MBA graduate who chose to be a homepreneur: Meet Priya Agarwal – Jewellery designer & craftswoman

Homeprenuer_Priya_AgarwalComing from a remote town call KUMARDHUBI (DHANBAD dist, Jharkhand state), the MBA in Priya Agarwal willingly choose to pursue her creative spark, rather than to follow a corporate path... and launched her first homepreneurial venture on 2 Feb 2011, via face book page Stop n Stare. With no other capital investment, other than a few handmade hoops and cards, and through smart networking, her custom made jewelleries are a huge rage amongst ethnic lovers.

Here, in this interview Priya Agarwal shares her dream & vision with aspiring homepreneurs. . Her venture is a standing example of making working from home a practical possibility without being too technologically (read computer/software/ IT) oriented

Hi Priya, great to have you here. During the course of this interview, I made several pit stops at your page @ Facebook, Craftsvilla, Mirraw etc. Your designer jewelleries are awesome. They appear to be light, handy and above all safe (given the era of chain snatchers and knife-point robbers). So, before we discuss your designs and the inspiration behind that, please tell us a bit more about yourself.

I am Priya Agarwal coming from a small town Dhanbad but with big dreams to conquer the world with my creativity and talent. I have done my graduation, PGPM and jewellery designing in Kolkata. The best word to describe me is PASSIONATE. I am passionate about life and try my best to learn and create new things every day.

I basically design all forms of costume/ fashion / imitation jewellery. I especially love to make beaded jewellery. Other product categories are cubic zirconia's . Victorians , polki's sterling silver jewellery etc . I ship all over the world .

Indeed, the most creative minds are the most passionate of us all. I have witnessed this more than once, and yet again. The fact that you specialise in handmade jewellery invariably takes me back in time. In our school curriculum, we used to have one class set aside for "Arts & Crafts". Except for few craft-savy students (such as yourself), rest of us would use this to catch up on chatter and gossip. Did you have a similar exposure to handmade craft items? How did this all start?

I have always been very very creatively inclined. I didn’t realize this myself. Of course, it is our friends who just help us recognize ourselves. I used to doddle doodle and the all the time scribble on my notebooks. During my 12th, like every ambitious girl, way back in 2005 , there weren’t much jewellery designing schools to hone one’s skills.

I moved to Kolkata for higher studies and after much hard work ,found out SINGEM. I also had a list of career choices. But there was just something about these little treasures that I just loved. But, of course, after doing a course one has to start off somewhere. I had been researching and networking with a lot of jewellery designers. But I never really had the confidence to start off big.

After my MBA , I came back home and really had to start off something somewhere. And, I knew the beginning will always be small. I wrote over 100 names then finally decided on the name "Stop n Stare" on face book, never knowing, one day I would writing this as the name it ought to be.

Believe it or not, I didn’t even have any raw materials to start off. All I had was some hoops and recycled beads that I had been collecting from here-and-there. I put lot of love and effort in designing these treasures, be it sketching, or making them with materials. I am really glad the people love them and appreciate my efforts

Oh dear !, It must have been a rough start with such a negligible capital investment. When did you actually take the plunge? And, how long did you have to wait to make your very first sale?

I started with a face book page with a few handmade cards on 2nd Feb 2011, and took around 4 – 5 months to get my first order. Luckily, my friends were my first clients. J Made me so glad.

Since then, I have nurtured this page like my baby. I like to work as much as possible with materials directly in my hands.

As a homepreneur, I am constantly interrupted by sales people, telephone calls, unannounced guests etc. On some days, the interruptions are so severe; I force myself to keep the phone off the hook, and refuse to answer the doorbell.. just so that I donot loose my cool AND my focus.

How do you maintain focus.. especially when your work demands attention to detail. What is your routine?

There is no such fixed routine. I start to work at 5am or even at 11am or someday I don't work at all, J I am completely dedicated to what I do. My focus never shifts or never gets diverted. If I commit myself to something, I will do it even if I have to sacrifice sleep, food, or rest. The one thing that keeps me going all along is most certainly the proud smile I see on my parent's face when I share my recent accomplishments with them

You said, friends were your first clients. Most often friends are "nice", and appreciate our efforts. But when the time comes to pay up for the much appreciated service/ product, they seem to dissipate like trained ninjas. However, you seem to have (honest) friends who actually walk the talk. Lucky you !!! So, how was it to make the very first sale?

It felt awesome. There was feeling of accomplishment that something u did and created with your own heart and mind, and, people loved it & own it. This is just a superb feeling.

I think my first amount was some Rs 400 and I was so happy that I used it to give free gift to everyone. I still have the habit of doing that. All I want is a positive smile burning with energy from whosoever gets in touch with me.

Since then the journey has been very smooth and positive. I have faced lot of issues but I gradually was able to tackle them and solve them all.

Little or more, money is money. Every paisa matters. For some of us it is of monetary importance and for passionate hearts such as yourself, it is of sentimental value. Glad that you were able share your happiness with such dear ones.

Talking about custom made jewellery; I understand that it is necessary to show / display your wares to prospective customers. At this internet-era, things got much simpler. All one had to do is to take pictures and upload them.

I have seen the pictures of your jewelleries at FB page. I was very much impressed by the quality and attention to detail in the photographs. How did you do it? Did you had to take help from professional photographers?

I do all the photographs, another passion of mine. I simply love each and everything I have made or I have sourced, and, I put a lot of attention to make it look as it looks to my eyes. I try to do everything on my own

That’s the attitude of homepreneurs, we try to do everything ourselves. Not sure if it is a boon or bane, but most of the times, it works. So, armed with the photographs to flaunt your wares online, what are your other marketing efforts?

I try to create good relations with everyone I come across. I don’t like to be professional in my deals. I prefer to deliver good products at affordable prices, so that it doesn’t pinch people’s pockets. And, it gives such a good feeling to the association so that they love to buy from u with a smile.
Initially I tried to use only the facebook page, but now we have online market places as MIRRAW , CRAFTSVILLA etc who have huge audience and its great to work when we get such good exposure.

Indeed, I have always believed in “Every skill has a market, and there is a client at each marketplace. The trick lies in being persistent enough until we locate such a marketplace.

Earlier in our conversation, you mentioned that you had some troubles initially. Can you please elaborate on that and how you came about resolving them? After all, it is our duty to remind aspiring homepreneurs that things are not always rosy-rosy, when we choose to work from home. Every venture has its own share of issues to tackle...be it aam-admi or ambani
Sure,

When I started to make jewellery , I didn’t have any raw materials , I knew what was to be used but then had no idea about where to get them from , what price do they sell , what to make etc. I had placed my trust entirely on my heart, and put my mind to work on the creative side. Soon, I gained the confidence, which grew multi-fold when people kept coming to me with their orders.

That aside, (on a personal level) I had trouble with billing and banking. I was having an ICICI bank account at that time. Every time I get a new order, the bank used to deduct Rs.165 as transaction charges. This might seem like a small amount. But when the number of orders started pouring in, I was losing out a huge chunk of money, and this was creating a rather large hole in my pocket. I had overlooked this aspect at the launch of Stop n Shop (due to the excitement of starting on my own). Later, I had this resolved with the bank.

Then, there was courier. As I sell a physical product, it became important that I find a suitable courier to ship my product...That too... When you have a global customer base, and have to ship worldwide. As I am from a small town, this became a great cause of concern. Most courier agencies (DTCD, Flyking, etc) refused to take my shipment due the label “Jewellery”. Hence I used the good old Indian Postal Service’s Speed Post.

People think that it is old-fashioned and retarded system. But, take it from someone who has actually used this...their service has come a long way..And it is goood... not to mention..Life-saver in my case.

Oh my me!!!

It must have been a heart-ful for someone who has started on baby steps towards work from home. Happy to know that you were able to find the resilience and perseverance to fulfill the demands of Shop n Stop.

Yes, It was a very disturbing phase. Online venture to sell my wares was a new attempt in itself. I had no idea about what price to quote. I was also shy to ask-for-money. Gradually I learnt how to conduct a business.

Another thing I would like to put emphasis to is that, when we are new, we don't have much idea about prices. So we easily fall prey to those who are here to SELL-AND-GO. So, before you invest somewhere your hard earned money, be pretty sure about it being reasonable. Be calm, have immense patience.

Patience is a MUST.

There will be times when u think

  • nothing is happening,
  • nothing is working out and
  • people around you will say ,what crap , what online , etc etc ,

DO NOT pay heed, move on move on and move on 🙂

If any of you reading this interview has any questions (even if u belong to the same profession, please feel free to ask, I would love to cooperate)

Please don't hesitate.

Priya, that is such a wonderful gesture.

When I started out as a (part time ) Homepreneur, there was no useful information about how to go about this. Every bit of learning was by trial and error. In this process I (we ... would be a more appropriate word) burnt my fingers more than once... not to mention... the huge hole in my pocket with non-paying clients..

We know how it feels to be gullible, and have learnt... How to read the warning signals.

It makes my heart full with pride and happiness when we use our experience as a learning chapter to others who are starting out, and, are in need of direction. I am sure your fan box is going to be flooded with requests to help learn the tactic of working (& doing business) from home.

Thank you Priya for taking time out for Homepreneur-online, and taking us with you along the memory lane. Wish you all the very best in your future endeavours.

Readers, you can connect with Priya @Twitter, @LinkedIn, @Flickr

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