Two young women from different fields brought their diverse experiences ranging from wedding planning to baking to psychology and entrepreneurship, and found common ground in the beauty and wellness sector. Tanushree Ishani D and Pooja Karegoudar speak of how they pooled their talents together and became business entrepreneurs and friends.
They are two like-minded young educated “womenpreneurs” as they call themselves, who met, hit it off and soon began a business venture. Tanushree Ishani D worked at Goldman Sachs, studied MSc in organizational Psychology from King’s College, London, and worked at Lookup, and is now also an organizational psychologist. Pooja Karegoudar holds a BE in Instrumentation Technology, worked in the corporate world for some years, quit and founded a wedding and event management company, became a wedding planner and a baking whiz, running Ovenly.
They met when Pooja became Tanushree’s wedding planner and later discovered their common interest in skincare and entrepreneurship. That was how Body Cafe, a beauty and wellness brand, was born in 2017, with its production unit in Bengaluru.
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But Tanushree’s exposure to entrepreneurship began earlier as a student at Mount Carmel, Bengaluru, as part of the entrepreneurship cell, Initium. She worked with peers from different walks of life, thus valuing diversity at the workplace. “I understood the importance of being a divergent thinker, especially in entrepreneurship because different viewpoints make you think about your idea from all angles,” says Tanushree. She learnt about self-accountability and taking end to-end responsibility. Also, that enjoying your work helps and that it’s ok to make mistakes-“a mistake today could be a milestone tomorrow.”
Her most memorable experience was organizing an internship drive where leaders from different startups were invited to help students in Karnataka get placed as interns and help them learn the ropes of the trade. She realized that real work experience happens when you get an opportunity to own your task which is possible mostly at startups.
“I am not saying those in the corporate world aren’t creative but I could not come to terms with the idea of a 9-5 job. To me, that seemed monotonous and mundane. I feel being an entrepreneur shapes both your professional and personal learning curve”. Adds Pooja
Curious to experience MNC culture and see how things worked, she joined Goldman Sachs. Her manager taught her stress, time and people management. Returning from London, she joined Lookup. She was actually helping the CEO get an HR for Lookup but “ended up bagging that role.”
The experience was a turning point because she found herself building everything from scratch. “The startup environment is demanding but rewarding. I realized I definitely had the entrepreneur bug in me,” she says.
Then her career path changed again, but her background in Psychology came in useful. “I believe any industry is incomplete without Psychology. Many organizational problems would be solved if organisations understood that it takes more than just a human resources department to solve people’s problems. Even at Lookup, being more of a confidante than an HR manager made my job easier.”
Pooja, who moved from Hubli to Bengaluru for her studies, felt she was too creative a person to fit into the corporate world. She explains, “I am not saying those in the corporate world aren’t creative but I could not come to terms with the idea of a 9-5 job. To me, that seemed monotonous and mundane. I feel being an entrepreneur shapes both your professional and personal learning curve.”
After working in the corporate world for two and a half years, she quit. “I started my wedding and event planning company, ‘Circle The Date’ immediately after my wedding-the reason being I could not enjoy my own wedding. It was a big hassle, I had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities myself. I decided I did not want any bride to go through that, as I believe that marriage is one of the most beautiful chapters in life. Twenty five weddings in four years from the traditional to unconventional, local or destination, inter caste, sane, melodramatic-I have seen it all. Of course, wedding planning is a huge responsibility. I learnt the importance of communication, organisation and patience.”
“Whatever we bring to the table, we bring it collectively. It’s said that women can’t be friends and can’t work together, but we are here to break those stereotypes”.
Her next venture was Ovenly. “I find cooking therapeutic. I like baking. I baked for my family and friends and before long, baking turned into a full-time profession. Alongside, I was intrigued by skincare. Our hobby became a serious business venture. I love playing with flavors and offering gourmet skin care products.
Initially, they actually started with the products for themselves. “But soon, friends and family showed interest and were happy with our products. We started Body Cafe, got queries and orders and began delivery across India,” explains Tanushree.
Why did they choose the beauty and wellness sector? “Today, we all are stuck in an endless battle of us versus stress. In this manic hustle-bustle of life, we realized that people want a healthy lifestyle where all is well,” says Tansuhree. Their products take care of grooming, pets, kids, home and are completely natural and organic, and handcrafted to ensure no compromise in quality.
She claims, “We are pioneers in the wellness range with sanitizers, toilet seat sprays, genital wash, pain balms free from chemicals, alcohol, artificial colours and synthetic fragrances. Our home range includes dishwashers, floor cleaners, soap nuts for washing clothes, among others. Our pricing is highly affordable. From a working professional to someone living on a pension can afford our products. Our combinations are very unique-for instance, basil body butter, star anise soap etc. This experimenting streak is what makes our products popular. We also customize products. Another major USP is that we theme our products. We like to experiment and surprise our users. The idea is to add a contemporary touch to traditional recipes. Considering our background, certifications, training and interests, this is definitely industry for us,” she adds.
There have been lessons along the way, they agree: “We have many miles to go yet. Our products are based on authentic and traditional beauty practices. So the first lesson is to remain true to our roots. Else, we cannot be authentic. We never consider those who buy our products as clients. For us, they are our users and very much a part of the BodyCafé family. Involving your audience is very important as that makes them feel loved, wanted and important. We firmly believe in what Seth Godin (American author and former dotcom business executive) said, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” Another lesson-ideas are great but the main challenge lies in executing them.
They are also well aware of the fact that there are many companies in the organic skincare category. “We love healthy competition and believe that everyone is contributing to a better ecosystem,” affirms Tanushree.
What are their key strengths? Are there clear role demarcations between them? Pooja and Tanushree say they strike the perfect balance between being friends and business partners. “We are empathetic to each other’s dreams, understand how our personalities work, consult each other for everything, taking a step only when both are convinced. Patience, optimism, tact, planning and organisation are important. Pooja and I streamline our tasks for the day/ week/month/quarter and achieve targets accordingly. There are times we tend to lose control or feel exhausted but we always support each other. Poo