Akansha Agrawal, Founder of Citrus & Gold
Akansha Agrawal is a marketing coach and consultant at Citrus & Gold, and the co-author of The Healthy Indian Food Cookbook. She graduated from UC Berkeley and grew her career at LinkedIn as a marketing and analytics professional before creating Citrus & Gold. Her mission is to help entrepreneurs create powerful, engaging content that allows them to sell more authentically.
“I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area all my life, with a short stint in Seattle. We grew up in a really tight knit South Asian community, and our families shared the mindset of instilling in their children the importance of doing well in school and getting a good job. My parents were very supportive of who I was and everything I was interested in.
Looking back, I feel very blessed to have had so many opportunities to celebrate Indian culture. Participating in culture shows was a cool thing to do, and I’m glad I grew up with a community that took pride in all of that.
Regarding my career, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I started college at UC Berkeley. Silicon Valley was a very STEM focused society, but I didn’t want to be an engineer. I remember thinking that Economics sounded good as it requires strategic and critical thinking but was also directly applicable to the real world. And honestly, Economics seemed like a degree with which I could get a job working in a suit wearing really nice heels - and that sounded fun!
As I progressed through my college career, I started becoming more immersed in the tech ecosystem. A ton of tech companies recruited at Berkeley, and I started exploring roles in marketing. I started my career at LinkedIn and worked across roles in marketing to customer support to strategy.”
From Side Hustle to Full-Time Job
“While I grew my career at LinkedIn, I also started being more intentional with health and fitness. Working out was just a passion at first. I soon started running half marathons to challenge myself, and then taught group fitness for a bit as well. I eventually started a wellness blog as a passion project - Citrus & Gold. Through Citrus & Gold, incorporating health and wellness into my every day became a way of life that helped me find more happiness, calm and serenity.
Over time, the Citrus & Gold community continued to expand and I fell more and more in love with the health and wellness space. There wasn’t one moment when I knew I wanted to pursue Citrus & Gold full time. It was a lot of mini steps of me learning more about my passions and building my voice.
Working at LinkedIn was a blessing and a great learning experience. LinkedIn has a great culture, great people and pay, and for the most part, I felt that things were fine. But I knew something was missing. I realized I was trying so hard to fit into the box that my role wanted me to, but I was more of an analytics marketing professional writing SQL code and all of that. I was also in my mid-twenties, and I wanted to have a family and a certain lifestyle in my 30s. What I was doing in that moment was not setting myself up for that.”
“So I left LinkedIn without a plan B, and I’m so grateful that I had the chance to do that. I told everyone that I was going to take a few months off to see what else is out there. Everyone was pretty much on board, and I was especially surprised to see how supportive my dad was. He’s the one who suggested I could do Citrus & Gold full time, way before I saw potential in it. So I built Citrus & Gold from a wellness blog, to starting to coach people, to becoming a legitimate, full-time marketing coach.
One of the hardest parts of transitioning from a side hustle to pursuing it full time is understanding how to manage your finances. Thinking about money isn’t always comfortable, and I had to do a lot of work to shift my own mindset around how to earn and spend money. It’s also so helpful to have support from family friends, and to ask for help when you need it. For example, I moved home for a couple months when I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t feel like I should be spending on rent.
Later on, my fiancé (now husband!) and I moved in together. While we wanted to spend 50/50 on everything, he understood that there would be some months when I was investing a lot in my business, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to invest in other things. We were able to talk about money openly with each other, which is really important.
It’s also important to believe that you can figure out what you’re good at and what people are willing to pay for. Starting your own business is such a rollercoaster that you need to believe in yourself and the skills you have. Even if you think you’re too young to do something or to share your expertise, be confident in your skills and just own it.
As an entrepreneur, I’m able to show up completely as who I am and not feel like I have to fit in to a certain mold. It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling. What’s most challenging is literally getting in my own way! I have to manage my own energy and make sure my fears don’t get to the best of me.”
Realizing Her Vision
“When I first started Citrus & Gold In 2016, it was really just a hobby. I was so afraid to talk about it with other people and I didn’t think it was good enough to be a full blown business. Today, I’m working with some really amazing clients and helping them build influential, impactful businesses.
I couldn’t really see that vision early on. I knew that there was a way to get there, but the pieces started falling together over time. I see myself growing a brand that is known for something very specific. I know that sounds vague, but I primarily work with female entrepreneurs. I see myself honing in on a specific methodology to best help those entrepreneurs. I want to help women be seen and own their voice. I want to serve women at scale. Lastly, I see myself bringing on courses, online programs, and speaking in front of audiences.”
Lessons from an Entrepreneuer
“In marketing, I’ve learned it’s helpful to start with one niche, because you want your content to speak to a specific audience. That’s how I started, and I then created a referral network from my initial contacts. I knew I wanted to help other people, so I honed in on that and knew I loved feeding off of the vibes of those building their own businesses.
Being an entrepreneur can also be isolating at times. I’m primarily working with people virtually so I’m by myself for most of the day. As much as I love the online world, I also love meeting people in real life. So I joined a co-working space and a gym to insert myself into different communities. It’s been great for me to build my network and actively share what I’m building.
Be intentional about scheduling coffee chats. Invest in coaches who have group programs and meet other like-minded individuals. My business coach runs a retreat in San Diego which is an amazing opportunity to meet people from across the country. Participating in these opportunities requires me to be intentional and remember to invest time in building meaningful connections.”
“The way we use social media also matters so much today. I use social media to market myself, but I know that I’m not necessarily showing all the nuanced details of my life (if only you knew I really was sitting on the couch all day!). It’s a good reminder that social media is a very curated part of our lives.
This is why I’m starting to share more on what things are really like in my life. I used to be scared of people judging me. But when I run the scenarios in my head, they’re not as bad as I think they are. We do so much work to hide who we are, so why can’t we just relax a little bit more? We are all human and we all have shit going on.
I wasn’t like this all the time. I used to always want to please people and be a good girl, and I still have to deal with that. But the people who really care about you are the ones that matter and will take you as you are. That’s also how I attract the right clients. I’m not going to hide myself and I want to build an authentic relationship with my clients.”
The Healthy Indian Food Cookbook
“Writing a cookbook was an idea I had in my last month working at LinkedIn. I knew I was leaving, and I also knew that there was a need for this book. I saw a niche of Indian American millennials who love Indian food, don’t know how to cook it, and also love SoulCycle and working out. So I came together with my mom to work on crafting Indian recipes which are healthy, accessible and easy to make. This project really highlighted my mom’s creativity and magic. We totally didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, but we loved working on it together!
The biggest thing I learned from this experience was how to position a product in a way that is unique and meaningful. It’s about creating a story behind it, not just showing a product. The story is so powerful, and it anchors you to your ‘why.’ There were definitely moments along the way, whether it was recipe conceptualization, design or publishing, where I just wanted to quit. But I remembered again that it’s not just about getting our product out there. This was really a project for my mom and I to share our identities.”
On Culture and Family
“So how can we find a happy medium and spend more time communicating and talking things out? I don’t think one side is against the other, we just need to be patient with each other and listen.”
“Talking about love and marriage with your family can be challenging. For example, after I got engaged, it was hard to find a great balance with my family around wedding planning. I hadn’t started planning anything even three months after getting engaged, and my parents were ready to plan one event after another. I had to tell my mom that what mattered to me in that moment was the relationship between me and my fiancé, my health and my business. Yes, I did want to celebrate everything and yes, I understood that Indian weddings are about sharing this special moment with everyone. But we also had to take things at our own pace.
I’m lucky that I found someone I love and that my family loves him too. But it’s not always easy. When we moved in together, there were a lot of typical conversations around whether or not this was the right thing to do. But at the end of the day I’m realizing that our parents want the best for us, and we want the best for ourselves. So how can we find a happy medium and spend more time communicating and talking things out? I don’t think one side is against the other, we just need to be patient with each other and listen.
I also think more people should consider therapy! I think it can be a great thing for parents and kids to be involved in together. Therapy can help us understand where we are projecting our own desires vs. listening to others. Therapy has helped me personally, and I understand that it’s hard sometimes to do it on your own.”