Kajal Daga and Kavita Chowdhri met at their kids’ pre-school and there was an instant connect. They bonded over endless cups of chai and thought through the idea of starting something on their own. They were clear on one thing – whatever they start, it would be related to home and décor.
Both Kajal and Kavita have a common background in finance but no hands-on experience in the retail sector. It was their similar taste and inclination towards art that worked in bringing them together. They are the co-founders of The Chalk Boutique, a niche home décor store in the bylanes of Whitefield, Bengaluru.
Kajal and Kavita have an eye for tasteful things and love picking up things for themselves and their homes. The bonding grew stronger as they frequented a lot of these art exhibitions and quaint little stores in the many nooks and corners of the city to arrive at that unique product.
“As we always thought of doing something related to art and crafts, visiting such stores did give us the much-needed push to start a little thing of our own! “ says Kajal (32). What helped in a big way was the duo complementing each other well. While one has a creative side, the other is more business-minded, both essential qualities for running a successful venture.
Thus was born – Chalk Boutique. It was the paucity of any such store in Whitefield that made them kick off their startup in this little suburb.
The Chalk Boutique does something very unique – their primary objective is to promote upcoming designers and house products that are handmade and handpicked by the co-founders to cater to the taste of their customers.
Kajal’s tryst with Finance
Born in the City of Lakes, Bhopal, Kajal Daga had a typical childhood. Student at an all-girls missionary school, she says she was even taught to wear her hair and socks in a certain way!
A topper in Grade 10, Kajal was asked to choose a subject for her higher studies. Though her parents wanted her to pick up science, she chose humanities instead.
“Finally I ended up pursuing Commerce and became a Chartered Accountant at the age of 22,” says Kajal. She worked with her Chartered Accountant father in his firm for a year and soon met her husband at a common friend’s place. Marriage brought her to Bengaluru and she started applying for jobs. She worked with a multinational computer technology corporation for three years. After that, they had to move to San Jose in the US for her husband’s new work assignment. “My work visa took a lot of time to come in and I had loads of time on hand. I then decided to study further and did my CPA while I was in the US,” says Kajal. They got back to Bengaluru after two years and she was pregnant with her first baby.
Kajal decided to take a break after returning and it was during this period that she realized her passion for the arts. She joined art classes, visited friends who were inclined towards art or would just visit libraries and browse through art books. She used to paint extensively, visit Chitrakala Parishath at least once a week (considering she was pregnant and stayed 30 kms from there, it was a big deal) and read up art and décor blogs the entire day. She had subscribed to at least four décor magazines then. “It was crazy and my husband thought I had lost it and blamed it on my pregnancy hormones,” says Kajal on a lighter note.
Soon after she delivered, she thought of taking up a full-time assignment with family support at home. She worked for about four years and at the end of it was thoroughly bored and stressed out with her 9-9 work routine.
“That is exactly when I decided to quit. I wanted some time to sit through and decide what I wanted to do with my life,” says Kajal.
That’s the time Kajal met Kavita.
Kavita too is a Chartered Acountant and a CPA who grew up in the small town of Banswara in Rajasthan. Kavita’s father is also a CA and she too had a childhood much like Kajal’s.
It took Kavita(37) and Kajal close to eight months to conceptualise the store and to bring everything together. The Chalk Boutique opened shutters in September 2013.
We always wanted to house products which are unique, handmade, handpicked but at the same time affordable. A mix of colours, textures, tones and thoughts was what we wanted to present and our store is all about that. And of course our very ‘famous’ black board wall (or the doodle wall) is something that we are very proud of! We want our store to be ever evolving and felt that a chalkboard signifies the same, says Kavita of their store.
The duo’s euphoria moment was, when two different customers walked in on the same day and told them how they feel each nook and corner of the store to be a true labour of love. And it’s the ‘individuality’ of their product line that the founders think sets them apart from the products available in bulk in the open market.
Two babies on the way
For Kajal, the opening of The Chalk Boutique was memorable. “When we were still finalizing on the details, I found out that I was carrying my second child,” says Kajal. To continue with her entrepreneurial journey during this period required a lot of courage and she managed to do both after talking to her husband and mother. “It surely was a roller coaster ride with one child at home, a second child on the way and my third baby, The Chalk Boutique, also being set up,” says Kajal.
Right from sourcing, accounting, photographing, marketing and so many other things all at a time, the duo led by Kajal did all of it together.
The three main challenges that any entrepreneur faces are- the right product, the right price and the right marketing. But if one has the passion and perseverance, the challenges become a little easier to deal with, feel the founders.
It’s not only important to create a profitable business, it’s also important that you’re happy managing and growing it day in and day out, they believe.
“With both of us being absolutely in love with what we do, even the mundane accounting and admin tasks seem to be fun when we are at the store,” says Kavita. As the co-founders say, they enjoy every day at work as they are filled with designs, vibrant colours and eclectic stuff.
“There is never a dull moment when you are an entrepreneur, every day is new with new challenges and a new set of experiences,” say Kajal and Kavita in unison.