Chinmayie Ravindra’s story is one that has challenged the notion that motherhood is the end of the road as far as a career goes. Clearly, the birth of her second child was also the birth of her entrepreneurial journey.
“Balancing parenthood and a startup has been the biggest challenge,” she confesses, quickly adding, “There really is no winning formula to do it all.” Straddling motherhood alongside a career has been a topic of much discussion for several decades now. The inconclusive, but very relevant, debate about whether women can really have it all has thrown up a range of opinions. Today, working women have come a long way from the time when stepping into motherhood meant all else would automatically fade to black.
While many mothers successfully juggle a career and raise children, several others are comfortable scaling work back to make time and room for the demands of motherhood. Meanwhile, a whole other set of women who call themselves mompreneurs are creating a new benchmark, by launching individual business ventures soon after becoming mothers.
Chinmayie is the heart and soul of Soul Slings – a family-run, registered Indian company committed to spreading the philosophy of baby wearing. Already actively homeschooling, breastfeeding, cloth-diapering and co-sleeping, Chinmayie and her husband Ravindra were familiar with attachment-parenting too. “I started wearing my baby when he was just a few days old, and immediately wanted to make this wonderful carrier available to Indian parents. I could not understand why it wasn’t available locally,” she says, and in just a few days she decided to look at a way to manufacture and sell these slings herself.
The decision to start Soul Sling was an easy one, but the journey has been challenging, and ensured a steep learning curve for first-time entrepreneur Chinmayie. Being a new mother, home-schooling a toddler and running the new business from home while caring for a new born was an uphill task at first. But fuelled by the firm belief that baby wearing goes a long way in nurturing happy, secure, independent, loving and sensitive children, she dived into Soul Slings from the get go.
“I have no business background, but I ampassionate, and I was very sure that anyone who tried my product would love it just as much as I did,” she says. “It took me close to five months to even launch Soul.” She has not looked back ever since. Soul was the first Indian company to produce an entire range of international quality, safety-tested ring slings, wraps, mei-tais and full wrap conversion SSCs. In just two years, Soul has established itself as one of India’s biggest baby wearing brands, and now ships to USA, UK, Australia and has established distributors/retailers across USA, UK, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Mexico, Malaysia and Philippines. With business opportunities opening up in Puerto Rico and Portugal, and new retail requests pouring in every day, the future looks sunny.
What’s more, Chinmayie firmly believes in running her enterprise in a family-friendly way, and providing other mothers opportunities too. The Soul team is comprises working mothers, many of whom are either single or sole bread-winners. As the team grows, she hopes to continue to help them move closer to self-sufficiency by also providing health insurance, personal savings, enabling education for their children and truly bringing her core philosophy of nurturing healthy, happy families to life.
“I had to decide which way I wanted to Soul to go – limit it to a home-based business or go all out and let it grow,” she says, about taking the plunge. “I am incredibly lucky to have a fantastic support system. Ravindra, my husband, took a break from his design career to help with the business.”
For the first eight months business grew steadily, and she was able to manage a lot of it on her own, working from her home. In time, international orders began to pour in and she also began to diversify into several other designs. Additionally, the entire product range is made from handloom textiles sourced from small-scale textile cooperatives and non-profit organizations regulated by fair trade laws. Inevitably, the business was beginning to grow deep as much as it was growing wide.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to chose, because with a little bit of effort it is possible to manage both,” says Chinmayie, affirming the fact that with a little planning, the right support and a good dose of determination it isn’t impossible to manage motherhood and a career you are passionate about.
Homeschooling her children makes life a little easy. Both her children accompany her to the Soul studio, a short distance away from home. “We take turns and do our best to make sure one of us is home with the kids while the other is away at work,” she says stressing the invaluable support she gets from their parents.
“I do not think I will be able to keep a 9-5 job with two kids. So I am extremely happy to be able to do what I am passionate about, right from my home,” she says proving that the choice is not always binary, but about finding what works best for you as a mother.
To visit Soul Slings, go here