Art of Surviving the Vogue Fashion Industry
Vocal for Local: Fashion and Self-Care
Kashmir Images has started an initiative, as part of India’s Vocal for Local campaign, of collecting inspirational stories from across Jammu and Kashmir, bringing to the readers fresh perspectives about solo entrepreneurship – successful only when practiced with persistence and conformed with patience.
Adeela Hameed, as the ground reporter and interviewer with Kashmir Images for this project, talks to a woman entrepreneur from the Valley who, in spite of all odds thrown her way – stigma, financial instability – held her ground to become successful in the cut-throat competitive sector of professional beauty. Ms. Roohi Jan, the owner of MK Beauty, lives in Harwan, Srinagar with her husband and two beautiful daughters.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
When did you start working independently? What instigated this shift from being a home-maker to a skilled professional?
I started my business in 2007. Before that, I worked professionally with established beauticians in Srinagar city and Delhi. My eldest daughter had been born then. And because of no support from our family, both my husband and I had to work. We lived in a rented apartment in Barbarshah, and money was a big issue. We had a toddler at home so I couldn’t travel as and when I wanted to, for work. To overcome this challenge and constant bias from family, I decided to take it upon myself to start a beauty salon.
What challenges did you face at the beginning of your independent career?
The most challenging for me, as a newbie woman entrepreneur in this field, was blunt stigmatization. People were afraid to rent out space to beauty salons for the fear of being ostracized. Nobody dared provide me a place to work in. Threats and rumors of ridicule had greatly hit my morale as well. But I held my own.
After careful inspection, I rented a room in a secure locality at Chandpora, Harwan. It was also when we had shifted from Barbarshah to live here. Money, as expected, was in want so I had to sell some of my jewelry to buy equipment for the salon. Even though I was honest and loyal to my work, people did look down on my profession at the beginning. Only when my customers and locals were well acquainted with me, did I feel comfortable working. My salon was the first of its kind in the area, from Nishat to Harwan, so you can understand how difficult it was to be the pioneer.
What was the stance of your family regarding your work?
Although the family I married into did not support me or my husband, for that matter, my brother did help in establishing a base for my work. I am grateful to him for that. My husband has always been my pillar of strength and he is one of the most important reasons I am what I am today. His persistence and patience in helping me and raising our daughters never wavered. Alhamdulillah! Apart from them, my customers have always supported and pushed me to be better and strong.
How has this shift from working under a supervisor to working monofonia been? Has your personal financial position changed somehow?
I started work in established beauty salons and learned from the best in business. My mentor was Ms. Sabrina from Rajbagh. I respect and admire her courage. But given our family’s financial issues and priority on childcare, I decided to work on my own.
I really do love the shift. Our conditions have improved and I can work from home as much as I want to. I have plans on creating a separate space for my clients in our annexe and am excited about this new addition!
Is it comfortable maintaining a work-life balance, now that you work from home?
Yes, I feel really comfortable and relaxed working from home. Traveling, with no one to take care of children at home, was always an issue. And I couldn’t take my kids to work as well. This shift has given me more freedom. I take care of my daughters’ homework, tuition, hobbies, as well as all the housework, apart from working with my clients. My husband doesn’t have to worry constantly about my safety too. I feel balanced in all respects.
What advice would you give to young women entrepreneurs who want to pursue this line of work?
Women have always been labeled as the weaker gender, someone everyone else needs to keep an eye out for. Although this is true to some extent, I believe that women are a force to reckon with. I, as a sister, wife, and mother, have been through many obstacles but facing them head-on with courage and persistence is what kept me going. I am thankful to Allah for making me a woman – a human who has the power to face masses. I would like to encourage my female counterparts to do what they want with determination. What we need is emotional support from our peers and I want to reach out to anyone who needs it.
I understand your daughters are your source of strength. Is there anything you want to convey to them through this platform?
My daughters are one of the main reasons, if not the only, that I started my own business. I want them to know and see that women can do anything they put their hearts to. It might be difficult, you might get hurt, there may be many obstacles blocking your way, but if there’s something you want to do with all your heart, you should do it. I will always support them and so will their father. So, I want them to be independent, happy, and healthy.