Finding and pursuing your true passion will bring you unimaginable riches and success shows entrepreneur Sunehra Koshy
Sunehra Koshy did an MBA after engineering and took up a job at HSBC bank where she worked for six years during which time she became the assistant vice president of HSBC bank. She took six months of maternity leave in 2009 when she had a son and again in 2011 when she had a daughter. Sunehra was very fond of paper craft ever since she was a child. She has a die-hard passion for paper craft and never misses an opportunity to do something crafty in her free time. This is what happened during her six months of maternity leave in 2009 and 2011. She re-discovered her childhood passion for paper craft and started creating crafty items, which she could not do while she was doing her bank job. The more she crafted, the better she got. Eventually she came to realize that the banking job was not her cup of tea. “My kids were now five and two and a half, young enough to still need me at home but old enough to allow me enough time to work from home. After getting so addicted to crafting, I knew that my banking job was a thing of the past, and that if I were to start working, it would have to be something creative, and preferably in this area. The thought of becoming an entrepreneur and creating my own business was tremendously exhilarating!” she exclaimed. Eventually, she ran out of places to keep her crafty works even though she kept gifting them to family and friends. She finally resorted to setting up an exhibition to showcase her creations but mainly to clear some space in her house. She was gob smacked when everything sold out.
Vision, mission and scope of her company: She also kept receiving orders for and enquiries about her work. This was the kind of positive attention she needed to start a company of her own. In April, 2014 she started her own company called Crack of Dawn Crafts. Being a mother to two kids under the age of five, Sunehra’s time wasn’t her own to commandeer. So she worked once her kids were in bed and kept crafting till the crack of dawn. That’s how her startup got its name. “My vision was to create a truly memorable experience for all special occasions. Whether it was a birthday, anniversary, baby shower or wedding, my goal was to create original, unique and very attractive invitations, gift boxes and decorations, designed to make that event an extra special experience for all involved. Apart from the celebration aspect of the special occasion, I also wanted to get into the gifting aspect since I had a wonderful range of handmade gifts like albums, scrapbooks, wall décor, elaborate cards and more,” she said.
Sunehra’s husband was working full time so she did not bother about giving up her bank job. However, she could not invest heavily on her venture and jeopardize her children’s future, so she took to working from home. “A key aspect of my strategy was the payment model. I only began work on a project once I received 100% payment in advance. I would get an order, receive the payment and only then fulfill the order. Consequently, my money was never tied up. I never had an overwhelming amount of stock to clear or payments dues to collect. I was profitable from day one,” she said. “We are mostly self-funded, operating with funds generated from sales. Since we don’t maintain any stock and only undertake production when a payment is received for an order, we are able to operate within our cash flows,” she added. At first, she put rupees one lakh from her own savings into the business. On the second year, she took a loan of rupees five lakh from her father to fund her future scaling plans. “I am still in the process of spending that,” she reveals.
Achievements so far: There have been several momentous landmarks for Sunehra since she had launched her venture. “We were over the moon when our work began to be noticed by celebrities. We have supplied our products to well-known figures from Bollywood as well as leading industrialists,” she said. Sunehra has seen a steady increase both in revenue and her customer base ever since she had started the company. Her revenue in the first year of launching the company was Rs. 20,00,000/-, which grew by 50% to Rs. 30,00,000 in the second year and is still growing at a steady pace each year thanks to leading marketplaces like Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart coming forward to list her products. Her customer base too has grown by 175% since. “Suddenly, we had a brand new sales avenue that was bringing us revenue like we hadn’t seen before. The growth in revenue from marketplace sales was phenomenal – over 300 percent in just five months!” she exclaimed.
Her staff: She hired five girls from under – privileged backgrounds to handle production so that they could support their families with their income. She cherishes these girls, but is also thinking about putting together a skilled, functional and enthusiastic core team, with each team member handling one of the different functions like sales, marketing and client and orders management. This she says will allow her more time to focus on designing new and more interesting products. Variety is the spice of Sunehra’s business. She has done it all, from the regular princess and dinosaur-themed birthdays to a recent Paris-themed birthday to decorating a restaurant in Chennai with Kabali-themed products to celebrate the Rajnikanth’s movie release.
Problems encountered: Sunehra’s journey hasn’t been completely rosy though. She said that transitioning from a high powered corporate environment to a highly creative one was fraught with difficulties for her. She had to learn everything from scratch and be her own teacher. She was too inexperienced to handle the growth surge that came her way. “In our first year of operations, revenue each month was growing rapidly until October 2014, when it crashed by half. I was shattered! I had just moved into a studio space two months earlier, and I had taken on additional staff and purchased a new computer. My cash situation was poor since I had just made all those investments. It was my first big setback and it really tested me” she said. “I studied my promotion plan for that devastating month and realized that I had only focused on promoting one product category, while ignoring everything else. I quickly corrected this and everything was back to normal by the next month,” she states.
Our take: Sunehra has emerged as a time-tested businesswoman from her ordeals and her advice to fellow entrepreneurs reflects this, “Be prepared to work harder than you ever have before. Be ready to have little or no income for three to five years. Get your family and support group completely behind you. And then just go for it!” Read about Women Entrepreneurs.