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Ann Bonney remembers being drawn to fashion designing at a young age, but she never thought of it as a potential profession. That is, not until 2012, when this trained electrical engineer quit her job at the Federal Bank of Kochi, moved to Mumbai to follow her passion. Her husband, Bonney, was supportive and encouraged her to follow her heart. In 2012, with an initial investment of Rs 12,000, and with 15 designs that she shared on her Facebook page, Ann launched Aymee Fashions. She bought a professional camera and taught herself photography in order to be able to share high-quality product images with clients.
“My first collection sold out in just three days”, she says. Because business was brisk, she was able to reinvest her earnings to create the same number of pieces again, without putting any additional money into the business.
An eye for detail
There’s been no looking back for this young entrepreneur since. Aymee Fashions sells casual and formal Indian women’s wear including saris, unstitched and semi-stitched salwar kameez sets, kurtis, dupattas, and other fashion accessories, all designed by Ann Bonney. The collections are an ode to the sumptuousness of Indian silks that she travels across the country to source. “My work requires extensive travel, which can be tiring, but it’s all worth it when I discover new fabrics,”, she says excitedly. The Aymee line has been shaped by Ann’s travels, celebrates tussar, chanderi and raw silk, showcases some delicate embroidery, and does not shy away from a bold palette.
Ann also makes customised designs for party and bridal wear, which she sells under her eponymous label. Product prices start at Rs 1,500 for casual pieces, Rs 3,000 for party wear, and Rs 15,000 for premium bridal wear.
She reminisces about the time her house doubled up as a warehouse. “I remember, in the early days, we struggled to collect packaging boxes to dispatch orders to customers. I used to go from shop to shop in my neighbourhood, looking for men’s shirt boxes. Then I began to buy defective shirt boxes, buying 5,000 units at once. As time passed, I did not notice how well my business was doing until one day I realised that I had more orders coming in than I had boxes to package them in.”
As stock grew, Ann rented a godown and a shop to stock her items. Today, the brand has a stitching unit and employs six permanent staff and a number of part-timers. “When a design comes to mind, I first sketch it, select a suitable fabric, and then work with the master tailor to ensure the final product has all the intricate details it requires.” Watching her ideas take shape and come to life give her unparalleled joy, she says.
Aymee Fashions relies exclusively on Facebook marketing and word-of-mouth publicity to grow its audience. With 98,000 page likes, it looks like Ann’s doing a lot right. 90 percent of each of Aymee’s collections is sold out within an hour of being uploaded to Facebook, and they receive up to 100 orders a month. Over the last year, Aymee Fashions’ premium party and bridal wear collections have been showcased at multi-designer stores in Mumbai and Hyderabad, and have witnessed an eight-fold growth in sales, an annual turnover of Rs. 70 lakh, and a growing customer base.
Ann discovered Sellfie through a fellow entrepreneur and immediately saw it could help her provide a better shopping experience to her customers.
“Sellfie is a free platform and has no charges for accepting payments which is an added benefit to small entrepreneurs. The app is very easy to use. Earlier, accepting payments from clients, especially those overseas, was time-consuming. But, Sellfie’s one-click payment feature has made it easier to make and receive payments on time,” she informs.
The in-app chat feature allows customers to interact with her in real-time and have products customised to their requirements. “This clears customers’ doubts about products and increases confidence in the brand,” Ann adds. Besides, with Sellfie, Ann is able to easily share product pictures with clients on various social media platforms and the app allows her to spend less time on product management.
For Ann, the stars are the limit. Her goals, she says, is to make luxurious, stylish, high-quality designer wear as affordable as possible while providing employment to as many people as she can. Backed by the confidence of a retinue of loyal repeat clientele and adding new customers everyday, she now has her sights set on expanding her business in both the digital and brick-and-mortar worlds.