Born in Mumbai, and brought up in Lagos, Nigeria, Karishma Lalwani has been living in Mumbai for almost 10 years now.
Having completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Sophia College at the age of 19 (she had a double promotion in school), she went on to do a diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care only because always loved teaching little children.
Karishma always knew that she wanted to be a counsellor right from the day she attended her first psychology lecture in college, and so she completed a Masters degree in Guidance & Counselling from SNDT Women’s University at the age of 22.
Now at 24, she is a Coordinator at a reputed NGO where she trains teachers to teach the underprivileged children (of all age groups) and plans curricula for them.
Shades of Joy is a hobby which has turned into her side business. Her collection includes candles, crafts, and decor pieces for every occasion, be it a baby shower, birth announcement, birthdays, weddings, Ganapati, Navroz, Diwali or Christmas.
Shades of Joy has made her not just an entrepreneur but has brought about a level of confidence in her and boosted her self esteem to great heights. The sense of accomplishment she feels after she creates each craft piece for her collection is inexpressible.
Through Shades of Joy she has learnt that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step and she is glad that she took this step, all thanks to her family and friends who have encouraged her.
At Naaree.com, we love to understand what really makes women entrepreneurs tick and asked Karishma these questions below on her entrepreneurial journey.
• What inspired to become an entrepreneur? Did you always love it or was it something you got into?
My love for crafts is what inspired me to become an entrepreneur. I always knew one day I would start a business of my own (maybe a play school or activity classes) but I expected that to be much later in life probably after I get married and have children. I had no clue it would start now and my hobby would turn into my business which is just perfect.
• When do you know that it is no longer just an idea in your mind and that you can really turn it into a lucrative business?
I have been making craft items every Diwali to gift to family and friends and each year I would get calls saying “you are talented and we loved your gift. You should take orders and hold exhibitions.” And each time my standard response would be “Naah, you’ll are just being nice. I don’t think my work is good enough yet to start it as a business”
But this year was a little different, after doing up my Diwali collection I right away sent pictures of it to my mom and really close friends (namely Najz, Krupa Sanghavi, and Raaj Chawla) and I said to them I am soo in love with my creations this year that I don’t feel like gifting it just like that. And the reply which each of them gave me is trying selling them and you will know how gifted you are.
That day I made my Facebook page and posted pictures and I had friends messaging me and saying we want to place an order. That day it hit me that, Oh my God I just became an entrepreneur.
• What inspired you to start out on your own or with your partners? What learning lessons can you share from your startup experience?
Since it is something I work on after I come home from work (yes, I have a job also where I train teachers and plan curriculums for the underprivileged children), it was like a de-stress activity for me.
The fact that my business is all about something that I enjoy doing so when I get orders I don’t feel stressed about going home after a whole day’s work and completing the order. And I think the whole point is about loving what you do.
The lesson I learnt is that don’t tell people your dream, show it to them because a goal without a plan remains just a wish.
• What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?
I think one of the challenges I faced initially was lack of self confidence. When I started my business I realized it was something that gave me a sense of identity and joy. That is when I felt if only I had started it 2-3 years ago when people were telling me to go for it I would have probably been at my goals by now.
I feel women entrepreneurs especially in India, because of our inherent nature, we lack self-confidence which is essentially a motivating factor in running an enterprise successfully.
However, all of us have at least one person (maybe a family member or a friend or a spouse) in our lives who is always there to give us a push and believe in us when we are not sure of ourselves. We must always value their support and take their advice as they are probably seeing what we are not.
• What are all the things that a woman entrepreneur needs to keep in mind? I.e. apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?
I think the trick is to stay motivated. You are very likely to bump into negative people who will try to de-motivate and scare you about failure.
But take it with a pinch of salt and move on because I believe if you don’t take a chance, how would you know how perfect something is going to turn out.
• Is it beneficial to have a mentor when you’re starting out on your own? What does a mentor bring to the table?
Yes, it is very beneficial to have a mentor when starting out on your own. Business mentors have “been there, done that.” therefore, they can offer you expert advice and guidance based on actual experiences — successes and failures included.
Another benefit of having a mentor is they can help you think with a different perspective towards reaching your goals.
• How did you recruit your first team? How difficult was it to get people on board during the initial stages?
As of now, since mine is a small business which I run from home I have not had the need to recruit people.
But if ever I do need to recruit people in the future I would prefer to approach NGOs that work towards employing the underprivileged, since mine is more skilled based work and does not require an educational background.
• What are 3 key things that you have learned as an entrepreneur?
– Be open to feedback and criticism but don’t take it personally.
– If you are getting a chance to turn your dream into your work, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
– Accept where you have been, Understand where you are n focus on where you are going.
• How important is social media in building a business today? How has it played a role in helping you build yours?
Social media is very important today in building a business as it helps you reach out to people.
One of the challenges that I faced was reaching out to people and spreading the word because if you are just starting out your business you might not want to invest a lot in advertising as you have to save up for your material costs.
But luckily today we have a lot of social media which we can use to market our products at a much lower cost.
So my advice to upcoming entrepreneurs would be to Shout about it, enter the ever-expanding world of social media and make it work for you and your business.
As per my experience, setting up a Twitter account and Facebook page for your venture really helps a lot. Using social media, which is largely free, helps us to find new markets and customers, plus handy help and feedback/advice.
• Can you share some tips for women entrepreneurs to maintain a balance between work and family life?
Find a system that will define when its work and home time to keep things manageable. For instance, try dealing with emails at set times of the day. If you have small children, their nap times or while they are away at school/classes may help plan your routine.
It’s critical to have a distinct and separate space for your business. When you are in that space, you’re working, and when you’re out of that space, try to leave work behind.
And last but not the least, I would like to share a quote by Barbara de Angelis, “Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.”
About the author:
Priya Florence Shah is the publisher of Naaree.com. Set your Thermostat to Success with her Free Entrepreneur Toolbox. Download her Free Personal Branding Worksheet for writing a personal brand statement.