Posted on January 13 2019
HOW DID AVAAYA START?
Let's take a hop, skip and jump back into 2014. I was the Braveheart that decided to work in a full time corporate job and study at uni in the evenings (shout out to Birkbeck for supporting evening study).
I had my lightbulb moment when was finalising my dissertation, thinking about the last 5 years that I had committed to studying whilst in parallel had worked my way up the corporate ladder. There was a sudden realisation for the amount of spare time I was now going to have, with the bonus of not having to use my vacation days for studying / exams.
Most people thought that I needed a break but the diehard that I am took pen to paper and started to brainstorm my next steps. Then it hit me, that my day job needed to be something where working didn’t seem like it was laborious and actually do something I love (I know, what a cliché). Don't get me wrong, I had such a drive moving up the corporate chain and achieving my own career goals ahead of time but it wasn't enough for me. I figured that I wasn't in the industry that I truly get excited for.
If you haven't already guessed, my love is fashion and all things that intertwine with it. Fashion to me is a platform to express yourself and is a reflection of your own art. You have the opportunity to curate your art piece every time that you put an outfit together.
I have always been fascinated with it but one particular memory sticks out for where it all began. The creative genius, aka 6 year old me, spent a whole day dragging my very patient Dad and Grandad around the markets of India to find the perfect shade of sunburnt orange in a raw silk fabric so that I could have my perfect outfit. What seemed to be a visit to 1583 shops, we managed to source this near to impossible shade of fabric and packaged it with my design specifications to our tailor.
THE QUESTION TO SOLVE
How could I, a Psychology undergrad that works as a project manager in clinical research, get my foot into the fashion door? The answer, was to take my love for the industry and working skill set to start my own fashion brand.
The first thing I realised was that I spent any spare time that I had, looking at fashion designers and how they revolutionised clothes and their brands. I wanted, scrap that, needed to be a part of the fashion world. The second thing, was that my time was also spent looking for wardrobe pieces to be different than someone else's but also items that I could wear over and over again for years to come. I thought that I cannot be the only person that does this so after an epic brainstorm I created the concept of AVAAYA. I wanted to build a brand that would save you time from the hunt that I was going through and have designs that are different from what's "trending" but still tick the box to be classy, chic and timeless.
Let's fast forward 6 months of business planning and research; many trips across the globe to meet vendors and manufacturers. I decided to start AVAAYA off with jewellery, in particular statement necklaces.
After a lot of YouTube videos and Googling, I self taught myself to build the website and called in favours to help with the website imagery and the logo design. It's now January 2015 and I launched shopAVAAYA.com with it's first collection of 15 necklaces. I can't describe this feeling of pride that I had for my work when I hit the button to make the website live and orders started to come through. The shock was and still is that people want to buy from my small little brand *cue the self pat on the back*
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Behind the scenes, I was working on the bag collection and for those of you that have been here from the beginning will remember the three backpacks that I launched (I'm still using mine to this day). I've gone from those three backpacks in the handbag collection to now having shoulder bags, clutch bags and evening bags galore.
I did a few pop ups at exhibitions and at the studio and met so many of you in person which is always so humbling. I was then approached to be a part of ASOS marketplace and SilkFred which grew AVAAYA more than I ever expected. AVAAYA was featured in ELLE magazine's UK 2016 new designers.
I then designed my own office space. I quit my full time job leaving the corporate world behind me as of June 2018 and travelled the world for a few months to get the inspiration that I needed to immerse myself into AVAAYA. But most of all, AVAAYA has gone from an 15 piece necklace collection to now include everything from bracelets, earrings, rings and handbags.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR AVAAYA?
I am consistently working on how to grow the brand further and create a dialogue with you on what fashion means to each of you. If you have been following AVAAYA, on social media, you would have seen that I am currently midway into a tailoring course. I am learning so much in such a short space of time and will blog the experience and progress soon for you. So with that, there are new and exciting collections on the way for AVAAYA this year and you will all the be the first to see them.
THE ADVICE COLUMN
Looking back from where AVAAYA started, to where the business and I am today, it is such a huge achievement. For me, it is more than a business to turn over a profit, it is a space where I get to fulfill and work on my dream everyday.
However, (there's always a but) like any entrepreneur will tell you that you will have good days, even amazing days but then there are the tough days and the mistake making days. There is no perfect entrepreneur or leader, we like everyone else, are still perfecting our art, learning and taking new risks everyday.
Here's some advice for any budding entrepreneurs reading this:
1. You have to learn not to be ashamed to ask for help.
Despite thinking that you can do it all, your days will be ineffective if you try to take everything on by yourself.
2. Being your own boss does mean that some days it gets lonely.
Go out, meet other entrepreneurs and become part of the community because they are going through or have been through the same things as you are.
3. You can't control and plan everything.
Don't get me wrong I strongly believe that every business needs planning and control but you really have to think on your toes some days which will go against the initial plan and that is OK.
4. Don't feel guilty to switch off!
Do what you need to recharge your batteries. Spend time with your family, go to brunch with your friends, take a yoga class, go for a run or binge watch a full series on Netflix.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and kudos to you if you made it to the end. I would genuinely love to hear what you thought of the first blog instalment and would love to answer any of your questions.
Until next time,