2020 was the year of the pivot.
Personally and professionally.
Everyone was trying to find a new way to make their lives work in an unexpected environment.
I had two successful businesses in Vermont that were both greatly affected by the pandemic. One, a handmade skincare line I had created, The Orange Owl, was unsustainable given the new challenges. The second, a wellness center I ran with my husband, Alternative Roots Wellness Center, was closed because of the close-contact nature of the clinic. I shut down the former and we did our best to support our community online at the latter. None of these were easy decisions.
But then, as I was home with my two year old daughter, something unexpected happened.
I was on a quest to teach her my native south Indian language, Konkani. I didn’t think this would be too difficult because my daughter has excellent communication skills and loves to learn new words. But what I thought would be a simple process, turned into a whole new kind of professional pivot for me.
And Little Patakha was born.
Little Patakha was created based on two things I have learnt.
First: Our differences make us more innovative.
I grew up in an Indian environment with people more or less like me. Similar experiences, interests and ideas. Success was defined by how you did at school and then, at your job. This, was my normal.
It was only after I got to travel more, meet new people and cultures that I looked beyond any of this. Exposure to new ways of thinking changed how I thought. It changed how I defined success. It certainly made me more innovative. I discovered a surprising creative side to myself. Sometimes, I wish I had discovered this side much sooner.
And then the second thing I have learnt – We still have a long way to go when it comes to getting away from stereotypes.
Once Ava, my daughter, was born, I found myself thinking about her normal.
Societal pressures, imaginary boundaries, cultural and gender stereotypes still exist all over the world. In every culture. Looking beyond them is difficult, especially for women.
But what kids grow up surrounded by becomes their normal. Images, languages and ideas introduced at a young age have a deep impact on them. And we need more resources to promote open thinking, self-respect and the insight to question how things have always been.
And this is what Little Patakha hopes to do. Spark curiosity and celebrate differences. Through books, games, puzzles and other media for children that will introduce them to diverse sounds, ideas, people and cultures that they normally wouldn’t come across.
As our first project, we decided to focus on language, the foundation of any culture. We have created two first-of-their-kind books in two Indian languages, Hindi and Konkani. The books are designed with simple phonetic cues and online audio files to make these languages, and the cultures by extension, accessible to everyone.
Hindi is clearly the most popular language associated with India. Of north Indian origin, it uses a script that has survived through centuries. Konkani, on the other hand, is a lesser known south Indian language with no consistent script and few books available, especially for children.
I think often about how nuances are missed in a world that is quick to paint with a broad brush and categorize people into boxes or into an us-versus-them narrative. These two languages give a glimpse into the incredible diversity we have just within one country. It shows how there is a lot to learn about every culture so we can get away from stereotypes.
I am currently in the process to raise the funds necessary to print these two books and launch Little Patakha. All details are available on our website– we have had an amazing start and are already into the stretch goal phase of our campaign. The books are ready for pre-order and you can also take advantage of the beautiful rewards we have created exclusively for this launch.
Little Patakha has the potential to create incredible impact by shattering stereotypes and promoting diversity and acceptance. I cannot wait to share it with all of you and hope you will support me in this new adventure.
Akshata Nayak grew up in Bangalore, India. She moved to the US and earned two Master of Science degrees – one in Biochemistry and another in Applied Clinical Nutrition. Over the last decade, she has found herself in the role of a serial entrepreneur with her three ventures – The Orange Owl, a vegan skincare company, Alternative Roots Wellness Center, where she offers her nutrition counseling services, and now Little Patakha, a company that hopes to promote diversity and shatter stereotypes through books, games, puzzles and other media for children. Akshata is also deeply involved in supporting BIPOC entrepreneurs and is part of the Core Counselor Team at the Center for Women and Enterprise. Here she plays an active role in the ecosystem that empowers these entrepreneurs, especially in her home state of Vermont, to believe in themselves and give their ideas a chance.