness.” That means everyone has a epic story that continues invisibly around you, with elaborate walkthroughs to thousands of other lives. So while we’re almost overwhelmed and thinking we’re alone in these agnostic alleys, we all experience this isolating, heavy feeling.

Schuhnthal: Let me explain how the subscription model works.

agrawal: My vision has always been to improve emotional health through community, connection, compassion and clarity. So many players are throwing technology on the market as the solution to all their problems. But when it came to journaling, there were only blank notebooks or apps. I wanted to build something structured so you can get started but open enough for you to make it your own.

Clinical psychologists say that writing pen to paper helps reduce stress and relieve anxiety. The journals are based on evidence-based exercises from positive psychology. Part of membership is that you get a brand new guided monthly planner and journal, as well as access to a members-only community.

We have a special club, a Facebook group of people who share stories about how they use their journals and how to get the most out of the experience. They also turn to each other for counseling on more serious issues such as chronic illnesses and other physical, mental, and emotional issues.

Then we offer special circles, which are guided journaling sessions hosted via Zoom, typically with around 10-15 participants per session.

Schuhnthal: What is the ideal cadence for journaling?

agrawal: You are in the driver’s seat. You can do this every day or every week. Practicing 5-10 minutes every day is good, even if it’s just to outline your tasks for the day. Ideally you will then have a weekly 30 minute in-depth session to look back or look forward to plan your week. Make time and space to answer the questions and respond to the prompts, whether it’s just once a week or multiple times a week.

It’s good to build up this practice for a few minutes a day while not looking at your phone. There is only power in physical pen and paper.

Schuhnthal: Do you have anecdotes from clients about how journaling/using this model has helped them achieve goals or gain clarity in their lives?

agrawal: People say we ignite parts of their inner child that they forgot were still in there. One of our first clients actually wrote an email saying she had ADHD in adulthood and talked about how Silk + Sonder had helped her, which was interesting because we didn’t set out to solve this problem.

I also have a direct quote from a customer named Jessica who wrote: “Silk + Sonder has been life changing – it’s so hard to pin down what it means to me. When I found this planner, it allowed me to take mindfulness and introspection to the next level. Most importantly, I can click refresh each month – it allows me to better forgive myself.”

Schuhnthal: Have you seen a surge in subscriptions for the new year 2021?

agrawal: We have a monthly subscription, so there are bumps throughout the year. What’s really interesting is that typically in a couple of months we see an uptick in those who fail in their resolutions and by March they feel like they need to start all over again.

Schuhnthal: The wellness industry is getting a lot of attention right now. How do you fit in?

agrawal: While the fitness industry (Soul Cycle, Peloton, etc.) and the weight loss industry (WW, Noom) have pushed ahead, mental wellbeing remains an afterthought. Most of our options today remain isolating, self-navigating, and expensive. Some have tried to integrate technology first to solve the emotional health epidemic, but what they don’t realize is that customers need to disconnect in order to reconnect with themselves and others.

Schuhnthal: Last March, when the pandemic hit, did you have to make any changes or adjustments?

agrawal: While fortunately our core product experience was not impacted, we had to transition other offerings. We had planned to launch and expand a personal wellness program for our members this year, but that ground to a halt in March. We immediately switched to a virtual programming model, which has worked incredibly well for our company so far.

Then, given the uncertainty in the markets, I was advised to be open to raising capital so we could extend our runway. Luckily that worked for us thanks Annie Kadavy and Redpoint Ventures, but it certainly wasn’t something I expected in the middle of a pandemic! Similarly, I had to address how to run a remote business and inspire an early-stage team.

When we don’t give ourselves any other option, it’s surprising what a “fight-or-flight” response can do. I had to lead with strength, creativity and trust to our customers, our team and our stakeholders. It has been a unique experience building a wellness business at a time when every person around the world needed it.

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