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Small Business Stories: Malika & Sonya

To the left: Malika Aswani, founder of MotherEarth’s. To the right: Sonya Sapru, founder of Sonya Sapru Designs

This blog tells the stories of two women: Malika Aswani, founder of MotherEarth’s, and Sonya Sapru, founder of Sonya Sapru Designs. Both are small, independent women-run businesses. Both are based on embracing and promoting principles of indigenous knowledge, sustainability, and love. Narrated by their respective daughters – the blog weaves a single story; one of resilience, adaptability and creativity. Today, we share with you the unlikely path’s our mothers have taken, and how watching them, being inspired by them and supporting them every step of the way has shaped our own lives and experiences

As almost all businesses grind to a halt – the reality that the ones shielded from this spiral are the huge businesses that can rely on vast reserves. Smaller, and local businesses are the ones that are struggling during this slow time, as we are forced out of our spaces in the city. As small businesses that rely on foot-traffic and word of mouth to keep things running smoothly, we greatly appreciate your support online – share our posts, leave reviews, shop our collections, and send gifts to people you love.

Bringing MotherEarth’s to life – Malika Aswani’s Journey

By Prerna Aswani

One of the most important lessons I have learnt from my mum is that it’s never too late, and there is no single right path or trajectory for life.

At 20, mum didn’t have the opportunity to complete her university education. 20 years later, in 2011, passionate about understanding the science behind food, she began her nutrition diploma – the same year that I entered University. Thus began the nine year journey that would lead to launching her own, homemade, handcrafted organic skincare range (MotherEarth’s).

Fast forward three years, there were two new graduates in the family. Mum’s passion for nutrition and holistic wellness deepened and expanded – thinking about how we can make sure we are not only putting the best inside our bodies, but on them too.

Learning about the harmful side effects of the chemicals in our daily skincare and cosmetic products, she was horrified, and intent on finding a better solution. And so began her journey into skincare formulation; she studied, she got the certification and she spent three years perfecting her own homemade blends. She was intent on using the highest quality, purest, organic, natural ingredient, rooting our skincare routines back into the earth, and all the goodness it has to offer.

For a while, that was just it. She’d be making different creams, serums, balms and hair products for friends and family. Each family member, and their skin and hair care woes inspired a new formulation. My own desire to have an uncomplicated skincare routine, that relied on only one product that took care of all my skin needs led to the creation of GlowME, the most nourishing moisturiser there ever was!

But deep down there was always a desire to go bigger, and bring her ingenious formulations to the wider world. Building a business was never in Mama’s forte, nor mine. Neither of us knew the first thing around building a business. Yet, what I did know is that I wanted to bring my mother’s passion and talent to the world. And it’s this drive, to nourish each other’s talents, that has given us to take the plunge, learn as we go, and bring MotherEarth’s to life and to the world at large.

Over the last few months as I share MotherEarth’s capsule collection with our nearest and dearest, the immense positive feedback we have received from each and every person keeps us going. It’s given us the confidence and encouraged us to keep learning everything we need to, from building a brand identity, a website, a social media strategy and everything needed to share with all of you this lifestyle of rooting our self-care in the earth and all the goodness it has to offer.

Sonya Sapru Designs: Simplicity

By Sarojini Sapru

In 2011, Better Interiors shared an article about mum, that I think captures best the kind of person and aesthetic that she embodies. “It’s not often you come across people who tread ahead of the competition and away from the limelight. And when you find someone who seems to be so content with their life, you immediately want to reboot yours. One such person is designer Sonya Atal Sapru. She is not one for making huge statements. Her innovations don’t stride out, determined to change the world. But that’s not to say that they won’t. She creates work in her own likeness. They have an individuality of their own.”

Mum started her career as an art director in the 80’s with J Walter Thompson in Calcutta. In ‘95, pregnant with me – she published Zaika, a cookbook on Kashmiri Pandit Cuisine. At this point (infant Sarojini in tow), she plunged into what she loves the most – art. She experimented with different mediums: canvas and glass mostly, before turning to the digital, and flying solo with her graphic designing firm.

Based out of my bedroom, in my grandmother’s home, mum worked on a variety of projects from restaurant conceptualisation, product packaging, to web design. In 2009, adapting to the changing economic scenario, she moved to product designing. Her designs were contemporary India-centric stationary and lifestyle products which were stocked by the Oberoi Hotel & Resorts. Eventually, her creative endeavours expanded beyond lifestyle products, and SAS Design Consultancy evolved in Sonya Sapru Designs: a sustainable boutique studio, handcrafting conscious, slow fashion, made with love.

The Sonya Sapru studio is a one woman project. Mum conceptualises, designs, curates, and even hand-embroiders each of the pieces in the boutique. Through the process, various friends (who have become family) have supported the journey. Master ji, Pushpa & Isha are an integral part of bringing the ideas into fruition. Friends like Tali, have helped share the word, and put ‘Ektaa’, our blog, together. I moonlight as a model, photographer, and content creator. Mum has created a community, and that community involves each and every individual who has supported us through the journey. Every client has indulged in the story, and become family.

In 2018, I submitted my Master’s dissertation. In the acknowledgments, I wrote a simple note. “My mother (sonmamajaan) who taught me that absolute creativity transcends the conventional, and is free from laws and restrictions. “Good art transmits the artist’s way of seeing for everyone outside their own head. It’s your turn now, so go on and show them.””

You raised me to think and imagine without limits, and nurtured all of my ideas, even when they were objectively questionable. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this journey with you.

Prerna and Sarojini first met in the fortuitous year of 2017 at SOAS University. We bonded over a simple diwali gift: a packet of maggi, intended merely to cure Sarojini’s home-sickness, but which has bonded us together till date in a friendship that knows no borders.

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