Soapworks is an enterprise that makes organic skincare products that are 100 percent plastic-free as well. We speak to the venture’s founder Harini Sivakumar, a nominee at Digital Women Awards 2019, about how the big idea struck her, why companies need to worry about their carbon footprint and how she deals with various challenges of being a woman entrepreneur.
How did your big idea strike you?
Having studied to be a banker, life had it that I had to take a break and be a stay at home parent when my son was born with a genetic disorder called Down’s Syndrome. Since he had acute dry skin issues, I started to make DIY organic skincare products and would often distribute excess to friends and family and soon, the products became popular in my circle, and many wondered why I wasn’t charging anything for sharing them. This simplest query eventually spurred me to start Soapworks India in 2015. The company now is fully registered manufacturing unit that works towards employing and imparting training to underprivileged women and employing people with amazing abilities thus making our workspace 100 percent inclusive.
How has tech and digital been an enabler in your entrepreneurship journey?
Soapworks India not only works in making safe skincare but is also conscious about the environmental impact that a company has when they turn digital. We are very proud to say that we are one of the very few companies that are 100 percent PLASTIC FREE. In today’s world where everyone is going digital and online shopping is the way to go, the plastic generation has become three times higher. To set an example that going digital need not always mean more plastic consumption, we ensure that all packages that go out are 100 percent plastic-free. Right from the boxes, tapes, fillers to the time till the product is entirely used and disposed, no plastic is generated at Soapworks whatsoever. All the packaging material is either tin, glass or cardboard-based. We are an online store and use only digital mode for generating orders and payments and hence we do not generate paper waste also.
Soapworks India not only works in making safe skincare but is also conscious about the environmental impact that a company has when they turn digital.
At any point in your journey were you stuck with self doubt? How did you deal with it?
Yes, of course. There was a time when my business was scaling up and I had to stay away from home on and off. It was very challenging because everyone around only advised me to give up on my dreams since my child with special needs needed me around at all times. I wanted to break this barrier. I ensured my son was self sufficient and never dependent on anyone. I made it clear that it is the quality time spent that is important and not to quantify the time spent. Today, I am a mother of two boys aged nine and six and there is no question of no time for kids or no time for work. Planning is the key. A day well planned ought to be a perfect day!
What have been your greatest challenges and struggles in your entrepreneurship journey?
I think the biggest challenge I’ve had so far is the art of delegation. I am still working on that and tend to pile up too much on my plate. The second challenge would be fear. I, being a first generation entrepreneur in the family, risk is something that is not natural to me. and entrepreneurship is all about taking calculated risks.
As a woman entrepreneur would you say you have faced discrimination in your journey? Could you share with us.
Absolutely !! In many ways. My work involves me to travel and meet several clients where we discuss on various costings that needs to be finalised with the vendors. Invariably many assume that the decision making power at my company might not be with a woman.
There was a time when my business was scaling up and I had to stay away from home on and off. It was very challenging because everyone around only advised me to give up on my dreams since my child with special needs needed me around at all times.
What do you think women entrepreneurs need more of, from venture capitalists, government policy makers, start up support programmes and others? And Why?
- From VCs – A transparent and more flexible model that does not kill the entrepreneur’s vision.
- From Govt – Although govt says they provide loans to women etc, when to comes to reality, it is totally far fetched.
- Next would be, because of the bureaucratic system, it takes months to obtain any kind of license in India
What would you say have been your greatest learnings on the entrepreneurship journey?
- Value of time – I learnt to put a price tag for the time I spend on any work because time is “PRECIOUS”
- To stand by my vision and mission at all times
- To trust my intuition
- Curious always – being curious at all times helps me re-innovate our product, policies and that helps us strengthen our mission
What advice would you share with other women looking to become entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is all about failing. But the right mentorship will help us know what to fail at.