Womenspiring Wednesdays…

Be The Change You Want To See !


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Batul Munim – My challenges are my own in terms of competition to excel with my own self

My name is Batul Munim. I work as an Independent Communication Consultant. Meeting new people has always fascinated me hence I chose Public Relations. I have close to 10 years of PR Experience. I have done my MA in English Literature from Mumbai University and Event Management from NIEM. I have 2 boys age 2 and 6. Post the birth of my elder son I stopped working.IMG-20160319-WA0023 (4)

My last stint was with Linopinion: The PR arm of LoweLintas for 3 years, prior to that I was with Grey WorldWide and Hanmer & Partners. Motherhood was a new journey and  I was happy just being a Mommy to my son as the whole experience was new to me and I wanted to be there for my baby’s milestones though after 2 years into it I got restless and unhappy. I strongly believe only Happy mothers make Happy babies hence I decided to start back, but leaving my son at home and going full time was not an option, hence I started exploring my work options and realized that I had to bank on my own capabilities and do what I use to do best. Initially, I worked with someone to get the momentum of things and eventually started on my own and then there was no stopping not even during the birth of my second baby so yes It has been a great ride.

Soon I am going to explore Mommy blogging with my blog called Shades of Mommydom. I started on my own 3 years back.

My challenges are my own in terms of competition to excel with my own self.

There is no big motivation than self motivation. Being a peoples person working alone, managing home, time management and trying to reach out to the right people for work is no easy feat but I try and come out of these blues because I believe there is a silver lining behind every cloud and a new light after every tunnel so  yes my positivity keeps me going.

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Divyaa Doraiswamy – GURUKULAM doesn’t remain a dream any longer

A Masters in Economics, A SHLOKAPRENEUR, A theist in every right and an extremely confident young lady in my 30’s living in one of the most beautiful cities of India -Bangalore, love the temples I visit, absolutely long for the annadanams I part – take on every Thursday and my frequent visits to an old age home helping old parents who have been left to the mercy of the Lord to get free medical treatment and medicines is the best thing I’ve ever been a part of.11813475_10154236118115620_4635106562220005735_n (2)

And yes….My Shloka School – GURUKULAM doesn’t remain a dream any longer.

I started off Gurukulam somewhere in October 2014 and worked with a few children in my apartment and found out that a lot of parents were keen in sending their children for such classes.

          -These classes are for kids between 5-16 years.  

          – Shlokas are taught only in SANSKRIT (though Sanskrit is a language which children at that age i.e. 5-9 years is not something they have been exposed to earlier) but I read that when kids as little as 3 are exposed to a variety of information their grasping capacity is something spectacular. So push all that you can in their little brains and see them gain as much as knowledge as possible is what I believe in) 

        –  At this point in time, I do classes in different Apartments, Pre Schools, Dance Schools and Studios.

         – I also do One-on-One classes for kids at their residence. These classes are actually called the Mother-Baby Duo class where kids as little as 2 and 3 are exposed to learning shlokas but here the mother does more learning than the kids actually do and during the week the mother does repetition of these shlokas with the kids….So here the mother is more the teacher – Mothers are the best teachers!

          -Gurukulam during 2015 is planning to expand its services to many more Pre-schools, Dance- Schools and Blind Schools (For Blind Schools and Govt. Schools, I plan to do this more as a Service activity than as something that gives me Income)

          -Gurukulam is situated on the outskirts of Bangalore and will be in full operation by mid of 2016.

          -At present Gurukulam has close to 50 kids.

Gurukulam is the first of its kind Shloka school in Bangalore. Reaching out (Advertising) to parents has been the biggest challenge since it’s a new concept and people need to believe in your work to get their kids coming for such classes.

I started putting up small advertisements in locals shops, boutiques, pre schools, fitness centers and Facebook. Advertising was the best thing that happened. We grew from 6 kids to a whopping 50 kids. Also, the word of mouth worked wonders…Today, we don’t need advertisement. We have people waiting to join our classes…We are still small but we’ve grown well…


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Shalini Girish – If you have the right attitude, are willing to take risks and back yourself up there is no stopping you!

“Everyday is a fashion show and the world is the Runway”- Coco Chanel.

This is what I believe in and all I had to do in my case was to follow my passion, and my passion is fashion. Or to be more precise – fashion accessories. Be it earrings, finger rings, bangles, necklaces and clutches, I love them all and have a great eye (if I may say so myself!!!) for finding the cutest, the chic-est (is that even a word!) ones at wallet friendly prices. I also believe Fashion is an art of self-expression, a very beautiful one Shalini (4)at that. Every women is effortlessly elegant and to do justice to that inherent elegance, my dream was born. 

Although my roots are from Kerala, I am a true blue Chennaite. I was born and raised in Chennai, lived there for 23 years before moving to the city that never sleeps, Mumbai. Been living in Mumbai for the last 14 odd years with my husband and two great children. Am an MBA in finance and started my career with a prominent bank in Chennai. In the midst of enjoying my work, I met my husband. It was serendipity. I picked up his call on my colleague’s desk, one thing led to another, we hit it off and soon we were married. Post that we moved to Mumbai, the city of dreams. Soon I was promoted from a wife to a mother and between the husband and the home and the son I was busy, yet some days I would miss Chennai like crazy and on those days I would hop on a local train and travel to Matunga- the closest substitute to Chennai, in Mumbai. Amidst the authentic filter coffee, flower markets and the Nalli silks I learnt to explore the markets.  Then came my daughter and as they say the family was complete. I was happy but I didn’t feel complete. There was this desire to do something, but I didn’t know what. Going back to a corporate life was not an option, since me and my husband agreed that I would always remain the stay at home parent for our children, considering he had a job which kept him away from home most of the days .

I tried my hand at Tupperware, and also worked for some time as an elected member of our housing society. While the work was filling my days it was not filling my soul.

I realized that I was not following my passion and my passion, as by now you know is fashion. I have always been picking up accessories for my sister and cousins and my love for exploring new markets helped me to develop a flair for picking out trendy and in vogue trinkets at prices that didn’t burn a hole in my pocket. I was presented with a perfect opportunity to showcase my skills when I did the complete shopping for my sister’s wedding trousseau along with wedding shopping for my fashion loving cousins. I realized how much I enjoyed that and all I needed was a push to pursue this calling. Thankfully a darling cousin suggested the idea of starting an online business venture dealing in fashion accessories. It was the perfect idea because it let me do something that I love, from the comfort of my home.

The road leading from the idea to its implementation is never smooth, so was it in my case. The first hurdle was finding the perfect name for this dream venture. I fell in love with the name La Elegante’ the very first time my brother in law suggested it, after all elegance is beauty. Then followed the nitty gritty of setting up an online venture. By sheer hard work, lots of trial and error, self-help videos and my personal IT expert – my husband – On March 8 2014 La Elegante’ made its debut.

La Elegante’ is my baby and precisely for that reason I have not yet outsourced any aspect of it. Each product being sold through La Elegante’ is carefully curated keeping in mind the current trends in the fashion world. Each of it is then photographed to the best of my ability. Accounting, inventory management, end to end logistics management, marketing and PR, each of these departments demand my attention as well.

Answering 500 odd mails/messages everyday does get to me but then the sheer bliss I get on reading one of the reviews on my page or getting a client’s photo adorned with what they picked up from me is more than enough to get me back to work .

There is this general perception that working from home is not serious work. I have people tell me oh, you work from home that’s easy. Let me tell you, it just is not. Managing the home and the work front  is just as tough as any working lady , if not more, simply because when you are at home there are a million distractions taking away your productive time. Those include doorbells, the intercom ringing off the hook just when you are working seriously on a proposal, kids coming in from school demanding immediate attention or unexpected guests dropping in …after all I am at home why call ahead ? !

Despite all this La Elegante’ strives to live up to its mission to help every woman anywhere, find her perfect accessories. A woman loves her sparkles, enjoys receiving compliments for them and thrives on making a statement, after all accessories have the power to transform her outfit and her outlook, and it sure is an added bonus if it doesn’t pinch your wallets!

If you have the right attitude, are willing to take risks and back yourself up there is no stopping you. I am Shalini, the owner of sparkling La Elegante’. Thanks for reading my story and don’t forget to visit my page La Elegante…. Cheeky aren’t I, have always been!

https://www.facebook.com/LaEleganteJewelsnBags


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Pallavi Goorha Kashyup – “Determination and patience have motivated me all through”

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I was born and raised in New Delhi and have lived in the city for 28 years of my life with my parents. Post that, I moved to Mumbai after being married to my husband, who resides here.

I have a graduation degree in English Literature and a post graduate degree in Journalism from IIMC ( Indian Institute of Mass Communication). I love reading, listening to music and writing blogs. From the start I have been an extrovert and loved making friends. I worked full time for 14 years as a journalist in Delhi and continued with the same after moving to Mumbai as well.

Challenges

After working for about 3 years in Mumbai, the entrepreneurship bug bit me. My spouse Souvir and my parents encouraged me to start something of my own. I thought of starting my own Public Relation agency which I named PG Communication.

PG Communication is a specializes in corporate communication and we help our clients achieve a leader’s position in the industry by enhancing their brand image. The journey of setting up my own boutique was challenging but I would still call it enjoyable.

After having a daughter in 2014, my work set up proved to be a boon since I could manage my daughter Ananya and also could work out of home. Whenever I go out for client meetings my daughter and my help accompany me. So, it wasn’t very difficult to create a balance between work and motherhood.

“Determination and patience have motivated me all through. Because of my prior experience in the field of journalism I was in a better position to understand what kind of story a journalist does and could see things from a journalist’s point of view.

Create suitable strategy along with understanding the clients’ requirements works well in acquiring effective results. This slow and steady success is inspiring me and my team to work harder and expand the company and take my company to the  next level.

Future plans

I believe my passion for my company will help me and my company grow further.The future plan is to  have a big team to work under me and offices in Mumbai and Delhi.

ww.pgcommunication.in


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Seema Verma – Challenges are hidden opportunities.

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I always had a great life and I believe it till date. I was always blessed with the best people to support and my Gods invisible hands have always been with me.

Having been selected as the chosen one, I had my set of challenges that I could use as a stepping stone to grow in my life.

I grew up in a traditional Punjabi family set up. I always dreamt of flying high. I completed my graduation and pursued a Diploma in Travel and Tourism.

I started my career working in IATA agency.  While I was working I was fortunate enough to be selected to complete the most coveted   AIR INDIA training for travel professionals. I passed the training in the Merit List. This added a feather in my cap in my career journey.  As I was heading towards progress in my career journey my family decided that I need to tie the knot and settle down.

I got married in a punjabi family. After 2 years of getting married and being a home maker, with great difficulty I managed to convince my family that I wanted to continue working. I  got an opportunity to work as a travel manager with the most sought off profile of assisting  the VVIP , most of the Bollywood  biggies  and corporate heads organise their travel itinerary.

I was happy managing the home and job for almost 4 years.  I conceived and had to take an extended maternity leave of one and half years. I resumed work while I was juggling with work and home my son was diagnosed with type 1 or Insulin dependent diabetes when was just two years old.  I felt that the whole world had crashed down for me.  I quit my job to take care of him.

From being a girl who was scared of injections, I had to learn giving injections to my child, prick and check blood sugar levels.

That’s was not the end. I had to understand the impact of every food that my son ate on his sugar level.  Simply, I learnt nutrition for diabetics or general wellness in details. At times my son would cranky but I had to maintain my calm and patience still lovingly give him the shot. I started learning about child psychology to understand him better and help him in his diabetes management. Every day there was anew challenge and a new leaning.

While I was managing my son well, I started losing my own self.  I was living in a constant fear of my son’s health. I was losing the joy of living.

At this time I met my transformation teacher . I learnt Reiki from him and it’s been magical since then. It has helped me change my life.

In the whole process of empowering my son, I realised that I felt a vacuum. I wanted to do something but had no clue what to do.I could not take up a full time job as it was more than 4 years that I had taken a break and could not leave my son too.

During this time, a very distressing incident happened in Delhi where a school bus with kids on board met with an accident. I simply expressed my views in the article and sent it to Femina and forgot about it. To my surprise my article was awarded as the ‘Best Feature’ and I had a gift hamper sent to my place.

This came like a sign from God to show me my abilities and hidden talents.There was a lot of family support that helped me move ahead. My husband motivated me at every juncture of my life.

Around the same time, I was introduced to a digital company who wanted someone to write blogs for automobile website. I started writing from home on various topics. As my work was appreciated, I started getting more confident.

After working for a few years, I got an opportunity to work flexi hours for a health insurance broker that had their own Online Health Magazine as a value added service to their customer.

This rekindled my interest in health and well being. I shared my experiences while writing articles on health that contributed to the overall sales in the company. My confidence stared growing.

It was like a script written for me and I didn’t let it go. I started taking projects on freelancing and slowly decided to take it up in a bigger way and become an Entrepreneur.

I am now the Founder and CEO of a Content Agency- Content Junction.  I now have a team of expert writers in various domain.  I have well-known companies as my clients in my kitty.  My clients are from various domains such as Health and wellness, Finance, Spirituality,Education,Travel etc.

I am looking at giving women professional an opportunity to gain confidence and financial freedom who have opted out of work due to family or kids priorities.

Along with this is there is a constant urge to help other parents, kids and elders in their diabetes management.

It is just the grace of God that I have been offered the opportunity to be a part of the National Diabetic Educator program and become a Certified Diabetic Educator. I am enjoying work and at the same time having Diabetes Management workshop which helps to educate people and empowers them to live confidently with diabetes.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction when I make a difference in the lives of others with my workshop or informative content.

I have learnt that there are immense possibilities in our life and we do not see them due to our fear and doubts.  Every journey has its own challenges, we need to learn that every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow in the long run.

To overcome the challenge, all you need to do is Just Begin. And once you take one step ahead God takes ten.

I have also learnt from my teacher that there is nothing called as a problem, it’s just a situation. Every situation has a solution. Every time I face a challenge and feel weak or fearful, I keep reminding myself that I am powerful and fearless.

I choose Reiki to give me the inner strength and align my energies. It’s important for every individual to choose what they can connect with the most, Reiki, Chanting, Meditations or anything that gives them the inner strength to cope with the day to challenges and march ahead with a smile and positivity.  This inner strength is the only mantra to achieve all that your heart desire in your life.

As I said earlier, I have a fabulous life and life is at its best.

Content Junction : www.contentjunction.in


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Rituparna Ghosh – The universe is made up of stories not of atoms !

18b36875-09db-46a3-8599-d8fca3d46516I grew up in a small town that I absolutely adore. I left the town 16 years back, but ask me today, I still call Jamshedpur home. My parents still live there, and so do my in-laws and so there is always a willing excuse to go back home. I grew up in a Bengali household where there was great emphasis on good education, literature, art, music and culture. My parents tried to raise me like an all rounded Bengali girl, so I grew up with a lot of dance and literature around me. I was always on the stage, performing in debates, theater and public speaking. I was even a local beauty queen! Well…yes, I was 18 then! In the final question round I was asked, “In your next birth, what would you choose to be born as and why?” “I want to be born as a woman,” I replied emphatically. At 18, when I had just got comfortable with the word lady, I was trying to latch on to another identity of being a ‘woman’. Curiously, it is this identity that pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me at every step of my life and career.

Being a small-town girl, the big city of Delhi scared me to smithereens; from its roads, to the people, its busy marketplaces and its public transport. But what scared me the most was being in a college where there was an ocean of talent. Everyone was better than me…in dramatics, in dance and in everything else. Here I was an uber-confident girl being scared of girls of my age. I have spent many years wondering if it was my ego behind this. Was I so proud of my little fame in my little world that the larger world didn’t matter to me? Is that why I stopped working? Is that why I stopped challenging myself?I feel it was the fear of performance. I was afraid to be judged by people. I was afraid of being told that I am not good enough.

I settled into anonymity, except for a couple of college productions that I participated in and totally loved. Life happened. I went on to a post-graduation, and find a job in television. Everyone wanted to be an anchor but I wanted to be a producer in a news organization. As interns one had to do scary piece-to-cams and once again the fear of being judged (read: to look convincing enough) ate me up. I was delighted to be on the other side of the camera though, calling the shots, telling my anchors that the take was all wrong! I loved the anonymity of television. Here I was being judged by my work and not the person I was. Gradually my fears dissolved and I realized that person can be known for their work as well, thus taking away the onus from the self. Television was a whirlwind ride for me. I quickly learnt to adapt, ideate and improvise. Most importantly, I learnt to survive in the highly competitive of television journalism, learning quickly to adapt to my boss’s expectations of an all-round producer. I produced everything under the sun, political and historical documentaries, debate, to lifestyle and travel shows, chat shows, investigative shows, biographies, sports shows and large format campaigns. If there was a show that had to be produced pronto, I was put on an airplane taken to Mumbai and asked to work quickly. My boss gave me wings and trusted me with many big ticket shows and programs for the channel. The more opportunities I got, the more I loved my job. He would often praise me in team meetings, even when I wasn’t there. I was the proverbial ‘fits all’ kind of producer, never refused a show, never said ‘I got too much on my plate.’ My team swelled, from 3 to 10. The number of shows also gathered on my timelines. Life was busy and it was very good!

And then motherhood happened! I was so settled into the fact that my work defined me that I didn’t bother to think of how my organization viewed my pregnancy. But it did. Once again the spotlight was back on me and this time I didn’t realise that it was so close that it really scalded me! This time I wasn’t judged on my work but rather how I did my work. And so one fine day, I was made to step down from my position. A new producer was hired, overnight my team was made to report to her and I was left redundant. All this before I joined back from my maternity break.

Life was full circle. I was being judged again. The only difference is that this time around I wasn’t allowed to prove that I could handle the two sides of my persona. I had read stories of hostility at the place, of women being left in the margins, of careers crashing down the cliff after motherhood…but these were always stories. I didn’t realize that within a few months of turning mother, this would be my story too!

I quit the job that I loved from the core of my heart. I gave up the medium of television, not because I wouldn’t find a job, but because this incident broke me. For weeks and several months after that I tried to understand why I had become a professional untouchable? I couldn’t fathom that motherhood had become the front runner in my profile as a professional. Long ago, when I had become an independent producer and team leader I had politely refused a young mother a job in my organization. “Is it because I am a mother and I have a young child at home?” she had asked. “No,” I replied, “It’s because I would want you to watch your daughter grow up. In this job, I cannot promise you would get much of that. And there is nothing that I can do about it!” Was she not good enough? Of course, she was…but I let her down. In my capacity as a supervisor, a team leader and a woman I failed to do anything about women like her; women who wanted to balance a career and their family. And now I was facing the brunt of it!

This incident shattered my self-confidence and for a very long time I kept questioning the image I saw in the mirror. The yo-yo of emotions of a new mother is well documented. What is missing is the tumultuoussymphony of emotions of an out-of-career workaholic.

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And then storytelling happened. I first tasted the joy of storytelling as a parent, and as I told, read and dramatized the stories for my little bub, I discovered its true power. I discovered the power of storytelling not for the listener and the audience, but for the storyteller. Storytelling had a calming effect, helping me strip the layers of expectations and dusty appearances that I had gathered over the years. Here I was exposing my rawest emotions and expressing them the way I felt them. And then on a whim, one fine day I decided to undergo a workshop to see if this was momentary or something deeper.

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I am not an atheist but I discovered an invisible and strong spiritual connect with storytelling. As I took the decision to turn professional, I realized I was going to expose myself and be judged forever now. Now there was no going back. To be a good storyteller is to perfect the art of nakedness. You have to be honest to the craft and its power to impact lives. What helps me be a storyteller is my background in journalism. Not that I think news is authentic storytelling, but I do believe it taught me how to sniff out a good story and extract it. I enjoy talking to people, drawing their stories out and forming bonds beyond a regular journalist and her source / case study / subject. The stories I seek now take me closer to people. I was always a story believer and a story teller, so the transition to the other side of storytelling came naturally. I rekindled my love for performance and fell in love with the person I had become.From thereon began a systemic process of streamlining my skills, experience, passion and vision into a brand.

A friend told me, “It seems you have reinvented yourself!”. “I haven’t,” I replied, “I have discovered myself.”

Though I had begun storytelling nearly three years back, I formed Your Story Bagin 2015. I believe that everyone is a storyteller with a bag. Your story bag is filled with your memories (some prominent, others fading), experiences (lived and shared), your emotions and expressions. If you look at your life closely you will notice stories of valor and cowardice, happiness and sadness, achievements and regrets, your dreams and vision. We are a sum of our stories, those that we consciously tell and those we forget. And it is up to us to harness the power of stories. In the performance space, storytelling makes you a winner. It takes away all your fears and throws you in the spot where you have to make a spectacle of yourself. Being a storyteller (irrespective of the audience) is to be judged every time to take the stage. It makes you challenge your fears and push your own limits. Storytelling is a journey of a lifetime where you are constantly searching for the next story that can change lives. It is a journey where you have to constantly learn and unlearn new things. It is a craft that gives you a lot even while it demands more of you.

I am still battling perceptions though. The walk down the storytelling path has not been easy. At several meetings, conversations have meandered towards the inevitable question, “What does your husband do?” Of course, to have a maverick raconteur as a wife, the other half needs to bring bread on the table, right? “Is storytelling even a profession?” or the polite, “What do you do otherwise?” The only difference is that now this reaction doesn’t break me. It makes me stronger and pushes me to work harder. With my storytelling I am trying to make a dent into the Indian mindset…that stories are for everyone and that they can discover expressions, emotions and life stories. I am here to help children, adults and corporate India harness the power of stories. There is still a long way to go until people accept storytelling as a profession and invest in it.

Until then I am telling one story at a time.

http://www.yourstorybag.com


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Shweyta Mudgal – Eight Thousand Miles & many more to go before I sleep…

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 “Fashion is Architecture: It is a matter of proportions”

I have always believed in the power of design, much before I even decided to dedicate a career to it and train formally as an Architect/ Urban Designer. (I have an undergraduate degree in Architecture from Mumbai University and a graduate degree in Metropolitan Research & Design from the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles).

Architects are intrinsically arrogant with great belief in their individual creative pursuits. We like to design anything and everything in our lives while tending to think that we are good at it all. Sometimes, we formally gain expertise in other design faculties before transitioning careers, while at others we simply apply our creative education from one field into our next one. Dual careers are an oft seen career path in the lives of most Architects and I joined that bandwagon in early 2014.

Sartorial or spatial; design at any scale has always given me a high like none other.I like to think of my design journey as always having been spatial – that has transcended scales – from public to personal, from cities to clothing, airports to apparel and ‘macro’ to ‘micro’.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

The seed of Eight Thousand Miles was planted in my head, funnily enough, while flying between the 8000 odd miles that lie between both my chosen homes – of Mumbai & New York. (For the last 5 years in my career as an Airport Planner/ Designer, I had been shuttling between continents for work, having been on the design-team for the Mumbai International Airport).

Post that ‘dream project’ came a 2.5 year long global mobility stint, with the husband and daughter in tow, that saw us live in New York, Singapore, Mumbai and back again in New York, with travel to 20 odd countries thrown in, successfully convinced me that life was led best, between homes, as against in either one of them. Why choose one over the other, when I could live/ work in both?

It was in early 2014, when we moved to Mumbai for the year, that I decided it was time to amalgamate and anchor the multiple ideas in my head under one common lifestyle design venture, that traversed the varying scales of design – from S,M,L to XL. I was also very clear from the start that design entrepreneurship would have to go hand-in-hand with social entrepreneurship. So I devised a business model that would operate with social responsibility and have a direct impact on the lives of those working with me.

And so Eight Thousand Miles – the design venture was born, in Mumbai, in 2014, aptly named after the miles that inspired its inception.

Eight Thousand Miles – the brand

The brand – Eight Thousand Miles – aspires to bridge the cultural and cartographical distance between the two cities; that celebrates the idea of home as a place sans borders; embodies the belief that all individuals are born as non-conformist, free-spirited wanderers with the world as their oyster.

Our eclectically created, contemporary product-line, hopes to strike a chord with like-minded global aficionados the world over. Our designs marry the vivacity of the bohemian, colourful care-free aesthetic with the minimalism of an uber-modern design sensibility, thereby aiming to celebrate free-spirited self-expression.All our products are made of natural artisanal fabrics of the highest quality, many of which are hand-block printed traditionally; primarily cottons and voile.Our designs reflect a play of a diverse eclectic palette of prints, with an emphasis on gender-neutral styles & reversible patterns, vibrant colors& many textures.Characteristics such as simple cuts & silhouettes merged with playful styles ensure that the fabric is the key focus & comfort is the top priority.

Our environmentally-conscious design approach entails up-cycling older vintage fabrics and utilizing industrial waste textiles whenever possible in the creation of many of the products.

Challenges

  • The very 8000 miles that inspired the brand evolution also present its biggest challenge. Living in New York, I work primarily in India, as it continues to be our larger marketplace of the two countries that we operate in. Co-existing within the two antipodal time zones, remote co-ordination meetings, the inability of being in both places at the same time and different public holiday schedules are only part of the problems I pose on a regular basis. While most small businesses operate within limited geographies, mine operates within two at the very least, which makes it double the effort (and of course double the fun).

My typical work day starts after dropping my daughter to school at 9:30 am EST which is 8 pm IST. A routine conference call with my workshop supervisor for a complete round up of their days and weeks activities and putting out any fires/ answering queries/ setting deadlines etc helps set the groundwork for what I work on for the rest of the day. I also make frequent work trips to India alone (leaving my daughter behind in NYC with an extended support system offered by our friends/ nanny etc since my husband practically lives on an airplane himself) to oversee sampling/ production and even fabric printing with my printers. So it takes a lot of personal/ professional co-ordination between my husband’s and my work schedules to be able to run the show remotely.

  • Being a one-woman show, with no other founding partner-in-crime, is also somewhat of a challenge as this can bring a lot on my plate. So while being the only one comes with its own individualistic perks – of having complete creative & operational freedom to structure the direction and growth of the company as I please, it also means being the only one responsible to steer it towards success. The pace of growth was mine to pick and very early on I figured that it was not going to be a slow one. Founding and running your own start-up is like getting on a drug – that slowly starts taking over your life and gets addictive. There’s no looking back & as far as I am concerned there’s no slowing down either!

Thankfully I’ve always been a good multi-tasker and that aspect of my personality lends itself immensely to my entrepreneurial lifestyle. I wear many hats in a day and during the course of the week. One day I’ll be punching invoices to be sent out to various vendors and the other day I’ll switch to sketching designs on paper and simultaneously transitioning them on to Photoshop to send to my fabric printer. From peon to proprietor, sketching to sales I have done it all for the company with equal fervor – not something exceptional however, as that is what the life of any start-up entrepreneur entails. Although I must admit that accounting/ finances/ legal paperwork are not really my cup of tea. I prefer to delegate those roles to the experts while keeping designing, social media and client relations in my kitty.

  • The transitional journey from working at a design firm to starting up one of your own comes with its own set of changes one must be willing to adapt to. Entrepreneurial life is often lonely as it lacks having colleagues to work with, at least until you hire people and set up a physical office space. A lot of time is spent working alone – which is not my preferred style of working. I do miss office interactions, occasional water-cooler chit-chats and the general banter that comes within an office environment.

However the above challenges bring certain opportunities with them – to be able to work on my own timeline and capitalize on a dynamic schedule by taking off mid-week afternoons for an art exhibit/ grocery shopping/ personal errands and chores or even a movie sometimes. Not having to commute to work everyday is another plus, especially in grueling New York winters. However, this work lifestyle changes completely when I am in India, where work constantly entails interfacing with the workshop staff, fabric suppliers, block-printers, clients and meeting with other like-minded entrepreneurs in search of future possible synergies.

  • One of my other bigger challenges to-date has been the inability to find and subsequently retain reliable, dedicated and committed full-time staff. Considering I work directly with artisans from under-privileged communities, more often than not, I have to subscribe to their timelines, professionalism and social calendars. Women from under-privileged backgrounds still prioritize family, festivities and social pressure over paid regular work. Commodities such as time are sorely misused with “two minutes” being more of a phrase that means “some more time” as against an exact measure of time.

I have tried to overcome the above challenge by introducing the concept of a ‘Common Working Calendar’ that schedules ‘personal time off’ and ‘holidays’ at the start of the year, with the women. This helps us determine staff availability/ unavailability while pre-deciding work load before our ‘peak’ seasons kick-in. Women populate the calendar as per their availabilities thereby helping us materialize an efficient schedule that works for everyone.

  • Getting our foot in the door, in the US Market has also been a challenge we are learning to overcome gradually. The US Market is more structured and formalized. Hence the path of navigation here is different than in the Indian retail marketplace.

We adapt to context with respect to the varying design sensibilities, climatic considerations & general demands of both countries vary as well, thereby resulting in the need for a mutually exclusive diversified product-lines that are specifically tailored for each place – (for example we do a traditional ethnic line in boys/ girls clothing in India during the festive season, while we do unisex jackets/ winter wear for kids in the US). Having penetrated the Indian retail scene via pop-up markets, stocking in stores and online marketplaces, we follow a different marketing strategy in the US – by showcasing our product line to buyers through tradeshows and directly retailing through Holiday Markets.

Inspite of all these challenges –the best part of my role is that I get to wear many hats.

As I always jokingly say – “Being overworked & underpaid never felt this amazing before ever!”

I can be reached at shweyta@eightthousandmiles.com