The word “sonder” is only seven years old, coined by John Koenig in his book The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. But it’s a term that Meha Agrawal says represents a profound experience that we all share. Sonder is the realization that every passing stranger has a complex life of their own, despite your own lack of awareness thereof. She named her business Silk + Sonder in deference to that feeling, adding the softest of fabrics to indicate “our humble attempt to add smoothness to that very complexity.”
How does she do that? Monthly planners. Real ones, with pages, which require filling out with pen or pencil. But you could plan your days and weeks with any old binder. Why these? Silk + Sonder’s planners do have pages to populate with your daily activities, but it’s more like a Highlights magazine for grown-ups. Each issue is stuffed with articles, habit trackers, guided journaling, coloring, and myriad other relaxation techniques. Think of it as therapy on paper -- not a bad deal for $18 each month.
Agrawal was a software engineer and product manager for companies including The Muse and Stitch Fix before she launched Silk + Sonder in 2017. As she moved to strike out on her own, women’s entrepreneurship became a pet cause. When not working on her business or teaching Bollywood cardio dance classes, she mentors other female business owners as a founding member of Dreamers // Doers, a community for entrepreneurial ladies.
All of this is an attempt at spreading the self-care gospel to other women. “As someone who grew up in South Asia, ‘mental health’ was relatively taboo and therapy was always an intimidating topic,” she recalls. “It wasn’t until I accidentally discovered the power of journaling when I noticed a magical shift in my emotional health and wellness. That’s where the idea for a guided self reflection experience that felt accessible and personalized really began.”
Agrawal was so sure of the idea, that she says she went hastily from conception to launch. “Unlike a previous startup idea, I decided to execute before I over-engineered. The longer you wait to ‘launch’ your business, the easier it is to think of a million reasons on why it won’t work,” she explains.
Not overthinking is one of her tips for other entrepreneurs. She also believes in using social media to connect directly with customers. She takes to Instagram to get one-on-one feedback, but has also tried email polls and surveys.
The next year will be a big one for Silk + Sonder. Agrawal, still a technologist at heart, plans to launch a digital complement to the analog journals. The reason? To enable users to connect as a community. But she’s planning to go way beyond merely introducing her users to one another. “Five years from now, we want to evolve into a blended ecosystem that has physical, digital, experiential, social, and personal touch points to make daily self-care and mental wellness approachable, fun, and easy.”
Big goals, indeed. But we trust that Agrawal will find room in her planner to make it happen.