How Jaypore's Co-Founder, Shilpa Sharma’s love for painting and all things beautiful led her down the path of fruitful entrepreneurship
Whether it is a pair of shimmering jhumkis or a luxurious pashmina shawl or a shibori silk kaftan that catches your eye in Jaypore's repertoire of merchandise, you can be sure that each hand-crafted creation will remain timeless in your wardrobe for generations.
That is the beauty of e-commerce portal Jaypore, which was launched with the mission of taking Indian-made products to the world. This curated marketplace for crafts and artisan-based products, which was founded by Puneet Chawla and Shilpa Sharma has come a long way since its inception in 2012. Besides bringing the world closer together and connecting a global audience to India’s exquisite handcrafted merchandise, Jaypore now partners with artisanal communities, textile designers and independent artists to create a unique interpretation of age-old crafts and has also developed a contemporary design language.
When we caught up with Co-founder Shilpa Sharma, we found that her love for lovely artefacts began with her passion for watercolours, which had found a place in her heart as a young girl. We asked her about Jaypore, the brand she built with her Co-founder, and she says, “We are dedicated to re-imagining age-old crafts and techniques to share with the world. At our core, our aim is to share, not just the products, but also the unique, often exhilarating stories and victories that emerge through the creative process.”
Where it began…
Shilpa says her first leap into entrepreneurship was not easy. “It meant getting away from the trappings of a secure pay check and taking some leaps of faith,” she recalls. “These were the required paradigm shifts for which I needed to be ready. I had faith in myself and that’s what egged me on.”
After an eight-year stint in advertising and marketing, Shilpa joined a well-known company dealing with ethnic, handmade products, where she did very well. “This move was a turning point in my career – I was empowered to take on more responsibility, be a part of an organisation in growth mode and become instrumental in driving expansion. But even success leads to predictability, and soon, I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. So I moved.”
Her first few forays into entrepreneurship were not easy.
“I had to work for myself and deal with financial anxieties sometimes, and with the ‘what next’, but there was never any self-doubt, so nothing seemed daunting,” she says.
If you know what you’re worth and you’ve adequately demonstrated an ability to deliver the goods, opportunities will open up. I feel if I’m willing to take complete responsibility for the outcomes of my decisions, there is no stopping me. So I took on every challenge that came my way.
Jaypore was launched with an 'iPad only' shopping experience to begin with. “This was followed by a website, which opened up to the US in October 2012, and we went 'live' in India and the rest of the world in January 2013,” she explains.
For the love of colour
When she is not working, Shilpa enjoys painting watercolours. “I used to paint with oils when I was in college. I always wanted to go to art school, but no one told me I needed to take my elementary drawing exams in school to qualify and even to apply,” she says.
So, Shilpa had to be largely self-taught, except for a few lessons that she managed to take. “I did what I did in oils but what I really wanted to learn was watercolours. I took lessons from a Japanese manga artist for a while. Soon, my mind opened up to the techniques of Chinese and Japanese style of watercolours and this has inspired me to do more and more.”
She immerses herself in painting, mostly on Sundays. “It changes my rhythm, and that’s important for me,” she says. “I’m inspired by the wealth of learning videos available online, on Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram and have friends who’ve egged me on to push my boundaries. But I still have a long way to go.”
Water colour magic
Shilpa enjoys painting trees, flowers and birds. “But I would like to learn perspective drawing so I can draw and sketch when I travel and I am beginning to do that too,” she explains.
“The style I prefer is aquarelle, a very gentle and soft technique with minimum brush strokes that are mostly monochromatic. I’m not a big fan of mixed media, though I have tried acrylic painting. I must admit, though, on a recent trip to France, a chance afternoon with an English artist introduced me to the goodness of gouache and I’m itching to play with that, alongside my water colours.”
There is no structure to Shilpa’s time, and so, she picks up her sketchbook or watercolours at any time of the day. “I never travel without my paint box and some paper. There are times when I wish I could paint every day,” she says.
When people see Shilpa’s artistic work, they tell her which painters she should follow. “I love Chihiro Iwasaki, Irina Tarasova and Kiyoharu Narazaki for their techniques. Closer home, I love the work of Shasha Shaikh, an artist friend of mine, who has totally redefined Batik. It is so inspiring. Pressed leaf art work (Herbariums) is also equally relaxing,” she observes.
Her love for art helps Shilpa de-stress completely.
"Painting helps the mind detox,” she says. “It allows me to escape to a world that’s consuming and extremely gratifying. It changes my rhythm and is a refreshing break from running my business."
Lens eye view
As an offshoot to her artistic inclinations, Shilpa has another hobby: photography. “I enjoy photography and from the time I bought myself a DSLR camera, I realised that in trying to capture a moment, I noticed a lot more. Now that I’m far more aware of what goes on around me, I find myself willing to stop and smell the roses. I’ve enjoyed doing portraits and I have been using a hand-me-down camera for years. Later, I began capturing minute details in flowers and insects. Photography these days is focused on references for drawing, painting and making a point on Instagram, all of which I thoroughly enjoy.”
Lessons for life
The life lessons that Shilpa has gleaned from her hobbies and entrepreneurship are many. She explains: “Be bold about who you are, and cook on all four burners. Try more things and cross some lines. We have only one life, and you should live it queen-size.”
Shilpa doesn’t want to do only one thing everyday, all year round. “I don't want what I'm good at to take over my whole life,” she says. “I always want to redefine myself and paint a new canvas. There’s much more to life than work. Having an interest keeps you alive and young. I’ve seen many people continue to work well into their seventies, because they didn’t bother to develop other interests and are faced with an eventuality where they don’t know what to do with themselves.”
As for the future, it is her love for painting, photography, travel and all things beautiful that will keep her going. “I also have that incredible drive or urge to start the next thing. That is what makes me do the things I do. I’ve never made plans for the future. I always allow life to unfold,” she says.