Member stories
 

The children's clothes entrepreneur inspired by her grandmother's love for sewing

The children's clothes entrepreneur inspired by her grandmother's love for sewing
Priya Velusami
Priya Velusami
Small Business Owner
Pri Pri
 

Posted: Tue 30th Mar 2021

Pri Pri is a colourful collection of handmade accessories and kidswear, born out of founder Priya Velusami's love of Indian textiles and early memories of sewing with her grandmother.

She now also works with an Indian charity to upskill disadvantaged women and empower them to transform their lives.

Priya shares her inspiring story and explains how the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme has boosted her entrepreneurial skills.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos. 
 
If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your member dashboard to access the e-learning. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

How did you come up with your business idea?

The concept was born out of my love for Indian clothing, those luxurious fabrics and rich colours have always appealed to me. One of my first sewing memories is from when I was 10 years old and Patti, my Indian grandma, taught me how to use a sewing machine. It led to my first little business venture, using zips from the big sacks of rice at home to make pencil cases and raise money for charity. It was my grandmother who also first introduced me to the zero waste concept. Every scrap of fabric would somehow be put to use.

But it was when my little niece was born that I found myself drawn to the treasure chest of my mum's beautiful old saris and had the idea of making little party dresses for our new family member. After a few encouraging comments, I added a few dresses on to the online marketplace Etsy, and that was the start of my business, Pri Pri, that now also sells accessories as well as childrenswear.

The business started as a side hobby but since being made redundant, I've been able to devote more time to it. Spending more time on growing the business has meant I've had less time to do the actual dressmaking. I have, however, been able to partner with a wonderful women's social initiative back in my grandmother's home of Mumbai, India, to help me make my designs. They work with Indian women from disadvantaged backgrounds and train them in tailoring. It means a lot to me that through this business, I can not only fulfil a childhood passion but also help to empower women with skills that can help transform their lives.

Priya Velusami

What start-up challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

It's taken me some time to gain the confidence to believe in my business and not refer to it as "just a side hobby". I did recognise the self doubt creeping in though and after some insightful reading up on self belief and imposter syndrome, I now feel my business is as valid as anyone elses!

Having been in a corporate career for 20 years, it's taking a while to get used to working without colleagues. Feedback from others was important for my self development, but being your own boss means you don't get this in the same way. I am however, enjoying discovering small business networks who can act the role of my colleagued.

Like many, I've found that the pandemic has meant time has been limited and I've not always found it easy to prioritise. I've realised that having a small business means there will be a never ending to do list. I have tried to now balance my week so that I try to ensure I devote to both the small and big tasks.

How has the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme helped you?

I'm working my way through the programme which has great bite sized pieces of information. I found the video on how to get PR coverage was a useful reminder that you need to really understand the news in your sector as a customer might do. Also, that it can be important to develop relationships with journalists, perhaps in the same way that you might develop relationships with influencers.

I often get caught up comparing my brand with others purely on their brand identity but I liked the way, in the video on using your brand in networking, how Rachel Mallows defines a brand as more than that - it is something that distinguishes you from someone else. Also, while online networking has provided more networking opportunities, it was helpful to think about how to use the opportunities wisely.

How has COVID-19 affected your business?

I had to expand my product range as with no parties to go to, I didn't expect to see many sales for kids partywear! I'm grateful as the pivot means I have found a new audience of customers who are looking for colourful sustainable masks and bags.

What are your plans for the future of your business?

I'm currently working on a new range of colourful upcycled gifts for newborns that I'm excited to develop. I am also keen to develop my wholesale business and will be exploring more such opportunities

Which other entrepreneurs inspire you and why?

Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One, the founders of Olio. As I mentioned, the zero waste concept is something I've grown up with so I love the way they're trying to tackle a long-standing problem of food waste on a massive scale. They have also been bold with their dreams and business, impressively getting backing from both venture capital and impact investment funds.

What are your top tips for business success?

If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will! A product business has a potential customer base of millions of people worldwide so start selling.

Find your tribe! There are some fantastic communities of fellow small business owners out there and it's important to surround yourself with like-minded people to learn from and get support.

Be clear on why you are doing what you're doing. Entrepreneurs often have an inner burning drive but you may sometimes need a gentle reminder of your purpose on those inevitable slow days.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos. 
 
If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your member dashboard to access the e-learning. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

 
Priya Velusami
Priya Velusami
Small Business Owner
Pri Pri
 

You might also like…

Start your business journey today

Take the first step to successfully starting and growing your business.