Chillibreeze Interview with Rishika Sitlani
1. Please tell us about yourself.
I’ve always been an avid reader.. And at some point in time, I started writing and realised I loved it. But during my post graduation, my writing for fun took a back seat and all my time went in writing business reports and assignments – which I actually enjoyed. And when I got the time, I went back to writing fiction and finished my first manuscript. By the time I started looking for a publisher, I was already helping friends out with assignments. I started writing articles (just to write something new). And now, I’m on the lookout for a publisher and spend most of time writing articles and reports for others. Even though I’ve done a lot of things in the past couple of years – fashion, food, management – I’m keen on establishing myself as an author. And until then, a content writer.
2. You have co-founded Latte`-tude - a family owned cafe and Sija – an exclusive women’s wear brand – tell us more about your ventures. How did you get into business?
Fashion management had always fascinated me and I took up some fashion designing courses, which, surprisingly, I was good at. I began to design freelance and when I was done with my master’s degree, my fiancé and I set up a company that made corporate clothing. Sija was soon established under it and the brand covered my freelance work as well as dresses that went to boutiques. Sija is still well and alive, but the corporate clothing had to take a backseat due to government regulations that caused an increase in cost and consequent reduction in demand.
Latte-tude, located at Bund Garden, Pune, was the result of our passion towards coffee. My fiancé and I always wanted to open a cafe and when the right time came about, we did. It took a lot of effort and we can now proudly say that Latte-tude has one of the most extensive menus and best coffee in the city – our customers would concur.
3. Why did you choose to be entrepreneur over a regular 9-to-5 job?
I can’t imagine having to work at a job that requires me to do mechanical tasks day after day without using my noggin. It’s not that I had anything against working a 9 to 5 job, but I can’t work without applying myself. If I had a job that allowed me to exercise my creativity, I wouldn’t mind working even overtime. For example, I wouldn’t mind working as a content writer as long as it gives me a chance to use my creativity. As such, designing and writing allows me to express myself and I could work at these two tasks all day. Almost every day.
But no one really gives you a chance in the corporate world even if you have great ideas unless you climb the ladder starting at the bottom rung. The way I saw it, if I had to struggle, I’d do it on my own terms, doing something I love. Hence the venture into fashion and the cafe.
4. You did an International Management and Entrepreneurship program from Glasgow, United Kingdom and a lot of other programmes too – do you think international programs add value to your work experience?
In my case, it did. Based on my modules and reports, I received a paid consultancy project through the University, which counts as work experience. In general however, I’d say international programs add a lot of value to your practical experience. Unfortunately, it is counted as academic experience and not work experience. But you grow exponentially as a person, professionally and personally. You learn to be independent. You learn to be patient. And you are never spoon fed... so you learn to learn. And that is a quality that is quite irreplaceable.
5. What were your challenges so far? How did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge has been time management. I want to do everything all the time. And that’s next to impossible. Writing is something I love. It’s also something you can become bad at if you don’t work on it. And trying to make time for a hobby when you have a cafe to run is difficult. But with time, I realised that it was more than a hobby and I needed to devote time to it to be able to get further. With some help from family and friends, I learned to divide my time better.
Another challenge is to keep your spirits up. As an entrepreneur, you are subject to surprises and shocks. And in start ups, the hiccups are innumerable. And yet, you just have to drag yourself out of bed every morning and get ready to face the day, its problems and your customers with a smile. What keeps you going is the fact that you’re doing what you’re doing because you want to... and nobody is forcing you.
6. Tell us something about your achievements and the recognition you have received for your work so far.
When we established Latte-tude, the place we rented was nothing but four walls, a floor and a ceiling. Today, people walk in and appreciate the decor, the food, the music, the drinks and the service. The reward is the satisfied smiles, compliments and loyalty of our customers.
When I began writing, I had no idea that those first words would turn into a 400 page manuscript. But when close family and friends, who you can trust to be the most critical, say that they couldn’t put the book down, it feels like a real achievement.
7. What would you recommend for those who are waiting to make a break through as entrepreneurs? Any tip or piece of advice for them?
Being an entrepreneur is more difficult than anyone can imagine. If you think it’s going to be really really difficult, then you take that expectation, multiply it by 3 and that’s how tough it’s going to be. Days will come when you want to run away, when you think things can’t get worse and they actually do get worse, when you begin to doubt yourself. But there will also be days when you feel like the king or queen of the world, like everything is just perfect and that you’ve created a masterpiece. So if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to believe in yourself and work through the tough days keeping the good ones in mind and vision.
8. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself? Perhaps something interesting about you, that people are always surprised to hear?
Strangely enough, I have found that almost everything about me surprises people. Some people are surprised that I write, some, that I design and others, that I own a business. To each his own I guess. But one thing that seems to surprise everyone is that I love bikes and I ride a motorbike. Right now, I have an Apache 160 and am hoping that one day I’ll be able to upgrade to a Harley Davidson cruiser. But surprises always call for interesting conversations, so I tend to actually enjoy people’s reactions!
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