She was always keen to pursue something of her own, which she did, and how! Read Menaka Bhandary’s #PassionToPaycheck story below.
Menaka Bhandary always knew she would become an entrepreneur. She displayed her precocity at 13, washing cars in her neighbourhood along with a group of friends. “We were shocked at the number of cars we were washing in a day and ecstatic about the summer holiday pocket money we generated. Then later, at 16, I held a jewellery exhibition with a friend, where we used our networking skills and connected with friends of our parents, Bangalore Club members, ex-teachers and others to ensure that we make the sale a success,” she recalls.
She then worked for other businesses for about seven years before striking out on her own in December 2017 by launching BLOWN, a niche space dedicated to blow drying, cutting, colouring and styling hair as well as nail art and makeup.
A Bangalorean at heart, Menaka, a Christ University Arts graduate, joined as a sales executive at Zela Health Clubs, where she moved up to managing the marketing department, and even ended up completing a certification as a spinning instructor. “My second job was with the Narang Group where I headed marketing and events in south India. I [dabbled] all areas of the business, till my last stint with the Active Holiday Company, where I managed its business development.”
Menaka had always been very passionate about the health and fitness space. “My husband pushed me to listen to a podcast on Allie Webb’s business, Drybar. I was instantly intrigued by the concept, and was already imagining the experience I would be delivering to my customers,” explains Menaka, who decided to explore her options as an entrepreneur.
A different adventure
She believes the grooming industry in India is growing exponentially, with each brand bringing its own USP to the market. The focus is not just the services but building and creating a revolutionary and holistic experience for the consumer.”
That’s exactly what Maneka did with BLOWN. She explains, “Our team of experts is equipped to get you ready to go in a wink; and if you’re in no hurry, we house a curated selection of international wines and cocktails to help you unwind. In other words, we love pampering people.”
However building a business isn’t a cakewalk. Not having a beauty services background was her biggest challenge. “When I approached technicians and stylists who worked with successful brands and invited them to join me, most of them laughed at the concept. They couldn’t understand the inclusion of a wine bar at a salon,” she says.
But today, she is proud of what she’s done with BLOWN. She believes it’s all because of the passion she has had for entrepreneurship. “One of the things I truly believe in is the ability to accept that you are learning something new every day. Everybody has to start somewhere. If you have something in your mind and have the zeal to execute it, you will find a way to make it work if it’s important enough.”
The future roadmap
BLOWN is located in one of Bangalore’s tony areas where there is tremendous competition. “There are approximately 20 salons in the neighbourhood, so making a mark and finding the differentiating factor was a struggle. This venture being my very first business in a completely new industry, and with big players that customers swear by, meant that I had to deliver something truly exceptional and unique. It also meant that the quality of service that I provide had to be mind-blowing,” says Menaka.
But manage she did and more. “Acquiring our wine license was a big challenge. I spent days in the Excise Department just trying to get an appointment with the person concerned.”
And today, she’s exactly where she wants to be: running a business successfully. She wants the company to expand further and have a major presence in every Indian city. She’s also looking at extending BLOWN to other South-East Asian countries in the near future. “In a male-dominated country like India, it’s a huge struggle to run a business as a woman. But I’ve done everything I can to run my first business successfully, and will continue to do it,” says this supremely confident young woman.