This is a small write up that was featured in the Natural Parent magazine and can be read on their newsletter. Keep reading to know a little bit more about how Sooti came about.
With a blend of beauty, natural fibres, Indian roots and sustainability, Sooti creates versatile athleisure and yoga apparel. Fitting around her family, Shireen’s ethos is combined and expressed in the range of Sooti products and how she runs her business.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Sooti is an embodiment of several aspects of my life and personality. After my children were born, my love for pure natural fibres, an innate desire to create something beautiful, my Indian roots and my belief in sustainability became more critical. I became more conscious about the environment I was exposing my kids to.
Sooti translates to ‘thread’, and it is metaphorical as well as literal. It’s a thread of pure, organic cotton reminding me of the warmth of my nana’s muslin sari. It’s a thread which ties a farmer to his livelihood. It’s also a thread which ties me back to India, wherever I am in the world.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Starting seemed like the toughest job, given there is no one guide to becoming an entrepreneur while having a fulltime job and being a mum to two little ones. It is your conviction and your motivation, which needs to be your guiding light.
I took it one day at a time. I tried not to lose sight of my core value proposition. To build a beautiful product that embodied organic to its core, high quality, and was ethically produced.
I spent hours ideating with family, researching the kind of cotton, the manufacturing process, and finding the suppliers I was looking for. I made several trips to factories, meeting owners, and workers. This went on for several months until I found the right people to work with. Understanding the import process, custom duties, setting up a business website, all happened in succession.
It seems like a blur now. The launch of Sooti was around a year from when I first started; a year of an incredible amount of learning, adventure, highs and lows and of course a dent to the savings.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Investing in the right product and truly understanding the needs of your customers is extremely important. Be it pockets on a legging or a front seam, a functional product which is beautiful while being sustainable is great!
But if I don’t go and tell people about it, then the purpose is lost. This has been my most significant breakthrough, understanding the need to get out there and educating the consumer about organic cotton and spreading the word about my business.
Doing stand-up markets allows me to communicate with potential customers and increase visibility. It also allows you to meet a diverse variety of people. After all, finding a loyal customer base in likeminded people is not straight forward. Not everyone is ready to switch to an organic lifestyle just yet. It takes time and patience is essential.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
Creating a schedule for my day and setting aside time to work on my business is paramount. More so because after a full day of work and the evening routine with my little ones, I am ready to sit back and relax. I try to set down tasks for myself with a time limit, and that seems to work (most days!).
I do get a nanny occasionally to give myself a day off to go out on a date or meet some friends. There are some days that we end up eating out or make a frozen meal, and that’s alright.
There are days your family needs you more than anything else, and knowing where to draw the line helps so much.
The drive: What challenges have you overcome?
Trying to focus on the task at hand is so important because the mind is often caught wondering about the hundred others which need to be done. I try and plan things at a high level for six months and then deal with the lower-level items weekly.
‘I’m not tech-savvy’ isn’t good enough. One must get with the times, especially in this digital age. Getting traffic to engaging with digital consumers is the need of the day, and we must embrace it. When I am not working on the website, I am either listening to a podcast or reading something about marketing. It’s a steep learning curve, but I love it.
Ecologically sustainable and beautiful
For better or worse: What are the pros and cons of running your own business
Sooti is the confluence of my core values in sustainable clothing. It had been my dream to operate in this space, and I wear it with pride, knowing that I could set it up. Having Sooti has allowed me to challenge myself and grow in ways I didn’t know before. I’m learning skills in advertising, finances, art direction; you name it!
This job has permitted me to network with other moms and other entrepreneurs with causes aligned to me. Learning from their struggles has catalysed my progress and taught me a lot.
You make all the decisions on your own and its trial by fire. Not all are going to be the best decisions, and so sometimes you end up losing time or money but must be comfortable with it.
You are the boss of yourself, and it’s easy to lay back and not work on things. One must continuously find the motivation to keep going!
Hopes and dreams: What next?
I want Sooti to grow into an organic marketplace enabling the consumer to choose sustainable products and not break their banks doing so. I am exploring some organic skincare options. I am also looking at incorporating some handwoven organic cotton styles.
Lots of excitement (and work) on the horizon but loving the ride.