When Sophie Johari began to create personally embroidered board games and other items, she did not realise that her passion would grow into the brand that it is today. SoSophie, Sophie Johari’s embroidery brand wherein she makes personalised creative items like handkerchiefs, tote bags, clothing and so much more. Sophie Johari chats with SheThePeople.TV about her journey and why entrepreneurship is so important to her.
How did SoSophie come about as a brand? What inspired you to create it?
In 2017, my daughter Aarefa wanted to gift a board game to a friend for her wedding. She asked me to create one and since it was well appreciated by her friend and family, we decided to put it up on Facebook and see the response. Within 24 hrs., I had a dozen orders. So, we decided to create the brand. My elder daughter Shirin designed the logo, while Aarefa helped with the technological aspect of creating the Facebook page and writing the text for the home page. Soon I started sharing all the posts on my Instagram page that I already had in my name. The name SoSophie was unanimously agreed upon the moment Shirin suggested it.
All my initial orders were from immediate family and friends. Once the brand was created, the outreach was instantaneously more, and then orders came from overseas too. Till now I have had orders from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Italy, Singapore, and Pakistan, besides those in India outside Mumbai.
At what point in your life did you start SoSophie? What were you doing prior to that?
Soon after my graduation and then a year’s course in home science I did my diploma as a laboratory technician. I worked in that field for some time until I was a mother. From then till now I have always been doing all my tailoring, embroidery and other creative stuff. That included school uniforms, daily wear, party wear everything. Teaching my kids various crafts was a great time spent during their holidays. I made them use everything, match-sticks, match-boxes, tissues, bottle and jar lids, dry fruit shells, rubber stamps, cloth, tiles, shells and just about anything I could lay my hands on. Up-cycling is something I still believe in very strongly, like I have converted old shirts and frocks into laundry bags, turned my faded pillow covers inside out and use them again, etc.
Later I was a caretaker for my mother who was a Parkinson’s patient for almost 30 yrs., and then, when I started SoSophie in 2017, it gave me an outlet to overcome the stress in a positive way. I was also giving home tuitions to school students, as I enjoyed teaching too, but had to stop them when I started spending more time with my mother.
Was embroidery something you were always interested in? Was it your family and how did it become such a big part of you?
Right from my school days, I was always interested in embroidery. Be it school work or during vacations, I always excelled at it and enjoyed it very much. My mother was extremely good at tailoring, embroidery, fabric painting, and also did crochet and knitting at times. She always insisted that tailoring was more important, so I learnt all these skills from her. Later, after I finished my B.Sc. and joined the crash course in Home Science in Nirmala Niketan, my embroidery teachers too loved my work and neatness. This made me realise that compared to tailoring, I am better at embroidery. But two years ago when I got so many orders for the embroidered board games, I was just too happy to fulfill my passion.
Did you face any challenges in getting SoSophie to the place where it is today? How did you deal with them?
Well, as far as my craft is concerned, I did not face any challenges. But I had to constantly take my daughter’s help with clicking good photographs, uploading them on my page and writing the texts for each post. I would almost always forget the hashtags. Gradually I did learn how to do all of this. I also had to learn to create Instagram posts.
Coping with a large number of orders was a challenge and I was looking out for an assistant who is neat and fast with embroidery. Anyone out there who can help me or even is passionate to learn and be trained by me is most welcome to contact me.
The most unique thing about SoSophie is that you create these traditional Indian board games. Can you tell us why that is something that matters to you?
The Indian board games I started creating are the ones I have played in my childhood with my grandmother, my parents, aunts and all my cousins in the long summer vacations in Gujarat. They actually bring back nostalgic memories of fun and camaraderie. I also did some other customised south Indian games later, which I had never played myself. These created more interest in learning new board games.
Later I was a caretaker for my mother who was a Parkinson’s patient for almost 30 yrs., and then, when I started SoSophie in 2017, it gave me an outlet to overcome the stress in a positive way.
Having said that, I also realised that these games are new to this generation born in the digital era. They are so involved in digital games which are played in isolation. Even when played with others online, there is no human contact. So reviving these board games is very important. When played in a group with many team members on each side, these games can create hysteria like that of a cricket match. The virtual games are not too good for the eyes too, in my opinion.
That said, SoSophie is not only about board games. I take orders for any creative items. I have made fridge magnets, bookmarks and also started with tote bags and baby frocks. Making frames is up next.
Everyone these days has a side hustle. Why is it important to create, in your opinion, and try to build a brand from your own creation?
All my initial orders were from immediate family and friends. Once the brand was created, the outreach was instantaneously more, and then orders came from overseas too. Till now I have had orders from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Italy, Singapore, and Pakistan, besides those in India outside Mumbai. So, I feel creating a brand has increased a sense of greater fulfilment about my skill.
What has the experience of transforming a skill into a brand taught you? Are there things you would do differently today?
This is the age where most people prefer to purchase mass-manufactured stuff, as they are easier on the pocket. So, the response I have received with the embroidered board games has made me realise that even today, there are those who appreciate such dying skills and who do realise that there is a lot of effort that goes into making hand-crafted items, hence the pricing. Right now I am happy with the way everything is going on with the brand.
My elder daughter Shirin designed the logo, while Aarefa helped with the technological aspect of creating the Facebook page and writing the text for the home page. Soon I started sharing all the posts on my Instagram page that I already had in my name. The name SoSophie was unanimously agreed upon the moment Shirin suggested it.
Is there any advice you would like to give to middle-aged women who are skilled in some area or the other but don’t know how to profit from it?
In today’s times, reaching out to people on social media is very important. It helps one reach out to more people. Marketing and self-promotion was something I was never good at, but I learnt it. So, my advice to others is to have faith to do so and learn these skills. If I can do it at sixty, anyone can do it. Follow your passion, and maybe team up with those who have similar skills and create your own brand.
Prapti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV