Since 2009, friends Mitali Seth and Lovisa Shergill have been adding personality to boring bedrooms around the world with their gorgeous linens and pillows. Additionally, Allem Studio is both karma and design-driven, using products manufactured by socially responsible vendors and collaborating with SEWA, women's only co-operative based out of India. You can follow their adventures on their
blog, facebook or twitter.
What is your more prized creation - the coolest thing you've ever made, with your own nimble hands?
Our company. We built it out of our own personal savings of $500 each and we’re both really proud of our creation. Since its inception it has grown pretty much by itself, and sustaining itself. What’s cool is that we have not taken a penny from anybody else –family/friends/bank to make it where it is now. It all began with $1000, a dream and two very stubborn women.
What is the worst piece of business advice you've ever been given?
To rigidly follow market trends.
This is actually both good and bad advice. If you follow blindly, then you can never be a leader. But if you do not follow, chances are that you could be pushed aside. It is a very thin line that has to be balanced. One needs to be exclusive in their creativity while at the same time keeping a commercial and keen eye on trends.
What was the biggest entrepreneurial epiphany of your career?
For the launch of our product line, we were very sure that we needed to work with a big setup because that would provide us with a better support, professional commitment and assured quality. We got burnt bad and realized it’s actually not the set up but the attitude of the people running the show. That realization made us work with a very small factory where we decided to go with our gut after a very basic phone interview. We liked the owner and her zeal and passion and decided to place our manufacturing with her.
Sometimes it’s very important to listen to your heart and ignore those figures on paper. It makes you want to take risks which subsequently end up being the better business decisions. That provided us with confidence to start supporting other small manufacturing set ups and now a women’s only co-operative.
Give us your top 3 indie artisans/designers to watch.
Kanika Bahl of Anek Designs, India – She creates beautiful, unique colorful items.
Elizabeth Prince of Prince Designs, UK –Her ceramic creations are adorable.
Stephanie from Desserts for Breakfast – She is a food blogger and photographer. Love her website, pictures and of course her recipes.
What's your best tip for strengthening your relationship with your retailers?
Give them great service. Keep the communication gates open and constantly seek feedback on products and prices.
If you could offer one sage snippet of wisdom to aspiring designers, crafters & artisans, what would it be?
There is an amazing quote by Ira Glass. It expresses our thoughts very well.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Sarah Von is a Vianza contributing columnist and interview wrangler. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll be privy to all sort of tweets about small business, good ideas and, um, cheese.