Entre Chat with Sunita Jaju – Founder, Rustic Art (www.rusticart.in)


As told to Anahita Masters

Tell us a little about Rustic Art and where the inspiration to start a line of organic home and body care products came from.

At home, we always used natural substitutes to chemical based personal care products. It was a way of life in our family. That passion extended to friends, then to social circles until we decided to launch a line of organic soaps. One thing led to another and we founded the company in January 2011. It’s been an amazing journey since then!

You’ve based the venture in Satara; any particular reason for this? Has it worked to your advantage to be in a relatively smaller city?

 I moved to Satara when I got married almost 3 decades ago. Being a passionate naturalist and environmentalist, I have been able to mobilise a lot of social initiatives here. Plus, a small town gives me the comfort of having a large network of people. That worked to our advantage when we started the business. I must add that social media has helped me connect with most people who we do business with. It has also connected me to a lot of other brands that are in the eco space.

How has your experience been so far, as a woman entrepreneur? Are you a member of forums and platforms where women entrepreneurs may connect and support one another? Do you see any value in such interactions?

 It has been an amazing experience. I have met many inspiring people who are contributing to the sustainable lifestyle space in their own way. I have received support from so many people that I did not even know before Rustic Art was born. So, this has been one of the most fulfilling experiences for me and it’s has only just begun.

I am part of many online communities for social businesses, eco lifestyle and sustainable businesses.

 How easy/ tough has it been for you, as a woman entrepreneur, to market, fund and scale up your business?

I believe that as an entrepreneur, the journey is quite gender neutral. J There are same amount of struggles, learning, fire-fighting and successes. Of course, I have been lucky to have had access to people and communities that have helped Rustic Art grow over the years.

Do you think being a woman entrepreneur worked to your advantage or brought challenges to your path?

Like I said, the journey of an entrepreneur is quite gender neutral. I don’t think a ‘man’ entrepreneur running Rustic Art would have faced any less or more challenges. I did not have any direct business experience, so I have had to learn a lot along the way. And the same would apply to a first time ‘man’ entrepreneur too.

Do you think women entrepreneurs support other women across the value chain of business? How have you impacted/ supported/ mentored the careers of other women through your venture?

Rustic Art has connected me to many entrepreneurs across various stages of their business life cycle. Some had a lot to teach me in terms of product ideas, feedback and business strategy. The others reached out to me because they wanted to start out in the organic personal care space.

The best part about being in the eco-lifestyle industry is that we are all in it to make a difference. There’s no competition and, in fact, it’s very comforting to exchange ideas and notes with another entrepreneur with same eco-sensibility.

What would be the top 3 things to watch out for if you’re a woman looking to start her own business?

1)      If you look out, you will find people who will support you and teach you along the way.

2)      Tell yourself that it’s possible to do whatever it is that you want to achieve. That way you will always find solutions to everything.

3)      Have a problem-solving attitude.

How has the support of friends and family played a role in your being a successful entrepreneur? How do you balance your professional and personal life?

Yes, absolutely. I started this business with my niece, who was 23 at the time we started the business. My daughter and son have helped me tremendously. My husband, who is a seasoned businessman, has been very involved in shaping this business. My brother and cousins have been actively involved and spare their time when needed. We often organize workshops on eco-friendly menstrual hygiene and all of my family members pitch in the way they can. We are all in this together!

Balance comes from prioritising what’s important. That way, we don’t necessarily have to differentiate between work and personal life. It’s all part of my life and makes it whole. On some days work takes priority, on others, my personal commitments are on top of my list.

What next for Rustic Art through 2018 and beyond?

We are setting up a new unit for scaling the production. All products are hand-made so to scale up, we will be skilling people from local villages to join us.

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