Embarking on the start-up journey
One morning (16th August) my husband Ayan suggested I document my start-up journey. Something like a real time version of what goes on when one decides to launch a business of their own. The work that goes in (sometimes the lack of it too ;)), the emotions we go through, the challenges we face and the little triumphs that keep us going. So this blog diary is going to be a peek into what my days look like while I work on getting my jewellery start-up, Aliame off the ground, and then as I slowly nurture it into a growing business.
The reason behind this is the hope that if any one of you reading this are contemplating whether to start something of their own or are simply wondering what do people do when they start up or perhaps are trying to understand what goes on during the journey, then this can provide you some insights
Let me start off by saying that this section makes me the most uncomfortable as I am about to share the struggle of my journey, the not so good emotions and the doubts that surrounded me. I feel vulnerable as I write this since I know what’s about to come is personal and makes me afraid that I will be judged. Regardless, here goes nothing because the journey from when you decide you want to become an entrepreneur to actually establishing something sustainable is full of many many lows and some highs. It is these highs which help you stay on track and keep working even though you feel lost.
I quit my job in March 2015 knowing that I wanted to build something of my own and work for myself. Mind you right now I am not really sure of what I wanted to do and constantly wondered if it was a good idea to quit without having a clear plan and feasible business idea. All that I knew was that we didn’t have a lot of capital and one of my proficient skills was Marketing. Luckily I had the support of my husband who always wanted me to take this step.
Thus began the journey of setting up Yellow Ripples Marketing Services. A Marketing Consulting company seemed like the best way to go as it did not require much set-up cost. Also, I was providing a service which I knew well about so decided to jump in. I worked for months setting up an LLP company, tying up with vendors to deliver work as I didn’t want fixed costs of hiring employees. I built my own website as I wanted to save cost and not just that, this would also give me first hand experience of what goes on in making a website. I am not a tech person but after reading many blogs I got the feeling it wasn’t that tough as we had platforms like Wordpress which were just plug and play. Building the website from domain, hosting, choosing the theme, writing content, finding pictures and then figuring out which plugins to use for the features I wanted and how to set them up, was both fun and frustrating. Fun because I was learning something new and frustrating because there were so many times when I would get stuck and I had to figure out the solutions.
After spending a few months setting up and then working on a few projects, I realised my heart was not into it because I was always Marketing for someone else based on what they wanted. It wasn’t as fun to be on the agency side because I had always worked on the client’s side. As a client, I was the one who used to make the demands, critique the agency’s work and the agency had to keep up with me. I realized working on the other side wasn’t that great, and didn’t suit my working style.
As this realization dawned on me, Ayan and I started thinking of ideas which are more suited to my interests and personality. Since we always loved buying cool stuff, we decided to launch “www.Beyondinary.com” - a blog which curated unique products available in India. It took me almost a year to work on this project from curating 100s of products to writing really catchy content to building the website and then marketing the same. It wasbased on an affiliate commissions model. However, after doing some live testing we realised that this was something that would work only in the long haul, and that too with heavy investment in buying our own stock. Affiliate commissions here would not help us build a business. The project is still on though, as our hobby :). Who knows, something in the future may pan out.
We are now in February 2017. I don’t know if any of you readers have had this thought so far while being on this journey with me but I did. Oh so badly and recurringly!
The constant questions which plagued me were…..
Have I been wasting my time?
What do I really have to show for two years of entrepreneurship?
Did I leave my job too soon?
I may not have spent much money but I haven’t earned anything either, so have I technically been unproductive?
Wierd as it may sound, I actually wanted answers to figure out how to feel and what to do next. So I shared them over and over with the ones close to me. Their answers, encouragement and faith made me believe in myself and wake up to that fact that I had been too harsh on myself. I had done so much. Even if things didn’t work, I had learnt so so much. I realized then that these were the learning steps I had to climb towards my next venture, Aliame.
Note: Do not ever underestimate the power of love and support from your loved ones.
Well moving on, I started seriously thinking about setting up a jewellery venture in February upon the insistence of my friends, family and especially my husband. Who knew life would bring me back a complete circle with a jewellery business.
This circle began way back in 2002 when I decided to pursue jewellery as a career. I studied jewellery design and manufacturing in Delhi. As soon as I was done in 2004 I started making my designs to order. Even though I was working with my mom, what I didn’t realise was that this was too soon, I wasn’t mature enough to handle the ups and downs that came with a business. I then decided to move to Mumbai and study Gemology and Diamond grading. I then worked for 5 years in the export industry which I thoroughly loved.
As in any job there were some challenges and I realised I couldn’t grow too much in this industry because it was dominated by Gujratis who preferred working with their own. What this experience taught me though, was that Marketing was where my passion was so I decided to make that role my career. Since then I have worked in Marketing for over a decade and even completed my PGDBM in Marketing from NMIMS.
It was during one of our conversations around the timewhen Beyondinary.com became a hobby blog that Ayan asked me about if jewellery was something I would like to work on. Honestly I hadn’t even thought of that in close to 10 years. But the thought that I could work on it got me excited. At the same time it made me nervous because when I did that in the past, I stumbled when I faced my first challenge. We talked more and more, I shared my fears with Ayan, I talked to my mom and to my friends who helped me allay my fears. The realization started dawning on me that I can do this now, back then I was a 19 year old kid but now I am a much wiser 32 year old woman.
Then began the real discussions - the ones which involved financial feasibility. From my earlier experience I knew we had to make and keep stock if we could even think of making it work. Nobody buys from just designs no matter how beautiful or realistically painted. We even did a quick design launch to test this theory and were proved right. So, Goldwas out of question because we didn’t have the huge funds one would need to build stock of gold jewelery. We finally zeroed in on Silver without any stones to begin with. Yes, one can always find a way to make it work if they want it bad enough.
Thus the idea took shape although some fears still remained.
Could I still design well?
When I was working in the export firm we had to design realistic pieces showing the side views, the top views and the 3D views so that the karigars knew exactly what to make. Could I still do that?
Could I really come up with truly unique designs?
If I ever launched my collection it had to be something truly unique and different, otherwise why would someone buy my jewellery? Was I still capable of thinking of such designs?
So as they say, face your fears. Which is what I did when I started sketching my rough concepts and then turning them into proper designs. Lo and behold a small victory came my way when the designs were actually loved by everyone who saw them that’s how I realized I still had it in me. First hurdle crossed!
Time to move onto the next step - to read about what happens next watch out for my next blog post :)