Meet a Member: Eva Ghosh
Continuing with our feature series on the members of TiE Boston, we spoke with TiE Boston Charter Member, Eva Ghosh, President at LBR Inc. about her journey and what led her to TiE.
Tell me a bit more about yourself. How did you end up here? Where did you start? What was your journey?
My story begins as a 16-year-old in Mumbai, India. I was born into a family with four generations of male entrepreneurs. My father was a serial entrepreneur with a number of companies, employing thousands of people. He was a great dad, but he was not interested in the normal activities of a teenager. It eventually became clear that if I wanted his attention, I had to learn to speak his language, the language of business and entrepreneurship. By the time I was 16 years old, he had acknowledged that despite my being a female, I had potential. He encouraged me to intern and assigned a strong female mentor within his organization. She was an outlier in this very male-dominated environment. Under her mentorship, I learnt a lot about marketing and also gained exposure to, and learned how to deal with, issues that confront women leaders.
After completing two years of the internship with my mentor, I went on to get an MBA, and after graduating, I did not know what to do next. Opportunity knocked and events brought me to the US to start a new life as an entrepreneur. I co-founded a private equity company with the mission of finding opportunistic investments — companies that have growth potential and could be turned around. I began the process by evaluating hundreds of companies in diversified industries. Over time, in several phases, I had negotiated the leveraged buyout of assets, and we acquired eight manufacturing companies employing 170 people, 290,000 square feet of industrial real estate, and land.
At one of our sites, we established a home for creative expression, which is very important to me. Some of the tenants of these buildings were artisans and craftspeople; others were manufacturers and entrepreneurs. We were able to create 350 jobs in our buildings and give people space to follow their dreams. Because of the jobs we created, we were able to finance our buildings with tax exempt bonds. I had started my American adventure with the acquisition of industrial companies; however, I learned the way things end up is not how you may have imagined.
As the industrial area became gentrified, it became more challenging to operate. We had to think out of the box; after valuation and market analysis we discovered there was a better opportunity for alternate use of the real estate, converting and rebuilding old industrial buildings to high-rise, residential buildings and commercial uses. We decided to change course and venture into the real estate industry . Fortunately, my previous work experience at Copley Real estate Advisors and my education in Urban Planning and Real Estate development turned out to be very valuable in this new venture. One never can predict how the dots connect.
That began the multi-phase process of designing, converting and obtaining zoning approvals for high rise residential and commercial uses. After a few successful projects, it was time to learn our biggest lesson yet: bogged down in a long and drawn-out process for our largest site, we had to learn to be prepared for the unexpected After years of working with architects, planners and the city, we faced fierce opposition to our plans.
As someone said “If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters”. So we pivoted to plan B, then C and finally D, eventually selling the largest site in our portfolio for several times our original investment. After these exits, we continued to operate in manufacturing. One of the companies within our portfolio, which I’m very proud of, makes very high-end home furnishings including all kinds of hand printed wallpaper, some of which now hangs in the Blue Room of the White House.
My journey from when I started at age 16 to now has taught me one important life lesson and I quote Steve Jobs:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
One can see how influential your father was in your motivation to join the entrepreneurial world. What motivated you to continue to grow as an entrepreneur?
Being a woman in this world, you learn to prioritize leadership through proactive problem solving. When problems arise, instead of crawling under a desk and hiding, you determine how to break down challenges into something manageable and come up with a solution. That’s what keeps me going.
Do you have any advice for women who are looking to break down barriers?
I would tell them what my mentor, Mrs. Sharma always told me: women in leadership roles may often evoke negative responses from men and women. Responding in a like fashion won’t get you very far, so don’t let negative responses compromise your professional interactions. Continue to be compassionate and professional. As you work in the business world, embrace who you are and bring your best game.
You spoke about learning the language of entrepreneurship. What advice do you have for somebody who’s starting out?
- It’s important to know your passions, motivations and priorities before you start. Think about how much time you will spend on your business and evaluate if will interfere with what’s important to you.
- Do your research well and if you believe in it, step in and start. It’s normal to experience some anxiety and fear.
Many entrepreneurs have expectations upended by realities. How do you balance your expectations versus reality?
Great question, in terms of facing obstacles there were multiple times I felt like giving up. But by allocating time to step back and ask for help, I was able to revive the passion and bring new life into my business. Sometimes all you need is to just take a walk, do something different, or even meditate to get your mind in a calm state and answers can reveal themselves. Opposition and obstacles inspire you to think creatively, because you can’t look to the past for answers. Instead, embrace a growth mindset and let possibilities emerge.
What advice do you have on pivoting as an entrepreneur?
Look at obstacles as an opportunity to rethink your strategy. You have to be flexible and have an open mindset and you will be ready to change course when it’s time to do so.
A resounding lesson I learned while dealing with a city where our business was located, was to not take things personally. We met fierce opposition from city officials in our development process and we treated the city as both an ally and adversary: we worked with them to develop a plan that included us, and at the same time we were suing them in court over a particular issue. We learned to work together to develop something that would be beneficial to the entire community. This was amicable resolution to a difficult situation.
How did TiE become part of your story?
I initially got involved with TiE in 2003, when I was asked to help increase the involvement of professional women. With the help of people like Anu Chitrapu, we founded the first TiE Boston women’s group, TiEWIN. I chaired that group for a year during which time the attendance of professional women at TiE events increased from an average of 10 to 160. It was a lot of work, but we had fun. My involvement now is attending and enjoying the global retreats. I plan to be more active in TiE this year.
How may you have benefited from TiE in your own entrepreneurial journey?
Knowing that there’s a network of people I can reach out to if needed and who will give me an honest assessment, means so much. It’s wonderful to be part of an organization that provides an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.
What does creativity mean and look like for you? How do you encourage folks to embrace that creative side?
Creativity for me is connecting things at an intuitive level. To boost creativity, allow yourself time to take a “creative break” as I described earlier and that may be a catalyst to an insight. Finding creativity within yourself will take you to a new place.
What are you currently working on, any trends or areas that you’re following or passionate about?
I am working on a venture in the health and wellness industry, primarily because I’m motivated by my own deep interest in yoga and healthy lifestyle. I am also mentoring, consulting and coaching entrepreneurs: I’ve offered a workshop at MIT on leadership which I found fulfilling and I hope to offer additional leadership and mentoring workshops for entrepreneurs. I have also found service on non-profit boards to be a highly rewarding way to stay involved in the community.
The past few years have been very different than most. Do you have any advice or lessons learned for people getting involved in the entrepreneurial space in this particular climate?
This year was challenging in so many ways — isolation, death and illness. But it also gave people time to look inward and reflect — on where your career has been, what you really want to do, how to conduct your life in a more deliberate, thoughtful way. So here’s an opportunity to put together pieces on how you would like to compose your life in ways that will propel you forward.
How do you balance personal life and the demands of being an entrepreneur?
It can be a challenge. I happen to have two children that I love to spend time with. As an entrepreneur, you have some flexibility, but still there are no real boundaries in terms of work life and personal life — it all “mushes” together. Somehow you have to try and create some boundaries because it’s really important to be part of special moments with your family.
Do you keep a daily routine to stay balanced? How do you begin your day?
I’ve been practicing a yogic lifestyle for many years — so my day starts there, which sets the tone for the day. Finding that time for yourself is important; whether it is a yoga session, or a walk or something else that grounds you, because in that time, creativity flows. It allows you to reset and reframe things, especially when navigating obstacles.