In this article, Astha is sharing her journey of how she was successful in starting her e-commerce store – Gifting Wardrobe.
Gifting Wardrobe’s most successful and popular gifting range are Gifts for Chartered Accountants especially its CA Hamper, CA in Making Hamper, customized desk decor, and leather diary. They are also known for their bridal hampers, baby hampers, and quirky products with clients US, Dubai, and Singapore.
My Journey Becoming a Chartered Accountant
My plan was never to become a Chartered Accountant. While in class 12, a friend of mine was preparing for CA Entrance exams. She randomly asked me if I would be interested in doing the same, I said yes and went ahead with the exam.
Luckily, I cleared the first two levels of CA Exams from ICAI easily but failed in the CA Final exams as I fell ill. This was my first academic failure and accepting this failure was very difficult.
Honestly, after this failure, I had given up on Chartered Accountancy and decided not to give my exams as it was horrifying to study all over again. But my friends and family supported me.
I somehow gained strength and confidence to appear for the CA Final exams one last time. I studied for only 2 months this time and cleared my exams in the second attempt.
Getting into Transfer Pricing in a Big Accounting firm was a dream come true.
How I managed a part-time business while working full time
I am really creative since childhood. Putting a smile on someone’s face with a nice personalized gift always made me feel great (and still does!).
Looking at my gifts, my friends would approach me to make gifts for their friends and family. And that’s how I started getting orders. I loved what I did so it was never a burden.
While in college and even during my CA internship I would manage my gifting side hustle post office or on weekends.
I continued the same even after joining EY, balancing work and my gifting side business easily.
While working full time at EY I would take limited orders which I could manage during my free time or during weekends! In fact, while working at EY pursuing my passion for gifting was so refreshing (Hence I would encourage each one of you to pursue a passion you love even if you are super busy).
However, during the busy tax season at EY, I would limit my gifting work and concentrate only on office work.
Luckily, since I have been doing this side hustle right through college and CA internship I knew the gifting business/ work in and out. So, it did not take me much time to help people plan their gifts and deliver orders on time even while working full time!
So, you could say while still working at EY this side hustle was more like a hobby as it made me feel great. I just thought of it as a fun venture which brings me some extra cash!
So, starting my full-fledged gifting business was never my plan.
Quit my job and took a 7 months break to set up my business
Life at EY continued. It was fun with great opportunities and even greater learnings. I considered myself super lucky to get into this profile early in my career.
However, while working at EY, I realized that I was looking for something else. I quit my job randomly without anything in hand or in mind!
Now you will be wondering if I Quit my job to start my online store? The answer is NO. I did not quit my job to start my venture – Gifting Wardrobe.
In short, I did not know what I wanted to do next so I thought taking a short break would help me figure things out.
Even after quitting my job, I couldn’t understand what exactly I wanted to do in life.
In the meanwhile (like always), I would take small orders to curate gifts for others. Like there was no plan to start a website or make this gifting side hustle of mine into a full-fledged business.
In fact the idea of starting Gifting Wardrobe website initiated in early June 2018 when I met my mentor and her that I did not know what to do in life. She knew about my gifting side hustle and suggested that I should take this seriously. That’s when I started working towards it.
She explained to me that I should give a few months of dedicated time to my Gifting side hustle and see if it worked well for me.
Since I had a fair idea about the gifting industry and about the growth it has, I decided to explore that segment. Also, when working at EY, I observed that many of my friends had the will and capacity to buy gifts for their family and friends but they had no time.
I initially started Gifting wardrobe with a vision was to make professional and corporate people’s life easier when it comes to Gifting.
And that’s how Gifting Wardrobe was born.
Dealing with noise around me
Everyone told me I was CRAZY to leave such an amazing job and get into something like this.
Friends and relatives mentioned that since I am a Chartered Accountant, I should work as a Chartered Accountant only.
They were of the opinion that I worked so hard to become a Chartered Accountant and I should continue with the same.
Some people also told me NOT to do it full time and pursue it as a hobby or a side hustle like earlier!
However, when I started working towards it full-time I realized it actually made me happy and was a great business.
I knew that to set up a whole new business needs a lot of time and constant efforts and I was mentally prepared for it.
Luckily my parents have been supportive and never doubted my capabilities. My close friends also supported and motivated me to do what I like.
Honestly, working with EY was way more simple than starting my own business.
But I knew if I could stay up all night to complete my assignments at EY, why not stay up all night and work for my own business.
A person should always explore all their opportunities.
We have one life why not make the most of it. Especially in today’s time when we are blessed with such advanced technology, education, and infrastructure.
And I love Transfer Pricing as well so I am trying to find a way to work full time and run my e-commerce business simultaneously.
Did I have a lot in savings when I quit my job?
When I quit my job, I had around $8,000 (around INR 3- 4 lacs) in my bank account.
There were days where I would wonder what if all my savings got over?
I even panicked a few times when I had to invest in stocking goods. There were times where a few items were slow moving and that would really scare me.
But somewhere I always had faith that I would easily recover my investment and yes, I did so!
I also knew my CA backup was strong enough to support me to earn money again if at all anything went wrong.
Definitely starting your own business takes time and needs a lot of patience.
How much money you need initially completely depends on the nature of your business.
For an e-commerce business model like mine, a saving of $ 8k was more than enough.
However, the plus point in my case was – I knew how the gifting business worked as I was doing the same on a part-time basis while in college and also while working at EY. So, I saved a lot of time on research and acquiring clients.
Before I quit my job I used to make around 5-10 orders per month from my gifting venture and all I cared about was recovering my variable cost. These orders were without any marketing, purely word of mouth from my friends and family.
The exact steps I took to start my e-commerce store
The whole journey started in December 2017 when I quit my job at Ernst & Young (EY).
I started Gifting Wardrobe Instagram page in Feb’18 and had no clue that I would land up launching my website in July 2018.
During the period from Dec’17 to Feb’18, I had nothing in mind.
Initially, when I started working on Gifting Wardrobe it was super hectic.
Trust me working at EY was much easier than working for Gifting Wardrobe.
Starting your own business means – You have no backup, no security of constant income inflow. It all depends on how you work and stay strong.
But I knew, in the end, my hard work would be recognized.
So, this is what I did when I started Gifting Wardrobe as a full-fledged business:
- I calculated my opportunity cost as compared to my salary at EY.
- And I started setting goals to say like a minimum of 100 orders every month.
It was tough to meet my target initially but somehow I started working more and more hard towards it and started achieving my goals.
There were times where I would not get a min of 100 orders per month. But I kept pushing.
Also at times, I would take orders from a few big clients even if my profit margin was not much.
We also did bulk corporate orders, some of them even cost to cost. The goal was to always keep serving. It helped in marketing as well.
So, if not monetary growth we looked upon long-term brand growth as well.
Getting the first few clients was the most challenging task.
Today some of our top corporate clients include Shein India, AT Academy, Icekraft etc.
So I do not have like a goal book or so, but I do have a Vision board where I keep posting my vision for Gifting Wardrobe and for myself. Having a vision board is so helpful to everyone.
I would recommend all of you to create a vision board for yourself. In fact, this New Year I made some amazing vision boards for my clients. You can email me at email@example.com and I can help you set up your vision board!
How You Can Start an Online Store
If you have any idea or any purpose (say for Gifting Wardrobe my main aim was to make gifting simpler and effortless for professionals and corporate people) and you ain’t scared to work hard you can think of an e-commerce business.
Few points to be kept in mind would be:
- Setting up would take time and efforts.
- Make sure that when you initially start, everything is set up properly. I mean do all the documentation as though it is a proper working company. By company I mean sort your accounts, taxation mainly GST, delivery channel, how would you source/manufacture products etc.
- While you are building your e-commerce business/ store online make sure you add as much as features possible in the start only. So basically, the whole idea is set up so strongly in the start that later on you only have to upgrade and not add a whole new thing.
- To reduce the compliance burden, I thought I would avoid GST till the time I cross the threshold limit. GST required compulsory registration if any interstate sale is made, as I didn’t want to restrict my scope and market size I got registered under GST even before my threshold limit!
- Eventually now even if I get 1 order from outside my state my whole working and set up is in such form that it does not add to any additional work for me. Thus, making everything simple.
One simple thing I would like to tell what I believe is especially for Chartered Accountants / CPA’s is that we can risk and try to pursue our ideas and passion easily.
I say this because CA as a qualification can help you bounce back if at all anything goes wrong.
When I left my job and started working towards Gifting Wardrobe I had various thoughts running through my mind.
To mention a few – Like what if my venture did not work out, or what if I lag behind in my career etc.
However, I was never scared of failure. I was more scared of not trying what I wanted to do. You can never know the outcome unless you try
I am very grateful to my CA degree for making me so confident. It really gave me the courage to pursue what I want.
I always knew after becoming a CA that if anything went wrong I will always be financially independent since CA would easily fetch me financial independence.
And to be honest I want to get back into Transfer Pricing. I have done all the groundwork so my presence is not needed 100%.
Now it is your turn
I would love to hear from:
Do you want to know more about starting an e-commerce business or store?
Do you have a question for Astha?
Comment below and let us know.
Astha Jalan is more than happy to guide you. You can connect to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.