This month we spoke to Komal Sharma, the founder of the new pediatric cancer non-profit, The AMAAL Foundation, to talk about how she manages her day job and non-profit.
What made you set up AMAAL?
I had moved to Florida as soon as I graduated from university. I had moved there for my new job at an advisory company, and one of the main pillars that the company promoted was volunteer work. Being an employee there, I had the opportunity to volunteer at one of three locations. I decided to go with the children’s care facility, which was specifically catering to lower-income families, who weren’t able to afford childcare when they worked. Although the volunteer opportunity provided by the company was only for a day, I started going back there by myself because I loved working there. The kids were so bright, beautiful, and full of hope. It was probably my favorite part about living there. However, it was also eye-opening to see how inaccessible (in my opinion) basic care was for these kids, with some children suffering from symptoms that couldn’t be checked out by a doctor, and as consequence, treated. At the time, it was just an observation. In all fairness, I wasn’t sure if I could help, or how. It wasn’t until I returned to Chicago, and was speaking with a close colleague, that the idea of AMAAL formed.
How do you manage your time between your day job and working on AMAAL? Whilst ensuring you don’t get burnt out?
Playing the balance act can be tricky sometimes, but the main thing that works for me is having strict boundaries between my day job and AMAAL and having specific tasks/goals set for a given day or week. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there naturally have been many disruptions in the healthcare space that slowed progression down, and for a while, I was definitely feeling burnt out. That’s where maintaining a certain mindset can be really important. I keep in mind that building a strong foundation sometimes is a slow process, and as long as you continually work at it, you’re doing something right.
What has been key to promoting the non-profit ensuring it reaches the relevant persons?
So far, a majority of ensuring I’m able to reach relevant individuals is continually having meaningful conversations. I am lucky to live in Chicago, a city that has an incredible network of hospitals, healthcare providers, other non-profits with similar goals, and most importantly people who care.
What top tips would you give to readers looking to set up their own business?
Honestly, I feel like everyone says the same thing about starting something of their own, and they are right too. You certainly need to be diligent, motivated, focused, authentic, etc. But before all of that, I think the most important thing I can say is, in order to start anything, you have to be honest.
Be honest about your purpose, be honest about needing help, be honest about your goals, be honest if you don’t know something, and be honest with yourself. It’s only when you are honest with yourself, that you can be honest in your work, with other people, and with everything else.
How do you stay motivated to keep doing what you do?
Two words, people’s stories. There’s great inspiration that can come from others if for some reason you lose it in yourself. It reminds you of who you are, and why you are here.
Finally, what is your sassy life saying?
“Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of god that is inside each of us.”
An alumna of Syracuse University, Komal has been featured as a TEDx speaker and recognized as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Before making the switch to the supply chain industry, Komal served as a business partner working with clients of leading IT companies on business strategy and management.