“The value behind a handmade product is the amount of trial and error, time, effort and heart that goes into each product.”
We live in a cookie-cutter world. Many of the things we buy are made or built based on templates. This ranges from the latest tech gadgets we buy to the fast food we consume to the houses we invest our life savings in.
One entrepreneur is trying to buck that trend. Harmini Asokumar, recently left her full-time job as a communications executive to establish her own handmade fashion accessories business called “Deeper Than Fashion”.
When she decided to become an entrepreneur, she knew she wanted to go down the “handmade” route regardless of what business she goes into.
“The value behind a handmade product is the amount of trial and error, time, effort and heart that goes into each product,” she says. “I love the idea that no two handmade products are exactly alike and that’s what makes them special.”
Harmini’s background is that of a writer. She was working full-time as a communications executive. However, she did not find the work fulfilling. “I wasn’t waking up in the morning with a smile on my face,” she said. “So I knew something had to change.”
Instead of lamenting her situation, she did something about it. She earnestly saved up enough money to allow her to leave her job to do her handmade business full-time.
“I have been making handmade jewellery since I was a teen,” she says. “What made me decide to do it full-time was when the thought dawned up me that if I have been able to create so many things just in my spare time, imagine what I could achieve if I were focusing on it full-time.”
For her first foray into business, she chose fashion accessories because of its marketability. “There’s no size factor and it works for everyone,” she says. She spread the word among her friends and contacts that she was doing this and received a lot of support for her efforts.
Much of her marketing is done online. “Facebook makes it very interactive and is probably the easiest platform to use in terms of being able to communicate with a personal touch without having to meet the person,” she says. “My customers like the fact that they know me and can contact me quickly. Social media is great for that.”
According to Harmini, her biggest challenge is people replicating her work. “I guess copying designs is pretty common these days and it’s hard to combat, so I just treat it as motivation for me to continually improve, come up with new designs and basically outdo myself,” she says. “I see myself as my biggest competitor. I aim to be better today than I was yesterday and that helps me overcoming a lot of things.”
With her handmade fashion accessories business running smoothly, she has just included a new line of items – also handmade – which is quite different: beauty products. “I love makeup but constantly using chemicals on my face was not good and this led a lot of research and learning about how create my own products which are as natural and animal-cruelty-free as possible,” she says.
It’s only been a couple of months but so far Harmini has no regrets giving up steady employment for entrepreneurship. She thinks anyone who is not happy with what they are currently doing should consider doing their own thing. “Be kind, work hard, stay humble and constantly improve yourself” – that’s the advice she gave herself when she made the leap and it’s what she would tell anyone else who wants to do the same.
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.