November 19th is observed as Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED.) On this day the work of Women Entrepreneurs is observed, discussed and celebrated. Women’s Entrepreneurship Day was started by a private organization Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO), a philanthropic organization with a mission and movement to empower women and girls globally and impact poverty worldwide. The inaugural event for WED was held in 2014 at the United Nations in New York City and was also replicated in several countries across the world. Since then the WEDO has come a long way and this year launched a unique digital campaign called #ChooseWomen Reading about these efforts and events prompted me to think about my favourite women entrepreneurs and how they have arisen, grown and doing so much for the community and environment they live in.
It should come as no surprise then that some of my favourite products and the brands featured in this list. It is also so inspiring to think that it is a woman who primarily conceived and set up these businesses. Without further ado, let me introduce you to Meghna Norean from Shomota, Chinmayie Bhat from Soul, Pallavi Utagi from Superbottoms and Anjali Gulati from PeopleKonnect.
Meghna Norean thought and set up Shomota – a reusable menstrual use product.
9 months of pregnancy and 1 year of motherhood later, Aunt Flo arrived and I discovered that I was no longer able to tolerate a fragrance and gel-filled piece of plastic next to my skin for a week every month. Being a highly vocal supporter of modern cloth diapers I yearned for a reusable and eco-friendly alternative to the menstrual pad.
I tried using the cup but I just didn’t take to it. The only option for me was cloth. But the thought of our grandma’s era of menstruation kind of disgusted me. And then Shomota happened. I was hesitant and scared but the first pad onwards I saw how much my skin and my dustbin loved reusable cloth pads. Shomota has been a blessing. I haven’t touched a disposable sanitary pad since then and happy that I made this change in my life. So it was natural that I read up more about Shomota and learned about the business and the people behind it. I’ve been in touch with Meghna since then and was very eager to feature her for this piece.
Here’s what I asked her:
- What is your background? What were you doing before Shomota happened?
I was born and grew up in America. After college, I joined a community development NGO in an inner-city poor community. With the vision of doing community development in a different country, I moved to India in 2010. For the first few years of living in India, I focused on learning language and culture. Then I realized the problems of menstruation in the community where I live and Shomota was born.
- What prompted you to start your own business? Why do Shomota and its products exist today?
Shomota was born out of a problem I saw in my community. When I arrived in India, I began to notice menstrual waste (used disposable pads) on the train tracks, in the bathrooms and in the lake. I have been a reusable menstrual product user for 12 years and was surprised that no one I talked to knew about cloth pads and menstrual cups. I also learned about the menstrual practices in the community. The women using old torn up clothes or cotton swabs and the teenage girls wearing pads for longer than 24 hrs and missing school. I knew there were better solutions in reusable products and the dream was born to introduce sustainable menstrual products to my community and India. To do this I was looking on the internet on how to create a professional business plan which allowed me to see what I needed to introduce sustainable menstrual products.
- What was your biggest moment with Shomota?
Still being a newer business, I look back at the first woman that we hired to sew our cloth pads and our first sale. Those were huge moments and a realization that, “Wow, I just started my own business!”
- What are the top 3 dreams/ aspirations you have for Shomota?
I have a lot of dreams/aspirations it’s hard to say just 3! I would love to buy our own building and hire a lot more women from the marginalized communities and run a lot more menstrual health education seminars. I have a dream of a world without menstrual taboos, where women and men are open and free to talk about this natural process. My long-term dream for Shomota is to open a women’s empowerment retreat centre. A safe space for women to come and experience rest, renewal and wholeness. Those are just a few. 😉
- If you can guide an aspiring woman entrepreneur what would you tell them?
If you have a dream and you have a devotion to that dream, then don’t let anything get in your way. Most of all yourself. With the right intentions and mindset, you can do anything. Although, I won’t lie and say it’s always easy. It is hard work to start and run your own business, but the journey and destination are worth it.
I feel truly blessed and grateful that Chinmayie began Soul and gave all us parents and caregivers a chance at leading rich and fulfilling lives whilst having a baby (or two) in tow. I seriously cannot imagine my life without babywearing and am glad that I chanced upon the concept as soon as motherhood happened. I started wearing babyT as soon as he was the right age to fit into a full buckle baby carried and have only good things to say about my experience.
But the reason I love Soul is not just because of the world-class products they make. I love the team, their philosophy, the way they reach out and touch the lives of possibly each person who owns or uses their carriers and most of all their ethics.
Here’s more about Chinmayie and the dream she gave wings to:
- What is your background? What were you doing before Soul happened?
I studied in a Fine Art college and specialised in design and advertising. After a brief stint at a design studio and a working as a freelance graphic designer, I took a break from work when I had my first baby 8.5 years ago. When my daughter was around a year old I started a food blog. I loved blogging and photography and spent all my free time on it. It was only after I had my second baby 4 years ago, I decided to start Soul.
- What prompted you to start your own business? Why do Soul and its products exist today?
I started to use a ring sling with my newborn son and fell in love with the ease and convenience of it. At that point, I couldn’t find a well constructed, stylish local brand making ring slings in India so I decided to take the plunge.
It was a very spontaneous move as I have always done what I am passionate about. I ended up going all in with this business and THEN looking at the must-read books for entrepreneurs to make sure I kept it alive so it was all a bit backwards. Babywearing was something that changed my life when I had my second baby. It felt natural to want to spread the babywearing love. Soul was born a few months after I had my son and I consider it my third baby. We now make baby carriers of 6 different styles and are an ethical, eco-friendly brand and all our products are handmade in our factory based in Bangalore. We are India’s largest Ergonomic Baby carrier brand and have retailers and distributors around the world.
I knew I could make a difference in every parent’s life by introducing them to safe and affordable babywearing and there is no better time than now. As the traditional family structures shifts around the world, more and more nuclear families are emerging where parents handle childcare from the start by themselves with minimal to no outside help. Baby carriers can be an invaluable way to bond with the new baby and also carry on with their usual lifestyles. It’s also a great way to keep active toddlers safe in crowded public places!
- What was your biggest moment with Soul?Soul is almost 3.5 years old now from the time I made the first set of ring slings and started a Facebook page for it. We have had several very, very big moments with Soul. From the time we shipped out our first order to signing up our first retailer outside India to receiving our first international babywearing award, it has been a very memorable journey so far. We have grown a lot bigger than I ever imagined and I am confident that this is just the beginning.However, for us, the most rewarding moments are customer reviews and customer interactions. When a mother hugs me telling me how much of an impact my brand has had on her life, I realise that all the hard work is worth it. These moments remind me why I started Soul and why I want to reach more and more caregivers from around the world.
- What are the top 3 dreams/ aspirations you have for Soul?It’s really hard to restrict my dreams into 3 points as I am an ambitious, passionate dreamer. I set new goals every day because there is no end to growing and learning.My biggest dream for Soul, however, is to introduce each and every caregiver/parent to baby carriers that suit their needs irrespective of their economic and social background. Carrying your children close to you in the early years results in raising secure, happier babies and confident and caring caregivers. I want everybody to experience the joys of babywearing.
- If you can guide an aspiring woman entrepreneur what would you tell them?
Firstly believe in your product or service. You should be in the business that your heart is in. Always remember why you started your venture and what vision you have for yourself for the coming years. There are no short-cuts in anything and nothing can replace hard work and dedication. These apply to any entrepreneur.
You can view all the amazing range of Soul’s babywearing and other related products on their website soulslings.com I highly recommend you follow them on social media for the visual fest and the joy of babywearing – Facebook and Instagram.
You did see this one coming, didn’t you? Well, how could I not talk about #ClothDiapers and most importantly my favourite brand Superbottoms?
Superbottoms has been very close to my heart for many reasons. I started off as a recipient of a gift in the form of a Superbottoms diaper. But very soon I discovered a mompreneur who wanted the tiniest of feedback on my experience of using her products, asked me for my ideas and even put some of them into action and then trusted me to handle a fun but very important function in her company and business.
The reason Superbottoms is up on this list of mine today is not just because I am bonkers about cloth diapers or because I feel I should feature my friend Pallavi. She is here because I am constantly impressed by how this lady chooses to run her dream company and wants to really touch the lives of new parents every day. The fact that she has been functioning out of a spare room in her house does not stop her from running Superbottoms as a professional organization which aims to empower and give opportunities to new mothers who have chosen to leave lucrative careers and stay back at home to raise their children.
It was kinda funny to interview my friend Pallavi Utagi but here goes:
- What is your background? What were you doing before Superbottoms happened?
I am an Electronics and Telecom Engineer and an MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj, Mumbai and have worked on many women-centric consumer brands such as i-pill and Lactacyd in my corporate stint with noteworthy pharmaceutical companies. I am very passionate about earth-friendly ideas, and I always dreamt of building environmental sustainability into the business ideas and products that I worked with.
- What prompted you to start your own business? Why do Superbottoms and its products exist today?My son and a particularly ugly diaper rash lead to my starting my business in sustainable and pro-baby hygiene products.My husband and I quickly realised that we needed to find an alternative to the disposable diapers that were not just causing rashes but were also very expensive and moreover, very earth-unfriendly.
In my desperate search for an alternative, we came across Advanced Cloth diapers and that got us fascinated. We decided that there was a need for such a product in India and decided to launch Superbottoms.
Superbottoms is a brand of earth-friendly Advanced Cloth Diapers. We believe in balancing out convenience while ensuring the products are not just pro-baby but also earth-friendly.
The recent #DelhiSmog is a strong example of how we have neglected our planet and Earth while pursuing convenience and a better (?) lifestyle. Man, for long, has neglected and failed to treat sustainability and eco-friendliness as a good-to-have rather than a must-have in the products he creates and uses. This needs to change. With Superbottoms, we hope to give parents an economical, convenient and pro-baby alternatives to baby care – without compromising Earth.
- What was your biggest moment with Superbottoms?
The day we got our Testing Certificate! We always got all our products tested at our manufacturer however in India there are no regulatory requirements for selling baby cloth diapers in India. We nevertheless decided to get our products tested and certified as per US regulatory requirements. The day we got that certificate, making us the 1st and only tested and certified cloth diaper brand in India was a truly big moment.
- What are the top 3 dreams/ aspirations you have for Superbottoms?Well being an entrepreneur is about having your feet on ground and eyeing the stars so there are so many dreams :)First one is to have a huge all-moms team, and becoming a company that provides new mothers with an opportunity to get back to work.
The second dream is to be a global company, with our products reaching out in every corner of the world and thirdly, we aspire to be a company that is truly respected for great quality and sustainable products.
- If you can guide an aspiring woman entrepreneur what would you tell them?Take the first step, and then the next. Just start and keep going.
I love how Superbottoms has a simple view on everything and I do believe that is what is taking them places today and will do so tomorrow too. You can view the amazing range of Superbottoms Cloth Diapers right here – superbottoms.com and follow them on Facebook – Instagram – YouTube.
My association with Anjali started off with a phone call almost a decade ago when she had a job offer for me. I was not so sure of working in the corporate sector at that point of time or about the company she was pitching but I listened and was more than impressed with the way she sold the role to me. Needless to say, I did accept the position she proposed. Since then Anjali and her company People Konnect have grown leaps, bounds, marathons and more.
Read more about this powerhouse of a business and the woman behind it.
- What is your background? What were you doing before PeopleKonnect happened?
I have over 16 years of experience in HR. I started my career with GSPL in Gujarat, worked with Reliance Communications, Bhopal. Then moved to Mumbai with Tata Teleservices, and stayed on here. My last job was with ICICI Bank, and I owe a lot to that organization. The sheer size of the organization teaches one the concepts of scale and the ability to manage multiple deliverables at one time. In hindsight, nothing seems difficult and a ‘can do‘ attitude is the key to success. I then worked with Pegasus Consulting for a while after my son was born, consulted for an NGO and launched People Konnect in October 2009.
Today I am a mompreneur, mother of 2, and a wife to a very supportive husband. Life is indeed 24/7, but I love the way my life has turned out – with the challenges, my work, my kids and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- What prompted you to start your own business? Why do PeopleKonnect and its services exist today?
We began our journey as a recruitment service provider in October 2009 with an aim to provide best in class search solutions across levels and sectors for our clients. Over time, we built a capability for headhunting and dedicated searches, through Korner Office. We believe in helping people to achieve their long-term career goals rather than just getting a ‘job’. The thrill of our first closure is still fresh in our minds and every closure be it a 5 Lakh one or a 1 Crore one helps us grow. The ride so far has been eventful and challenging, with lots of successes along the way. We have been fortunate that most of our clients have stood by us, supported us in every new initiative and helped us reach where we are.
In our endeavour to becoming a complete HR Solutions provider, we launched our Learning & Development vertical, Extra Mile and have successfully started work on assignments in the Employee Engagement, Internal Communications and Organization Effectiveness space.
Since our organization constitutes a majority of returning-to-career women, we are passionate about encouraging women to get back. Also, the fact that there have been increased demands from our clients to hire for diversity has made it possible for us to recently launch “Back To The Front”, the Diversity focused arm of People Konnect. Our latest offering is ‘Kart by Moms’, our initiative to empower and create a marketplace for mompreneurs in corporate gifting segment.
- What was your biggest moment with PeopleKonnect?
While we don’t shy away from ‘walk the talk’, we indeed are proud of being an all-woman organization with 70% of them being returning-to-career women.
- What are the dreams/ aspirations you have for PeopleKonnect?We take immense pride when we help even a single woman inch closer to achieving her dream. My team works with empathy to the cause, and are extremely passionate about financial independence for women and building their self-worth.
You can visit their website – peoplekonnect.co.in to know more about the services they offer.
I hope you enjoyed reading these interviews as much as I did in compiling them. This Women’s Entrepreneurship Day reach out to your favourite women who run businesses small or big and give them a pat on the back for being a force to reckon with.