When Sonal Shah was searching for the perfect gift for her niece she realised that products available for children were very very boring. She gave up a successful career in the Banking industry and started a company that produces all things good for the baby.Her Company Koonik,makes organic cotton clothes, blankets, fine grain wooden toys and 100% cotton non fur toys. It’s also wonderful that all her products are Eco-Friendly! She sums up the essence of her store beautifully, “Koonik is about doing things that will make babies happy while leaving a smile on the planet’s place”
Tell us about your store..
At Koonik, we have decided to make & stock only ‘Baby Safe’ products. The kind that we grew up when we were babies and stuff our grand mothers would approve of. Our clothes are designed inhouse and made from 100% soft organic cotton. We use non toxic dyes and the entire treatment from growing organic cotton till the final production is controlled, ensuring that nothing harmful goes onto the clothes.Our toys are handmade out of soft ivory wood and are coated with dyes derived from vegetables and fruit extracts. This makes them environmentally friendly and at the same time, very safe for your baby. They are lead free, mercury free, BPA free and basically free of anything that can harm your precious little one. The soft toys are made from 100% cotton without any embellishments that could hurt the child. Essentially, Koonik is about doing things that will make babies happy while leaving a smile on the planet’s place. After all the planet is our inheritance that we’ll leave to our kids. Koonik – Happy Baby, Happy Planet
Koonik is unusual name, what does it mean and how did you come up with it?
I have a daily habit of reading one new Wikipedia article everyday when I came across Kunik. Kunik, Wikipedia told me, is an intuit(eskimo) kiss ‘a form of expressing affection, usually between family members and loved ones, that involves pressing the nose and upper lip against the skin (commonly the cheeks or forehead)’. And it struck me, isn’t it the simple, tender kiss that we give babies on their cheeks and foreheads. We (my husband and I) loved the word and played around with it for a few days and came up with Koonik! Infact we drew a first cut of our logo at an Udipi restaurant eating idlis. The idlis on the plate gave us the idea of the 2 ‘o’s in Koonik kissing each other; one a baby and the other the planet.
How has your journey been so far
A rollercoaster ride is the closest word I can think of. It has been fun and scary at the same time. The thrill of seeing something you thought of take shape is unmatched by most other work experiences. Everything has been a challenge, from finding the correct name to having correct products to managing customer engagement. But it has been the most fun year of my life so far. I’ve learnt a ridiculous lot about setting up a business and running it. The feedback and response has been great so far.
The Famous Five
How did you find Shopo and how has the association been so far?
A friend of mine told me about Shopo as she was retailing on Shopo. So far it’s been good. From sign up, listing, communication to payments has been great.
What is your inspiration
Babies! Don’t they just make you wonder what the hell in going on in that little head? So my inspiration is what the baby may be thinking, a baby’s world view if I may call it that. Sara (my niece) and Fiana (my best friend Neha’s daughter) are the ones who I look at to figure it out. Just everyday things from a baby’s routine that possibly people don’t take notice of or think of.
What made you start a business for children
It is a funny story actually,In 2011, we were planning for our visit to California. It was going to be our niece’s 1st birthday and we wanted to get her some awesome presents. We started searching for ‘something good’ and ‘something different’ but we were disappointed with every idea that we had. We looked about online and offline but most clothes for babies were very very boring. Our options would start with ‘Mummy’s little boy’ or ‘Daddy’s cutie’ and end with a little butterfly. We went about looking for plain Rompers which we could paint or print with something cool and awesome. I won’t bore you with the rest of the story here. What started as a simple quest to get some awesome clothes for our niece is now, 1 year later, Koonik.
What is the best thing about working for your self
I think the idea of working for oneself is slightly over rated. You need to be extremely self motivated to deal with all the mundane issues that crop up; the ones you take for granted while working at a corporate. According to me it is tougher running your own venture as I worked for a corporate. Having said that, being a self funded start up, the most amazing thing is your company’s ability to be agile and make changes and move quickly to suit the environment. Also the amount of creative flexibility that your own venture can offer, I don’t think can be matched by a corporate job.
Bee Swaddle Blanket
What advice would you give to people who are starting a business or designers?
Lots of things, but if I were to sum it up and just help others starting up, unclutter their minds, I would say
- Have an objective. Don’t do things randomly without a goal in mind
- Have a plan. Work on your idea, numbers, and projections and see if what you are thinking is feasible.
- Don’t expect people to have faith in you until you are self assured about your idea and your ability to execute
- Be patient. Don’t give up too soon
- Don’t be too much in love with your ideas. On the contrary be flexible and actually learn listen to and learn from the people who are paying money for your product
- Get out and talk to people. Working in isolation will only take its toll on you eventually. You will need to have mentally stimulating conversations that can inspire you.
- Don’t be afraid to admit you’ve made a mistake, atleastits your own mistake.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Koonik’s models are my niece and my best friend’s daughter. My husband helped me with the logo, blog and photo shoot. Friends helped with design ideas and colours. Everybody loves to help entrepreneurs, so don’t shy away from it.
How did you make the transition from a corporate career to an entrepreneur ?
I have an MBA in Marketing. After having worked for over 6 years in the banking industry, I bit the entrepreneurial bug (yup…I bit it). I decided to try my hand at entrepreneurship and went and told my boss that I needed to do this. I found supporters in him, HR team, friends and family and decided to take the plunge full time. Frankly I don’t think part time works, if you want to be successful; you need to give it all you’ve got. And in any case, I don’t see it as a break in my career, this whole experience will only further my conventional marketing career.
Check out Koonik at http://shopo.in/shop/koonik?friend=blog