Shilpi Sharma is a mompreneur and Co-founder of Indie Project Store – an online unique space for children’s products. From working in a MNC to freelancing for an NGO, Today -She is a woman entrepreneur owning an online reputed space for children’s products. Being an Entrepreneur herself, Indie Project store supports as a stepping platform for other small business selling kid’s products. Shilpi shares with WomenpreneursOfIndia – WOI, about her business journey.
Try to come up with fresh ideas, even if it’s for a traditional business model
I’m Shilpi, one half of Indie Project Store (my business partner – Satya, is the other half). We are a teeny tiny family of five, which includes my husband Abjit, an almost 4-year-old man-cub named Zane, our 11-year-old fur baby Layla and now a newborn baby girl Amyra. I grew up in Delhi, However, post my Bachelors I started working and moved to the South of India in 2004 and haven’t moved back ever since. I have always had a sweet connection with the South of India, as much as I cherish my North Indian roots, I relate more to the South, be it the food, culture or people, or the simple lifestyle. I love it all!!
I was in Bangalore for almost a decade, where I was handling Workforce Training operations for a multinational company. Post my marriage, I moved to Hyderabad and got certified as an image consultant. I was on my way to entering a new domain in Human resource development through grooming, styling and wardrobe management for corporate employees when I realized I was expecting our first baby! Having spent so much time in the corporate world, I made a conscious choice of being a stay at home mom freelancing for an NGO that is involved in up-skilling the workforce of India.
Like a lot of our new age talented moms, I needed a creative outlet apart from my work with the NGO. One day, I was casually posting my son’s images in my self designed outfits asking folks what they thought about them and one mum – our long time customer and now a friend, asked how much was it. This is how our journey began! I witnessed a huge gap in Indian kids apparel industry when it came to quality made, reasonably priced, locally produced, kids products using traditional Indian fabrics. We were amongst the pioneers in developing contemporary designs for babies and toddlers using Indian fabrics like Mangalgiri cottons, Ikkat, Khadi, kalamkari, Bandhej, etc. I have always been a team sport kind of person (Was a basketball player for most part of my schooling years). So, I decided to rope in other moms and small business owners to work on this project – That’s why the name ‘Indie’ – meaning independent, instead of setting up our own manufacturing unit.
I realised the potential of this business and asked my best friend & business partner Satya, if she would like to work on this with me. Like for all decisions in my life, she was completely onboard and we started working with home based tailors. I remember listing our products on Facebook for sales and circulating catalogues through Whatsapp to get orders, then packing those products in handmade and repurposed boxes and shipping them personally.
Most part of our initial business days, we outsourced our production to independent business owners and NGOs, some of which we still continue to work with. Once we gained popularity, we started offering our platform to other momprenuers and small business owners, because we have gone through the grind ourselves and we know everyone can make use of little helping hand and for any start-up getting visibility is one of the top priorities, which we offer to our vendor partners. We maybe the only online curated store that gives free shout outs to businesses (even the ones who are not listed with us) and give credits and social media tags to vendors original account handles. Our first print media feature came in one of the most prestigious newspaper of India, The Hindu (Once again courtesy one of our long time customer and now a friend of the brand mommy) within few months of being in business and that was a huge deal for us and pumped us to strive for bigger goals!
Being an entrepreneur is a big responsibility without the comforts of an assured paycheck every month but it gives me the flexibility to work around my family’s schedule which is the most important thing and by the end of the day all your achievements are your own and that is the most fulfilling professional experience. I love being an entrepreneur. And, I’m also associated with a worldwide education programme, where I get to associate with people seeking spiritual nourishment.
There are so many lessons that I learnt throughout this process, top on my list is the need to keep reinventing your approach to things. Our line of work is an extremely competitive domain, every single day we have new businesses coming up with similar products at competitive pricing and what has helped us stay afloat is our positive attitude and innovative approach. And, It’s tough to maintain a routine with a newborn but in life I firmly belive one needs to maintain a perfect balance for their Physical-Emotional-Professional & Spiritual Needs. By the end of the day if someone asks you, ‘Do you feel happy & content’? and our answer is not an immediate Yes! Then it’s time to reassess all aspects of our life.
I seek Inspiration to keep myself motivated. I love creativity and my time on social media is mostly spent checking on creative works of various artists and professionals. I’m lucky enough to work with my Best Friend as a business partner and she is the sister I never had. When people ask me how do I juggle so many things at a time, my answer is always the same – Because of Satya.
For any business to turn into a household name or a ‘Brand’ one needs to build on customer’s trust & loyalty which takes time. We did this by keeping a humble approach, we remember how we started and havent forgotten who all helped us and always been open to constructive feedback, ensuring by the end of the day customer feels heard and important.
About challenges – Honestly scaling up is a big challenge! We conduct regular analysis and work on expansion plans accordingly (considering we are a startup and need our learning curve) even then find ourselves struggling to keep up with the every growing demand for our products. We have been a conscious brand and always wanted to contribute to the community somehow and expansion of our own business would make us a regular kids apparel brand. So to manage our growth without letting go of our desire to do more for the community has always been a big challenge!
However, recently we figured out a way to address this dilemma and started curating from other small shops, giving startups and small businesses a bigger platform to showcase their work and ensuring our customer’s demands are met with products that are developed by similar businesses like ours. As we speak we have 50+ small businesses retailing through our website and 95% of these small shops are run by women entrepreneurs.
Lastly, I would like to say – Be a pioneer in whatever you do rather than a follower, you will see success much faster and easily. Also, I happen to observe even before people start something they get into a competitive mode and create unnecessary baggage. Business today is all about collaboration and positive camaraderie. Every single small shop that has gained immense popularity too soon, in last one year has extremely creative, open-minded and cordial business owners behind it. Jealousy and Ego will always create roadblocks for a business owner, we don’t have to be better than each other to run a succesful business! And, at Indie Project Store we are all about collaboration and working together, so if you think someone can benefit by associating with us, just lead them in our direction and we would be happy to lend a helping hand. – says, Shilpi.
Thank you Shilpi. Indie Project Store is surely a platform for young parents and Parenting start-ups! We appreciate your kindness to support other self-starting businesses. And, we are glad to feature your business journey on WOI. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours. Keep Inspiring.
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