Social Entrepreneurship through E-commerce!
By Sandhya Kulkarni
When I changed my career track after about 26 years in media & entertainment, I was a fresher in a new career as a Trainer / Facilitator. Like every other field, training too had it’s own challenges and trying to find a job (without any contacts) after 45 was one of the toughest things I attempted. It took me 3-4 years to change my mindset from regular monthly income to cyclic or intermittent income as a consultant. Once I changed my mind to be a freelancer I started feeling, “why only one source of income?” I can always have more sources of income! Things started happening the way I thought, more sources opened up for me and every activity I did started giving me money. (maybe small amounts) It was then for the first time that I thought of making money through my passion, i.e knitting and crocheting.
I am a yarn & thread addict for the past 35+ years and throughout my happy or sad times, I have found myself hooked onto creativity. During this transition phase also I knitted and crocheted a lot. So when I was struggling with the thought that I have more caliber/ potential and I am getting too little work, I started brainstorming with what else I could do and how I could heal myself financially. By now, I was aware of the therapeutic value of having this hobby and its ability to help me to release my stress in any given situation.
Crochet is a lesser-known art and if you are working with wool, most of them think it’s knitting. So I started doing my survey about crocheters and markets for crochet goodies. With one post in the local Facebook group, I got around 75 women raising their hands. I met most of them to understand their skill levels and how they saw it as a business. But out of 75, only 4 were selling goods in their contacts, the rest of them had no stocks or stores whatsoever. Most of them considered this as seasonal business and were not proactive in creating more business for themselves under the pretext of “business always comes in season through customisation”.
Only a few Internet-savvy women, who can click good photographs and can give attractive captions are all over social media and are getting enough work for themselves. And there is a huge chunk of women who don’t know how to price their products, where the market is and how to sell (thanks to personal bad experiences of dealing with customers who choose to bargain or ask for free). Ideas started forming in my head that I want to be the first crocheter who has a website of her own!
When I started listing down items that I can make, the list went endless and I realised that if I want to keep it on the store, I need at least one piece in stock of whatever I would choose to showcase. So if I start now, I can open the store in maybe 3-5 years. The time investment and investment in stocks were going out of control to start with. So now I started thinking of collaborating and co-creating. In my knowledge, there are a very few websites that sell crochet goods and those too have very limited items. There are no websites available in India where crocheters can sell their products; I mean a selling platform for crochet goods.
Women are multi-tasking experts and even while doing their jobs they keep track of needs at home. Online shopping is so common among them to save their time and energy though for a few items they still prefer the traditional way of going to shop. Women keep track of needs for woollens for all family members and even all decorative thread items; now I wanted to offer my product range to cyberspace shoppers.
So I finalised my idea that I will create that which is not there until now. I will create a selling platform for all crocheters who want to sell their products online. This will let the world know how fine the artists are and what is there product range. I want to help them seek more orders. They will upload their products on the website and tap the markets sitting at their homes.
When I understood the constraint of time and money investment in the project, I went from Me to We. I have kept on-boarding free for the first year. All I want is “make more and sell more” possibility for crocheters and substantial growth and bonding between the crocheters