From Rs 8 lakh to Rs 2.4 cr in 2 years - how this single mum and woman entrepreneur grew her organic beauty startup
It may seem like there is a new startup every day, everywhere, but entrepreneurship can be a tough and lonely journey. From sorting out finances and maintaining a clientele, to keeping your mental health in check, being an entrepreneur takes a lot of strength.
In 2017, Upma Kapoor launched Delhi and Gurugram-based Teal & Terra, hoping to create a space for herself in the organic beauty industry in India. She started up with Rs 8 lakh, which was a combination of her own savings and loans from friends and family, and in 2018 the company clocked a revenue of Rs 2.4 crore, and remains fully bootstrapped.
To achieve the success she enjoys today, Upma had to find her bearings much earlier in life and brave various challenges along the way. From losing both her parents as a child to becoming a single parent, the 40-year-old from Delhi has faced and overcome every obstacle with grit and determination.
Speaking to HerStory, Upma takes us through her journey so far.
Growing up, Upma led a happy childhood. But when she lost her parents to a tragic accident, her life suddenly seemed bleak, and without hope. All of 12-years-old, Upma was raised by her older sister and brother-in-law.
"One moment my world was full of joy and suddenly there was this huge void. And at that age, I had no idea how to deal with it. I remember looking at others my age with their parents and thinking, why me?"
But with time, she realised she had to succeed and establish herself, for which she had to get back on her feet and work sincerely towards her goals. She says that the loss of her parents, while devastating, made her more independent and helped her develop a resilient personality.
Holding an MBA in Finance, Upma pursued a corporate career for 15 years, but quit when her son, Kabir, was born. When Kabir was just four-years-old, Upma had to make the tough decision of walking out of her marriage because of certain personal issues. For six years, Upma worked as an independent consultant in business and HR, and finally decided to launch Teal & Terra in 2017.
Upma says her son is her biggest support and motivation, and has been there for her all along. Although she had to leave him alone at times early on, she has kept her promise of making him proud.
“Watching Kabir grow gave me abundant joy, and since I was always focussed on his well-being, understanding his needs and ensuring that he stays happy was of utmost importance. At the same time, I had to ensure I was being a responsible single parent too. Fortunately, he is a great kid who is extremely supportive and understanding at such a tender age. We have developed a bond that is filled with absolute unadulterated mutual love.”
Venturing into the organic beauty space
Teal & Terra is an organic beauty startup, which claims to use only natural ingredients, and absolutely no chemicals. Upma decided to start the company two years ago when she realised that Indian beauty products are no match for the ones abroad.
“I figured that the basic difference was with the ingredients. So I decided to do something trustworthy and genuine, and give customers a local option instead of them having to import much more expensive products,” she says.
The ingredients that Teal & Terra uses are sourced from cities like Panchkula, Gurugram and Delhi. Upma adds that every formula goes through extensive sampling, to keep the consistency, fragrance and overall quality in check. Teal & Terra’s products are available on its website, as well as ecommerce portals like Amazon and Flipkart, and are priced at Rs 900 and upward.
Upma says Teal & Terra uses unique formulations, and is one of the first Indian brands to introduce onion oil in its products. With the help of lab technicians and biotechnologists, she has been able to come up with formulae that preserve the benefits of onion oil, and are fragrant at the same time.
Another factor that sets the startup apart is its all-women team of 20 who work from home. Upma is looking to hire more women in the near future.
“All these women are graduates and have families to take care of. They want to go out and work for themselves, but aren’t able to find jobs and can’t leave their families behind. Since I’ve had a similar journey while my son was growing up, I feel very passionately about the cause,” she says.
Challenges while starting up
Upma says she faced two major challenges in the initial days of her entrepreneurial journey - finances and making her way into an industry that already had big players.
Initially Upma found it difficult to fund her startup single-handedly. Fortunately, her friends and family trusted in her conviction and lent her an interest-free loan to lay the foundation of Teal & Terra.
Coming to her second challenge, which was establishing herself among industry giants, Upma says she did get questioned about the odds of actually succeeding. But she believed there was a market for everything, and would make it big.
“People are spoilt for choice, and are slowly losing trust in many brands that claim to be chemical-free. I am in the market to provide products that people are genuinely looking for. And since people invest faith into a company only after trying the products, Teal & Terra operates largely on the recommendations of people,” adds Upma.
The road ahead
Currently, Upma is working on launching a Teal & Terra winter care range, and eventually a baby care range. In the next couple of years, Upma aims to take the startup to the next level and hit a turnover of Rs 15 cr.
To other aspiring women entrepreneurs who feel stuck in an endless loop of challenges, Upma has some advice.
“Imbibe the right combination of self-belief, a strong will and common sense. Go ahead, but tread cautiously. Be systematic in your approach. Take risks but only calculated ones. Work hard, work smart and you should reach where you want to be. Do not be scared of stereotypes, think out-of-the-box, and pursue your goal wholeheartedly.”
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)