Self-Starter Stories: From Corporate Accountant to Founder of a High Tech Fashion Startup
This week's #selfstarterstory features Rosh Govindaraj, founder of Issara, a fashion startup based in London.
'Issara is the brainchild of Rosh, an avid traveller and corporate escapee. Like many others, she experienced the frustration of finding a minimalist, well made leather bag that would last and didn’t cost a fortune. Years later during a serendipitous foray into a small Javanese leather workshop, her back-of-napkin sketches were brought to life by skilled craftsmen using traditional methods. Thus began the Issara journey..'
#PickYourselfUK caught up with Rosh to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey.
Looking back, what lead you to be where you are today?: I started working full time straight out of high school as I started a cadetship at KPMG. I went from there to PwC, and before I knew it 8 years had passed. While I’ve enjoyed my various roles (consulting, tech risk, tax) for the most part and the money was good, it wasn’t the fulfilling career I’d imagined. I desired more freedom and flexibility (I love to travel, certainly far more than the average 4 weeks of annual leave will allow) and really wanted to feel like the work I did was meaningful. I wanted to be proud of what I did for a living, run life on my terms and help some people in the process. The longer you stay the harder it becomes to leave, so I took the plunge last year. Knowing that putting it off would only make it harder helped to make the decision
What was the most challenging part of starting a business?: Cultural miscommunication and sexism: It’s always going to be difficult doing business in a foreign country, but as a relatively young woman (I'm 26) in a male-dominated, traditional industry I faced some unique challenges: - Older male artisans would either flat out refuse to deal with me, or deride my decision to travel alone in a language they thought I did not understand (I could). - One individual I had worked with for almost 8 months decided to abscond after receiving full payment for an order. He had asked to be paid more than the customary 50% as he was getting married and needed the funds. Trusting him as we had worked closely together for so long and as it was someone I wanted a long-term business relationship with, I paid in full. 4 months later, there was no delivery and no response to my calls or messages. I flew out to Indonesia, went to his store (he actually had retail operations in Jakarta) and called him from his staff member's phone. He answered with several excuses and I informed him that I would be taking some stock as collateral until I received my shipment. Not behaviour I had ever expected to resort to but extreme times call for extreme measures! My order was never fulfilled. These experiences make the small wins particularly exhilarating though!
What did you want to be when you were a child?: I changed my mind so many times - from scientist to ice cream truck driver to astronaut!
What was your last job?: Management Consultant
When did you choose to PICK YOURSELF instead of waiting to be chosen by someone else?: When I decided that my job at the time did not excite or challenge me. This was in 2014.
What did you learn from your worst boss?: That you should always treat people with respect, and harsh words do nothing to motivate people.
What is your favourite business book and why?: Purple cow by Seth Godin because it shows you how to stand out.
Do you do everything yourself? What do you outsource?: I do a lot myself, but outsource logistics and web development.
What is your productivity secret?: Time blocking, and taking lots of breaks outside.
What is your favourite app?: Trello
How do you market your business?: Via blogs, interviews, collaborations with similar brands and social media.
When you first launched, how did you get your first paying customers?: The usual - family and friends :) Then it was word of mouth, and then press.
How did you get your first traffic to your website?: Press was a game changer for us - I made a media kit and pitched 100s of blogs and newspapers.
What would you say to someone who is toying with the idea to start a business but haven't yet?: You’re in the best position to start something. The worst case scenario if you do try is that you’ll end up with a failed startup and lots of skills, experience and connections. That’s still a pretty great place to be. Traditional jobs and business are slow-moving beasts, they will be there if and when you decide to take the safe path.
If you could have dinner with one entrepreneur, who would it be and why?: Richard Branson, because he keeps starting businesses in unconventional fields and killing it.
To keep up to date with Rosh's entrepreneurial journey, follow her social media channels here:
Rosh Govindaraj has qualified for the #PickYourselfUK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award 2017. If you'd like to enter yourself or nominate a small business entrepreneur for this award, please submit your story below.
Voting for the #PickYourselfUK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award 2017 will take place in November 2017 so make sure you get your entry submitted to qualify.