Latha Karthigaa, the 315th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is proof of how much we can achieve if we choose to view setbacks as feedback rather than failure.

Today, Latha is the owner of a successful digital marketing agency, Brandupwise, which employs 15 staff in three countries and has many satisfied customers. But five years ago, when Latha founded Brandupwise, she wasn’t sure where her life was going or how to run a business.

Latha, who grew up in India, was raised by government workers, yet for reasons she can’t explain, felt a strong entrepreneurial urge. As a teenager, she started her first microbusiness, which involved making and selling teddy bears. As a young adult, after she’d successfully found work in an IT company, she came up with the idea of helping others apply for IT jobs. Later, when she moved to New Zealand, she tried her hand at resume writing and then project management consulting. But none of those businesses made more than a pittance.

So Latha continued working in IT, this time in New Zealand. But it didn’t feel like the right career path, so she left her job, without any clear idea of what to do next. She found part-time work as a lecturer, and, as part of the role, started publishing social media content to promote her students and employer. Her posts attracted a lot of attention and helped her employer garner valuable free publicity. As a result, Latha established a reputation as a digital marketing expert, and a seafood company wanted to become a client of the business she didn’t even have. And thus Brandupwise was born.

Most people wouldn’t have had the courage to try yet another business. But for Latha, those earlier ventures had not been failures but learning experiences. When she founded Brandupwise, she still had a lot to learn, but she already knew just enough to attract clients, recruit staff and build a business.

It was interesting to hear Latha talk about her business setbacks, because when you meet her, you immediately recognise that this is someone with a sharp strategic brain and an attractive self-confidence. Latha knows where she wants to go and that she’ll get there. But she had to do a lot of hard work and demonstrate a lot of resilience to become that person.