5 women entrepreneurs for whom disability is only in the mind
HerStory brings to you stories of awe-inspiring women who have surpassed their disabilities to start their entrepreneurial journey and become successful.
Disability, whether physical or mental is not an inhibitor for many. People with disabilities have proven that their medical conditions cannot stop them from achieving anything. From para-athletics, mountaineering, entrepreneurship, social work and many other fields, we find differently-abled people who are carving new paths and helping others do the same.
We have several examples of differently-abled entrepreneurs who have ventured into the startup ecosystem after facing difficulties with job opportunities and accessibility issues.
HerStory brings you stories of awe-inspiring women who have surpassed their disabilities to start their entrepreneurial journey.
Sangita Desai - Raw Nature Company
Sangita was born with Symbrachydactyly, a congenital abnormality characterised by limb anomalies. She was born with no fingers on one hand.
Her fondness for fashion led her to study at the American College of London in 1989. She had a successful career as a fashion designer for 25 years, which included designing costumes for the Garden Vareli ad campaign for Aishwarya Rai.
She has also worked for Shweta Menon - Ms Asia Pacific, and Manpreet Brar, who represented India in the Miss Universe contest. However, in 2006, during the Mumbai floods, her studio was inundated with water, after which she helped her father with his essential oils business.
After gaining entrepreneurial skills, she started Raw Nature Company, which offers a range of botanical grooming solutions for men and women; her products are cruelty-free, vegan, and free of any artificial colours and fragrances, and harmful chemicals.
Shenaz Haveliwala - Sobo Connect and Le Garden – The Salad Company
At 19, Shenaz was diagnosed with epilepsy. She was pursuing mechanical engineering in Mumbai and a year after her first seizure, she decided to turn into an entrepreneur. She launched her first startup Sobo Connect that provides working spaces to entrepreneurs.
She also has a passion for gardening and making salads. She started her second venture, Le Garden - The Salad Company in 2017 that aims to provide employment to people with medical conditions like hers.
She was awarded the Outstanding Person with Epilepsy Award by the International Bureau of Epilepsy in 2016.
Aditi Verma, Aditi’s Corner
Aditi Verma was born with Down Syndrome and underwent a heart surgery when she was just two-and-a-half years old. When she turned 21, her parents gifted her a corner space in the building that housed their business. From this store, Aditi has been running her little restaurant Aditi’s Corner since 2016.
Even though she has some difficulty in walking, she manages every aspect of the restaurant - from taking orders, to cooking, to delivery, bookkeeping, maintaining inventory, etc.
When a new office opens in the building, she makes sure to visit them and distribute menus. Through YouTube videos, she learnt how to cook various recipes and replicates them in her kitchen.
Swathi, eco-friendly Ganesha Chaturthi packages
Afflicted by polio at birth, Swathi remembers wanting to do her bit for the environment at a young age. However, owing to her family’s financial situation she could not do much. Born and raised in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh, she graduated in Commerce and pursued her post-graduation in Carnatic Vocal from Telugu University.
At 45, with the help of her children she turned entrepreneur. She makes and sells eco-friendly Ganesha idols in the form of a package that includes the idol and all other items required for the pooja. Her Ganesha models have tulsi seeds and when immersed in a pot they grow into plants.
Through her venture, she wants to provide employment to other people with disabilities and help them become independent.
Gunavathy Chandrasekharan - Guna’s Quilling
Gunavathy Chandrasekharan was just one-and-a-half-years old when she was stricken by polio. She lost most of the movement in her legs, and today, cannot move more than 20 feet without anyone’s help.
She runs her own enterprise, Guna’s Quilling, which she founded in 2013. She produces handicrafts through quilling, a process that involves strips of paper that are rolled, shaped and glued together to form decorative designs.
She showcases her products, handcrafted by her along with four other women, at exhibitions throughout India and earns around Rs 80,000 at a single stall. Gunavathy has won District and State Awards in the Art & Craft Category. She also visits schools and colleges in Tamil Nadu to motivate students to work hard towards what they are passionate about.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)