Nirmala (47) and Hemlata (55) were employees at a soft toy making unit in Udaipur in 1999. Every morning, they would finish all their work at home, pack their lunch dabba, and head out to their workplace. They took great pride in working and being able to financially contribute to running their home.
They worked there for a decade, before the toy market in India was inundated with Chinese goods. With this change, the unit had to shut shop, and Nirmala, Hemlata and 20 other women employees were rendered jobless.
So in 2018, when this soft toy making unit received a new lease of life, returning to it was a warm homecoming for both.
They cannot be happier about this turn of events.
The unit, informally started in 1995 by Kiranbala Sisodia (63), was restarted with an investment of Rs 3 lakh in 2018. Today, the company is making close to Rs 2 lakh in revenue month-on-month. Sending out over 150 orders every month, this company has seen a steady growth trajectory.
The story of Eddie Teddie & Co. and Kiranbala, who comes from an orthodox joint family in Udaipur, is one of a woman’s unending passion.
Breaking the glass ceiling
Kiranbala had dreams of launching her own company that made soft toys for children. While she nursed this idea for a few years, her husband gave her the nudge to start. So she officially launched Eddie Teddie & Co. out of her own room.
Every day, she would dutifully finish all the household chores that she was expected to do, and then don the hat of an entrepreneur — the very first woman to do so in her family. Little did she realise that years later, it would be this bold step of hers that would give her daughters the strength to follow their own dreams.
Her daughters Mayuri and Bharti closely watched their mother and how she juggled home and work so gracefully.
They grew up believing that women could do what they wanted to. Mayuri, the elder of the two, decided that she wanted to join the hospitality sector, yet another unheard-of thing for a Rajput family. Nonetheless, she did just that.
Speaking to The Better India, Mayuri says, “I spent close to a decade working in the hospitality sector. In April 2018, I put in my papers and returned to Udaipur. I came back with a blank slate, unsure of what I wanted to do. In the process of discovering myself, I rekindled my mother’s interest in her old business.”
Coming back home after living independently for over a decade was a huge decision for Mayuri. She says she chose not to spend too much time drawing up the pros and cons of it. “Doing so,” she says, “would have led to a lot of confusion in my mind. I took this decision on a whim. In hindsight, I am so glad I did.”
A chance conversation led to reviving the business
After her return to Udaipur, Mayuri took some time off to figure out her next move. She attended a 10-day Vipasana course, spent time at home with her parents, and just took time off from everything around her. “It was a chance conversation with my father that made me think about the business that mom had started years ago. I remember helping out as a young girl. I would finish school and come to the workshop and be with her. The memory brought back joy and that was what I wanted to bring back,” she says.
For Kiranbala, whose passion was poured into the business, the idea of restarting was like a shot of adrenaline. She says, “I never imagined going back to that life. I assumed it was a closed door until Mayuri spoke of reviving it. It was my baby, and having to abandon it the way I did was a pain I carried within for long. Re-launching in this social media era was also exciting for me.”
The next few months were spent in market research, survey and learning how to conduct business.
Mayuri says that thanks to the internet, she was able to learn a lot in a short span of time. “I started contacting vendors, some of whom had worked with mom earlier. I physically looked at every cloth that was purchased for the toys and thus started the business, once again,” she says.
While most parents urge their children to save money and be cautious in their expenditure, Kiranbala had a different approach to money. She says, “What is the point of saving incessantly when you are unable to give wings to your present dreams? One should not have regrets. If that means trying new things and taking risks, so be it.” It was this thought process that gave Mayuri the courage to invest a majority of her savings into the business.
From one bedroom to a 1,000 sq-ft workshop
Having relaunched after a 20-year hiatus, the business restarted from one bedroom at home. It was only in February 2022 that Mayuri invested all her provident fund money into building a 1,000 sq-ft workshop and office space in Udaipur.
“We needed to go out into the market and let people know that we were doing this business. We displayed our products at various melas, but as the business started to pick up, COVID-19 struck,” she says.
Not one to lose hope, the team continued to work hard and fulfil online orders. “This was when my graphic designer sister also pitched in. We worked on setting up the website, establishing a presence on Instagram, realigned our goals and started selling our products again. Instead of selling the products we focused on telling our story,” she says.
Each product on their Instagram page is accompanied by a story.
The brand started utilising the power of storytelling to sell their products. “This is a family run business, with mom, dad, my sister, and I. We want to highlight that and let all our customers see that,” she says. With a close-knit group of four women employees, Mayuri says that they will expand steadily.
Meanwhile, for Nirmala, who has been associated with the business since inception, working at the workshop is a way of leading by example for her own daughter. She says, “I got a chance to come out and earn my own living. In the early years of my married life, I only lived behind the ghoonghat (veil). I gathered the courage to work, speak to people, and now I am teaching my daughter the same. I am walking the talk.”
“Each employee makes close to Rs 10,000 a month, and for them, to be able to finance their children’s education and keep aside some money as savings, has been a boon. So many times, they come and show us what they purchase with their hard-earned money. There is always so much pride when they show us,” says Kiranbala.
Mayuri appeals to people who buy soft toys to give the Indian brands a chance.
“We are not just quality conscious, but take pride in each and every piece that leaves our workshop. We do not want to become overnight millionaires. We are here to establish our brand and create a bond with our customers.”
The starting range of the soft toys is from Rs 349 while their bestsellers, Noodle, the cuddly plush dog priced at Rs 1,299 and Oli, the soft toy elephant is priced at Rs 999.
To access the entire collection and place your order, click here.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
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