Before I launched my business, Bella Kinesis, I read ‘Start Something that Matters’ by Blake Mycoskie, the creator of TOMS shoes. I had been feeling a bit lost career wise and was actually working on an application for business school when I suddenly made the decision to start a social enterprise.
The idea for a women’s sportswear company had already been lingering in my mind. Having had some fairly negative experiences with sport as a young girl, I wanted to create something much more friendly and identifiable for women. Instead of constantly pushing images of abs and perfectly toned arms, I thought there should be something a bit more realistic—strong, healthy and happy women who love their figures and themselves.
It has been the most rewarding learning experience and has pushed me so far out of my comfort zone. I am a fairly introverted person and despite excelling at school, I always lacked confidence in my ideas. I was so afraid of exposing myself to potential ridicule. Eventually I just had to try. And since then it’s been continuous trying, a fair amount of failing and a little bit of success.
The most important piece of advice from the book was that whatever cause you want to support, you need to find an existing organisation that you can partner with because there are a lot of logistics needed to ensure that donations are distributed fairly and it’s extremely difficult to handle running a start-up and a charity at the same time.
As Indian women, both my business partner and myself were strongly affected by the continual stories of sexual violence against women. What was even more disturbing was the propensity of so many members of the public to blame the victims of these crimes. We needed to find someway to help and eventually decided that education was the best means to make change happen.
We chose to support the Mann Deshi Foundation and donate $5 from each item of sportswear we sell because this money funds a month’s worth of business school for one student. A lot of the violence against women in India stems from an old mentality which views us as inferior. The Foundation’s work directly combats this by giving women the tools needed to start their own businesses. Helping them achieve financial independence, not only boosts their own idea of self-worth, but also earns them respect within their communities. This will lead to women being more valued and therefore pushed towards education and jobs instead of early marriage or even prostitution. Projects like this have a domino effect; these courageous women inspire others, resulting in a real change in attitude in villages, then cities and finally on a national level.
It seemed almost natural to combine a sportswear brand with this push towards women’s empowerment. As women start to become more active, both their physical and mental strength grows. Strong, confident women work to help and motivate others. We like to think of it as a sort of chain reaction.
Having such a strong mission at the heart of my job has changed my attitude towards work. If it’s your own project, whether it’s a social enterprise or not, it’s going to matter to you. It’s going to be your whole world. Sometimes you’ll love it and sometimes you’re going to hate it but it’s those days when you’re buzzing and your head is swimming with ideas that you’ll know you’re on the right track. It’s as if your brain has been kick-started, leaving you energized despite working long hours.
I’ve finally found a sense of purpose in my work and pride in what I’m doing. To date, our efforts might be small but we’re just getting started! I highly recommend the book Start Something that Matters for anyone who needs the final push to get going. Blake signs off all of his correspondences with ‘Carpe Diem’ and today I think I’ll do the same.
Love, Roshni Assomull
Contributor, SERENE Social
About Roshni Assomull
Roshni Assomull is the founder of Bella Kinesis, a ethical women’s sportswear brand. Having worked the long hours of investment banking, Roshni turned to yoga to improve her health, which led her to start her company that creates workout clothes for a range of body shapes. The brand also works to empower women in India by donating a portion of their profits to fund women’s business education in local villages.