â—_x008f_ Name of the startup: Cupik Design
â—_x008f_ Year of Founding: Sept 2012
â—_x008f_ Sector: Personalised stationery and gifts
â—_x008f_ Based in: Mumbai
â—_x008f_ Branches: India, Dubai, Ghana
- If you were to describe yourself in one line what would it be?
Stationery designer and obsessive planner, who is trying hard to not be too grown up all the time.
- A brief on your educational and professional background.
I have a PGBDM in Marketing, post a commerce graduate degree from NM College, Mumbai
My dad pioneered the Yellow Pages business in India and I was part of it since high school. I took the business online when the Internet arrived in India in 1997, and even had my own startup in 2001 (with funding and everything) called newindiaproducts.com. I guess we were too early for our time, and I switched to a career in communications and advertising when I finished my studies in 2002.
Being the person I am, I realised that the demands of a full-time advertising career (I worked with Ogilvy at the time) and motherhood would not mix, and I started my own brand management firm way before I even became a mom (obsessive planner, see?).
- The one Eureka moment that led you to launch your brand.
The seed for Cupik Design was sown when my little one started pre-school, and everything from her bag, bottle and snack box and her teddy and her little pink teacup (that she took to school for 2 hours one day) needed to be labelled with her name. Now my little girl can’t be having her name scrawled on ugly white labels. No ma’am! We needed something classier, and we couldn’t find it anywhere!
I made a few labels for her just for fun, and before I knew it, the other moms around me were asking me to make them for their kids too! I knew I was in business when my friend in New Jersey called and placed an order, seconds after I posted a picture of my daughter’s labels on Facebook one night.
- 3 mistakes you did as an entrepreneur in your early days.
- Working non-stop – The initial excitement of creating something from nothing, and then seeing it being liked, being purchased and being appreciated by people put me on a happy high. I lived and breathed Cupik Design, and along with my new ecstatic mommyhood status, it took over my world. Between baby and Cupik, I forgot to take care of myself, and it showed in my health. I’m still suffering from some of the repercussions of my unhealthy lifestyle in those first few years.
- Getting affected by copycat brands – If it’s a good product, it will get copied. The mark of a good brand is way more than just the product itself. It’s the customer’s overall experience that matters. It took me a while to understand that as the leader of the game, I needed to focus on looking ahead, not keep looking behind to see who was following in our footsteps. It caused me a lot of unnecessary anxiety.
- No planning – Considering what a big advocate of planning I am, it’s silly how a growth plan for the business is something I never worked on in the first few years. I still got lucky, and was able to put my ‘business hat’ on eventually.
- One key take away from your learnings as a brand owner.
- Parenting and Running a business: The similarities.
Oh there’s a reason I call Cupik Design my second baby! It’s been similar to parenting in so many ways! Both will give you sleepless nights, both will throw you curveballs at the most inopportune times, both are wildly unpredictable, both need your full involvement and cannot thrive without you in the initial years, and both will have you tearing up with joy and pride with every little milestone achieved!
- 3 tips you would want to give to aspiring mompreneurs.
- Routine Routine Routine – Designated hours of work, in a designated space, are essential to success, especially if you’re working from home. Build a routine. Because life will always get in the way.
- Goal-oriented approach – Where do you want to go? And why? What is the purpose of your business? Answer these questions for yourself, and your goals will emerge. The quickest way to achieving these goals is by writing them down, because then they seem more tangible, and therefore, more achievable. I have lived by this mantra in all areas of my life and so far, it’s worked wonders for me.
- Don’t try it do it all on your own. YOU-WILL-BURN-OUT. Build a support system around you. It’s amazing what friends and family will do for you if you just ask! Don’t be a superhero when you don’t need to be.
- Your answer to “Can moms have it all?”
Absolutely not. And that’s okay! No one is perfect, and in your quest for perfection, you will harm yourself. Prioritise what is important to you, your family and your work. Put everything else on a ‘nice to have’ list. You’ll find yourself rewarded with more mental peace, more time for self-care and more time for the things that bring you happiness. A happy mama is what every child needs. Not a super-stressed out supermom who is trying to have it all, and is always unhappy and burdened by her own expectations.
- 1 milestone moment for your brand.
We’ve been blessed with many milestone moments, but the day we were commissioned to make a gigantic stationery hamper for Mr. and Mrs. Anil Ambani is when my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t believe it, and the fabulous feedback we received from Mrs. Tina Ambani when she received that hamper had us grinning away for weeks after!
Another amazing moment is when film-maker Farah Khan reached out to us to make a new product for her, in four days flat, for 80 kids who were attending her triplets’ 10th birthday party a couple of years ago. I was skeptical if I could do it in the short timeframe we had, and she calmly told me, “If anyone can do it, it’s you. So please just start.” I went to deliver that order to her in the middle of the night, and the delighted faces of the triplets and their happy mama made it worth all the effort!
- 3 apps that help you ace your productivity.
Quickbooks is a great tool for accounting, Canva is superb for those amazing instagram filters, and I guess a good phone is important for those drool-worthy product photos we keep posting all day long on social media.
- If you could do things differently (in your business)- what is the one thing you would like to change?
I would love to be less of a stresspot about daily work, because my team is fabulous at their job. I am learning to let go, albeit very slowly.
- Key challenges in running your business.
The key challenge has always been maintaining the balance between the cost per customer acquisition, and delivering a great customer experience. We bridged this gap quite a bit in the early years by launching our online store cupikdesign.com instead of selling via social media channels. But there are still so many customers who would rather speak to a real person via whatsapp, than buy something worth even Rs. 300 through an online store.
- The one habit that you attribute to- for a productive day at work.
Daily goal setting and daily to-do lists. At Cupik Design, we do this daily list-making exercise, and we do not leave our studio until everything from that list has been checked off.
- Work-life balance- is it a myth? 5 ways to help moms achieve that.
Work-life balance is not so hard to achieve. I would recommend to:
- Set a routine for yourself.
- Limit social media to 10-minute breaks. We don’t realise how much that mindless scrolling eats into our time.
- Plan your week – 20 minutes on a Sunday evening planning important tasks, schedules, appointments, grocery shopping for the week ahead and meal planning can do wonders for a work-life balance.
- Set aside some time just for yourself every day – to read, for a skincare routine, listen to music or speak with a friend. It’s up to you. It’ll refresh you and give you the energy to face the day.
- Resist the urge to check every email and answer every customer enquiry in your personal time.
- What is your one tip for anyone with a startup dream?
Meet as many people as you can. Learn from the masters. Read about the leaders in your space. And write write write. The more journaling you do, the clearer your thoughts become, and the faster they turn into tangible ideas.
- Who is your biggest cheerleader? Tell us about your support system
My family of course! My parents and my husband are my daily soundboards for every product idea, every milestone, every challenge and every heartbreak.
Having said that, the sheer amount of support, encouragement and positive energy I get from my initial customer base is something I am eternally grateful for. They are fierce loyalists of Cupik Design and our greatest critics too.
- The best and the worst entrepreneurial advice you have received.
The worst advice would come from print partners I was trying to work with in the beginning, who didn’t understand what I was trying to do here.
“25 envelopes kaun banayega?”
“Madam stickers ka ek sheet nahin banta hai! Ye nahin chalega.”
The more they kept saying it couldn’t be done, the more determined I was to make it happen.
To be honest, I almost threw in the towel twice! The best advice came from my dad, who kept pushing me forward to “try one more time”. Thank God I listened to him.
- 2 fellow mompreneurs you seek inspiration from.
Abha Mahajan (The Pipal) has been my mentor/guide in the online kids retail business since I started out in 2012. Her obsessive streak for creating high-quality products for kids matches mine perfectly, and her enthusiasm is contagious!
Preeti Vyas (Funokplease publishing)(now President, Amar Chitra Katha) is the most brilliant marketer I have met in real life. Besides being a close friend, confidante, cheerleader and occasional strategist for Cupik Design, she’s also my inspiration for how one should balance work and life, business and kids, how to be stoic yet graceful in the face of adversity, how to get shit done calmly and how to face every single day (good or bad) with a smile and a wink.