Think of an entrepreneur. Think of how they might be talking at say – a networking event. How would they be socializing? I can’t read minds but I bet the mental image you have of this person would be that of an extroverted, (perhaps) outspoken, ecstatic individual. Hold that thought. We will come back to it eventually.
The difference between these and what she was going for reminds me of the one scene in Casino Royale where Vesper tells Bond “There are dinner jackets and then there are Dinner Jackets. This is the latter…”
The origins of AD
As an entrepreneurially inclined person, she has a disposition to having a broad range of experiences – having worked at organizations like Nissan and Bottlers Nepal where she worked on marketing as well as an insurance company where she says she worked for the longest time.
Move away from the professional life and towards her personal life – she used to watch this show called “Gossip Girls” where she identified with one of the characters who was portrayed (most of the times) in formal attire. Of course, being a young adult, you try and be more and more like the people you identify with – which led her to looking into where one might find formal attire locally. What she found were stores that focused on (very) formal clothing and they were few and far between. The difference between these and what she was going for reminds me of the one scene in Casino Royale where Vesper tells Bond “There are dinner jackets and then there are Dinner Jackets. This is the latter…”
Cue the lightbulb – she recognizes an opportunity here. So, like a good aspiring entrepreneur would do, she conducts a survey at Shikhar Insurance – where she worked and was happy to see that there was in fact a market for the idea she had.
Now comes the slightly more difficult part of actually doing what she wanted to do. She says she did not know much about the actual production side of things in fashion. Adding to the difficulties, she was still doing a full time job and had not discussed the idea with her family either at this point – meaning she would have to dedicate all her free time into the business she wanted to establish (including Saturdays). She took the dive by investing her Dashain bonus as her first investment.
The less glamorous side of entrepreneurship
Speaking of her family, understandably, for a person who already had a decent job, her mother was skeptical at first about her idea of starting a business – typical of the Nepali culture. Also typical (not just of the Nepali culture but also entrepreneurship in general) was the early days of her business. Having started with a partnership, she found that working with a partner was a somewhat challenging. She also found that being a young person, people did not take her seriously – typical. It is also not just the external factors that weigh on her. She called herself an “overthinking tank” when I talked with her and as an overthinker myself, I can imagine the pressures she goes through running a business.
Yet, she says that when you’re sure about what you’re doing and have the knowledge to go with it, you will have the confidence to do it. When things like these don’t go well, she reminds herself of Lemi – how she too started with very little and now is a brand herself.
Coming full circle
Long story short, she now runs Ambassador Designs out of a space in Durbar Marg. Even though she faced the usual ups and downs of entrepreneurship – filled with the occasional self-doubt, with Ambassador Designs, I personally see her getting closer to the enthusiasm and vision that I got a sense of when talking to her for this blog.
Shrija’s story is not too different to any other entrepreneur’s story. Yet, talking with her, I can’t help but feel like there’s something about her that’s unique. Yes, she has a passion, perseverance and vision. But if you think about it, that’s true for every enthusiastic entrepreneur. I want to take you back to the first question I asked you in the beginning of this blog – because this is what I think makes Shrija and her Ambassador Designs so unique. With AD, a shy, introverted person has been able to create a niche for a brand that perhaps a loud and vocal entrepreneur wouldn’t quite be able to capture. Holding back on the loudness and noisiness that most brands and entrepreneurs go for these days, I am not surprised that the products that AD sells echo the sophistication in simplicity that this approach inspires.