Jaya Rawat from Chotee

Jaya Rawat, Founder of Chotee
Jaya Rawat, Founder of Chotee

Name of your business:

Chotee (Website: www.ilovechotee.com)

Tell us about your business…

In Hindi Chotee means tied hair, it also means peak of the mountain. The idea is quite simply to provide as much joy to the hands that make them as the wearers of the beautiful products. Chotee is an inconspicuous brand of handmade fashion accessories made lovingly for girls of all ages. Each product is lovingly designed and crafted to give an Oh So Gorgeous look along with functionality. These are crafted by underprivileged women who are taught from scratch to make these, and they are paid fair. Mostly it is a lot of hair accessories in addition to necklaces, hand chains, rings, belts and even eye glass chains. Each product is tested for functionality, quality and durability before it is launched.

What motivated you to start your own business?

I belong to the Marwari business community, and always had the bug of starting something of my own, so when I found I was able to train women to make this stuff, I jumped right into it. The whole idea of designing, marketing and selling products that I absolutely love is what excites me. In addition, I get to help women including me, lead a better life!

Which have been the biggest challenges when starting your business?

The sheer number of choices one has to make on an everyday basis is pretty crazy. In addition, juggling between the roles of a designer, trainer, marketer, procurement officer, model and seller is a little bit tricky. Also, being in a market which is so unregulated, and is mostly compared to goods that are mass produced in China by people who have no concept of Fair Wage is difficult to say the least. Moreover, India as a market doesn’t believe in spending on handmade products, because somehow people believe handmade products should be cheaper since no money was spent on machinery.

How did you overcome these challenges?

I have participated in almost 50 exhibitions so far, and learnt so much from the process. From understanding the client requirements/psyche to the price point that would work to even the colors that are popular. It has a been huge learning. Talking and explaining the process of making these, and how both quality and design of Chotee products is much superior, has helped immensely.

How did you find your first customers?

Chotee was launched 2 years ago at Bangalore’s largest and most loved flea market Sunday Soul Sante. That was the first time the products were put up for sale. The response was phenomenal, it also gave me idea of what works, and why and how. I received instant feedback on the products, and it helped immensely in developing new products as well.

What is the most effective way to sell your products/services?

Exhibitions and online, they both work very well for Chotee products. Events provide an opportunity for the buyers to try the products, and experience the look and feel of these. However, the attention is drawn to the products that are displayed the best. Online listings provide equal weight to every product, hence allowing the customers to pick from a wider variety that is all displayed very aesthetically.Further, online listings provide a large reach of the products.

What is the most exciting part of running your own business?

The fact that I get to call the shots!

What is your least favorite part of running your own business?

The fact that I have to make so many choices, its the best and the worst thing because there is no way to measure the true impact of the decision.

How do you stay motivated during difficult times?

Chotee is my baby, I just can’t let go of it. Usually, its in realizing how far I have come. Also,speaking with other entrepreneurs helps greatly.

Who inspires you?

All the awesome women who run their own venture.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?

Stay true to yourself, your choice and your idea. Give it time and energy, and don’t beat yourself up if people don;t get what you are doing and why. It’s your baby, keep going and you will find your way.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jaya!

You can check out more details here and please share some social media love with Chotee via Facebook and Twitter.

Suhani Mohan from Saral Designs

 

Suhani Mohan, Co-Founder of Saral Designs
Suhani Mohan, Co-Founder of Saral Designs

Name of your business:

Saral Design Solutions (Website: www.saraldesigns.in )

Tell us about your business…

Saral Design Solutions is a for-profit Social Enterprise focused on designing products to provide access to affordable and quality menstrual hygiene in India.

Saral has developed a machine to manufacture high quality sanitary napkins (“Aisha pads”) in decentralized manner. Decentralization helps in lowering costs incurred due to several layers of distribution. Aisha pads are being made available to these girls via various channels like medical shops, door to door sales and installation of vending machines in their schools toilets along with hygiene awareness.

What motivated you to start your own business?

Menstruation is a natural biological phenomenon that every woman undergoes. Due to poor access to and affordability of reliable products, women in India have been adopting unhygienic practices to manage their periods, which has severe health implications.

We feel access to affordable sanitary napkins is a basic right for every woman. While technology is making our lives easier, we believe that technology also needs to be used to address critical challenges that affect a huge segment of the population. This motivated us to build machines that automate processes to lower costs (of production and distribution) while maintaining the product quality and service.

Which have been the biggest challenges when starting your business?

The start is probably the most difficult time when you don’t have funds that you need to build the product. And when you don’t have a product and funds it is difficult to build a team.

How did you overcome these challenges?

The only thing that helped us in our early days was strong conviction in what we were trying to do. It helped us get early supporters and team members who believed in the vision and built the product.

How did you find your first customers?

We packed our bags with a dozen packets of sanitary napkins and entered into a slum locality in Ghatkopar. We started approaching women going door to door telling about the product and why we are doing what we are doing, how we are using technology to get costs down without compromising on quality. Out of the 15 women we met that day, 14 of them purchased our product.

What is the most effective way to sell your products/services?

Sanitary napkin sales are the most effective when it happens at a personal level along with awareness building on hygiene.

What is the most exciting part of running your own business?

Running your own early stage start-up offers continuous accelerated learning in every aspect of the business.

What is your least favorite part of running your own business?

Extensive paper work… India really needs to introduce many more reforms and automation in processes so that there is better ease of doing business in the country.

How do you stay motivated during difficult times?

“Anything that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” – Something that I tell myself in difficult times.

Who inspires you?

My mother. Being brought up in a rural/ semi-urban setting, Hindi medium school educated from UP, from an area where female higher education was extremely rare, she is today a B.Tech, M.Tech from IIT Roorkee, a PhD from IIT Bombay and a Distinguished Scientist in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. Her struggles despite all odds, motivate me to push my boundaries.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?

Your success is the best way to empower other women.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Suhani!

You can support Saral Design and spread awareness about menstrual hygiene and affordable affordable sanitary pads via Facebook and Twitter.