Hobby to Hard Business in Chennai - The MINK Story
While most women’s shopping list being incomplete without brands like HushPuppies,Inc5 and Catwalk, there are a growing number of startups that give people the choice of handmade, customized footware. And who wouldn’t want to flaunt a jazzed up pair of Kolhapuri footwear? With more and more women going the unconventional way with funky flip-flops and harem pants, there are entrepreneurs starting up to give them more of what they love wearing!
When I got chatting with one such young entrepreneur , I understood that business is not always a conscious decision. For some, it is a result of a few fun
things that they have been doing for years. One fine day someone said,” why don’t you do it for me?”, they just thought to themselves ‘why not?’. More people started asking and same and that’s how ‘Mink Accessories and Footwear started. Read on to know more about Mink, which started off in a very interesting way!The Story and Idea behind Mink
Divya and Harsha , both B.Com graduates from MOP Vaishnav, Chennai, made the best use of their curriculum that was dedicated to running a business where they hatched an idea of designing footwear. They found a cobbler who helped them and then their mutual interest in making and designing footwear led them to starting MINK, soon after college. While in college they custom-designed their friends’ old sandals , crocs and even jazzed up medical shoes for people they know. This started in 2010. Says Divya, “We are both fond of footwear.I am more style oriented and Harsha is more comfort oriented. So the idea of doing something creative with footwear sounded interesting and exciting to us.
Divya reminisces ,” When Harsha and I were bored we used to pull our hair clips out, bows and even scarfs and pin them up to our slippers. We liked how they looked on our slippers. That’s when we started putting our creativity to use. We wanted a random name that sounds funky, and Mink was what we could think of!”
The Entrepreneurial Journey -From Accidental to Successful
Divya and Harsha claim to be accidental entrepreneurs; They did what they enjoyed doing and are now fairly well to do. “We experimented with our ideas and wanted to see how the market reacted to new products. Not wanting to let the response die out, we went on giving our clients the best”,Says Divya. MINK is bootstrapped and has broken even.
For the twosome, it wasn't difficult to get clients, as they were quite popular in college because what they do at Mink now. Their primary mode of marketing is via social media.
Challenges of being a Young Entrepreneur
Laughing about her parents’ reaction on starting Mink, Divya says,”They did not accept the idea of us designing ‘footwear’ and thought it was ridiculous.” However, after witnessing the growth of MINK, they are now happy and proud, said Divya.
Having been an entrepreneur for 2 years now, Divya is well aware of the fact that entrepreneurship isn’t a ball game. “A lot of people, especially the bigger clients and manufacturers don’t take you seriously. Even when you are ready to invest money the manufacturers are not ready to try anything new, atleast with young entrepreneurs. We want to get into manufacturing our own footwear other than just custom-designing them. The conventional manufacturers do not like too much of change”, says Divya, who urges for people to take young entrepreneurs more seriously.
Scope for Young Aspirants in the startup-land
On a serious note, Divya says, ”Women can do as good as men in startup-land. They are very creative. Men stick to practicality but women will give an idea a try even if it sounds impractical. More and more women are getting out there experimenting with ideas that keep popping up.”
Divya and Harsha wanted to pursue MBA, but have chosen to give all their time for making MINK bigger than it is now. When asked what young aspirants should bear in mind before plunging into entrepreneurship, Divya without a second thought said,”It requires a lot of time. Willingness to give your time and not getting distracted by what looks interesting for the moment is very important. Many people startup , then decide to go for their Masters and when they want to continue, they realize that the market has faded out.”
When asked how it feels to be a successful entrepreneur, Divya excitedly says ,”It feels great! But it’s stressful. You get calls even at 12am and people expect something new every time; you need to keep yourself tuned to new trends.”
Shopping and women are inseparable and with so many options available, Women are surely spoilt for choice. However, the bigger challenge for startups is to find manufacturers and these manufacturers are hesitant to experiment with young entrepreneurs, as they do not get bulk orders. If this gap is filled then more startups such as MINK will surface.
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