At BrilliantRead Media, we always strive to bring some of the meaningful and powerful stories from India and around the world to empower and motivate our growing community. As part of that endeavour, this weekend we invited yet another passionate women entrepreneur Fahmeeda Choudhry to know more about her inspiring journey. She has 18+ years of experience in the Fashion Industry and also has expertise in Category Management, Sourcing, Buying, Product Development, Designing, Business Planning, Budgeting, Brand Management, and Vendor Management and have a deep expertise of Designing, Fabrics/Textile/Garments Manufacturing Techniques and Fashion Trend for Women across various market Segments. She is the Founder of Femi Fashions. Which is a virtual team for foreign clients/buyers who source sustainable, Green, Organic, Antibacterial clothing, Fabrics, Medical Uniform, School uniform, Man’s Corporate wear, cold storage Jackets, Work safety wear, Medical PPE kit, Leather Goods and Outer Wear from India. Let’s learn more about her journey, way forward and her advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Fahmeeda:
We are aware of your contribution to the ecosystem, talk us through your background and your journey as a women entrepreneur, please;
I did my education in fashion & textile designing from AMU-Aligarh. I became very passionate about the fashion Industry after my studies and decided to spend the rest of my life in this profession.
I started my career as an entrepreneur but soon realized that I lacked the experience and knowledge to be a full-time entrepreneur. I worked with the export houses, Buying agencies and in Indian retail sector for over 17 + years with companies like Cantabil retails, Rituwears etc. In between, I had opened a consulting firm to provide Retail consulting, buying & sourcing to various startup and retails houses.
Being a nature lover and an avid traveller I wanted to do something that will help me to contribute towards safeguarding our beautiful earth and nature. Covid19 crises have given me time to think about going to the roots and giving back to nature.
It always pains me that Fashion Industry is the second biggest polluter after Oil and caused nearly 10% of global greenhouse gas. Nearly 20% of global wastewater is produced by the fashion industry as It takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
Consequences of fast fashion and global impact on nature because of fashion forced me to start a company dedicated to sustainable fashion called “Femi fashions” (www.femifashions.com) to create awareness of sustainable fashion and sustainable resources for the textile Industry. This venture is our small contribution to protect our planet. Femi fashion is the One-stop-shop solution for international clients, who wish to source sustainable clothing, accessories, and Home textile from India. We are available at [email protected] 24X7.
You are always positive and motivated, what keeps you going?
I get my inspiration from the famous Nanhi Cheenti poem from Harivanshrai Bachchan.
नन्ही चींटी जब दाना लेकर चलती है । चढ़ती दीवारों पर सौ बार फिसलती है ॥ मन का साहस रगों में हिम्मत भरता है । चढ़ कर गिरना, गिर कर चढ़ना न अखरता है ॥ मेहनत उसकी बेकार हर बार नहीं होती । कोशिश करने वालों की कभी हार नहीं होती
I love my work and enjoy the challenge of developing new products, processes, and strategies which can bring change in the common man life. I love nature and value all God’s gift and believe in working towards the area which can impact globally to save natural resources for our next generation.
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
I chose entrepreneurship because I always wanted to make an impact. After spending 17 years in corporate, I wished to work for society for my self-actualization. It’s fascinating how you build something from scratch to build an organization around it which is like raising your kid from being born to adulthood and maturity.
It requires a lot of courage, planning, perseverance, hard work, teamwork, combined with good strategy & execution skills. Thanks to my life partner Syed Farhan (CEO of OnBenchMark.com) who is my support system and also a guiding force in making this journey a little easier for me.
‘Femi Fashions’ is such a unique name; talk us through more about it, please. Our audience would also love to know what kind of problem you are solving with the help of your startup?
Femi is my Nickname and also a short form of “feminine” and I am associated with the fashion industry for the past 18 years. During Covid lockdown in March 2020, I decided to quit from my Job from Cantabil retail India (having more than 250 stores across pan India) as a Women’s wear category head and decided to start my own venture “Femi Fashions” to give a new direction to the Fashion industry by working on more sustainable resources.
Luckily responsible for big textile houses like the “Birla group” supported me to develop a sustainable and Natural fabric range to offer international clients to bring more business to India in near future. Apart from old brands luckily I was able to convince 3 new international ventures to start their business from India rather than China and focus on more sustainable resources to create a new definition of “Fashion”.
What are the key ingredients of your startup?
Our social enterprise has three key ingredients:
Pollution: Fashion being the second biggest polluter of Air, Water, and Land. It requires sustainable products so that our next generations may not curse us for the damage we are making to the earth.
Health: As we are promoting the use of sustainable organic fabric especially Bamboo, which is anti-microbial, anti-Odour and UV rays (Cause premature aging) protector, anti-static cause no irritation to skin considering health and hygiene of people.
Global warming: to reduce carbon from the environment and increase oxygen level we are creating awareness and convincing our clients to go for the maximum use of Bamboo and other sustainable fabric. When demand will be higher for a certain product automatically market will push its production and in such a way more bamboo farms will come into existence, which will help to fertilize the land and protect it from soil erosion. It will need zero use of pesticides, which will increase CO2 and will reduce carbon.
Saving water: Bamboo requires one-third amount of water to grow than cotton. Water is life. Saving water means saving a life. While nearly 70 per cent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 per cent of it is fresh water.
The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it!
I learned that even Cotton or some of the natural products are not 100% organic of recyclable or biodegradable. Only Bamboo Fabric is the only 100% organic, recyclable, and biodegradable fabric, and that’s how I have decided that I’ll spend the rest of my life creating awareness about natural fabrics and will produce and contribute towards sustainable fashion only.
With that vision in mind, we have started this company called as Bamboology that is creating products for the essential needs as Bamboo is Anti Microbial, Anti-Static, Organic and many other properties which is good for the health of human being and our planet. Please visit www.bamboologytrends.com
Please share with us about your expansion plans?
We have a huge expansion plan for India and the International market and wanted to create awareness at the mass level.
Given the rapid pace at which the world is changing, what are the leadership traits that are necessary for success?
Adaptation of new technologies, gadgets, and the use of artificial intelligence where ever possible along with the innovation equally spending time at performance analysis make any business successful in a short span of time. The only thing we need to take care that in any sense we should not play with customer emotion.
During this COVID-19 crisis, what are the measures you have undertaken to continue your business without disruption?
As the business is started during COVID, each measure is taken to ensure that the model aligns with the challenges of the pandemic. Using a Bamboo mask, wearing Bamboo T-Shirt using gloves and sitting at 6 feet distance during all our meetings has given us full protection.
Trying to convert most of the business aspects online and tech-enabled to ensure automation as much as possible.
Educating our manufacturing team regarding COVID safety measures and implementing a process to ensure social distancing and sanitization. We have planned to donate a bamboo mask to our complete team and labourers.
How do you manage yourself and keep on going despite the challenges? What drives you?
I believe in creating managers who can manage their role in business independently. Right delegation of authority and teamwork does not make me feel overburdened. I felt restless when I don’t have work to do.
I wish to invest my time and energy in 2 things that give me happiness, 1st is to achieve my goal and 2nd spending time with family and try to maintain my work-life balance as much as possible. My evening walk time and Travelling out with family helps me clear my mind and focus on issues that need my attention.
Please share with us – what has worked well for you so far?
Believing that nothing is difficult until and unless you do it and believing in my capabilities that I can do if others can do.
To make any business success we need to understand problems that need to be addressed to solve. We believe that customers are not interested in products but in getting their problems resolved.
The more we listen to them, the problems they face in day to day life, the more efficiently and effectively we can resolve them. We believe that we are capable to do that and it will be the only reason for our growth.
What are the business mantras you have embraced as you sought to establish your success story?
Work for the people and Nature from where you have taken so much in your life, work hard to bring positives changes in the life of other and positive energy will multiply to enlighten your life and give reason to your existence.
When your intentions are right all doors open to show you the right opportunity. We have to make sure to perform the best of our capability when we get that opportunity.
In your opinion – what is more necessary: An idea or a good team for successful start-ups?
In my opinion, it should be a mix of both. You just cannot go ahead with an idea jotted down on a piece of paper without like-minded people working on it. Luckily, one of my friend has joined hand with me to launch a sustainable and anti-microbial bamboo clothing brand in India. We have launched a Bamboo Fabric international fashion brand called as Bamboology.
To be successful, you should team up with co-founders who share your vision behind the idea and you also need to hire the right people for the right position so that it gets implemented in a proper way. I have seen companies with very innovative ideas with niche market segments fail just because they lacked proper team spirit in them.”
What are the three most important lessons you have learned building your startup?
1 – Believe in yourself and have trust in your team members.
2 – Believe more in discussion before taking any decision to understand other aspects and possible results of taking any big decision.
3 – I have also learned how important it is to embrace change because, at any given time, you will need to shift strategies due to circumstances beyond your control.
We would love to know your advice for all those starting out as an aspiring women entrepreneur?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and see them as an opportunity to learn. Don’t feel you have less wisdom than men.
Women’s egos are less fragile and they can face setbacks, recover faster and bounce back more strongly.
BrilliantRead is committed to bringing stories from the startup ecosystem, stories that reshape our perspective, add value to our community and be a constant source of motivation not just for our community but also for the whole ecosystem of entrepreneurs and aspiring individuals.
Note: If you have a similar story to share with our audience and would like to be featured on our online magazine, then please write to us at [email protected], we will review your story and extend an invitation to feature if it is worth publishing.