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Four Women Entrepreneurs Share How They Turned Their Hobbies Into IG Business Post Covid

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

During the pandemic, many small businesses had to close down due to financial losses or zero profitability. Many people lost their jobs as well. Over 122 million people in India lost their jobs in April, according to estimates by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. Around 75% of them were small traders and wage-labourers. However, what thrived were small Instagram businesses that came up during the lockdown.

One such business owner is Rasha, a 24-year-old of the Instagram shop, Clayed by Rasha. She is based in Mangalore and delivers her products all over India. She started her business back in February 2021 when Covid-19 cases in India were relatively less. She sells handmade polymer clay earrings.

Rasha said that back in 2021, she was in the UAE, working in the IT field when the pandemic hit. It was during the lockdown that she started making various paintings and selling them online. She got really inspired by the Tik-Tok application at that time. “As I was scrolling, I saw so many artists making earrings out of clay and I found it amazing. I was so eager to try it out, too. All the videos of other small businesses were so inspiring. In January 2020, I came to India and started gathering supplies and working my way through this field and honestly, I am in love with it,” she said.

Image credit: Clayed by Rasha

Her business has been profitable till now, even though she has had her share of ups and downs. Her business was hit badly by the pandemic when delivery services and transportation of materials were delayed. “I stopped selling altogether, during the second wave as I didn’t have any supplies to work with. Even now, ever since the lockdown, the effects can be felt,” she said.

When asked how her business contributes to climate change, she said that she uses bubble wrap and three-ply corrugated boxes for delivery. She believes that her hobby can turn into profession if the response of people continues to be good.

Another business venture that started during the lockdown is Cute Clay store run by Navya Nanda, 21, who operates out of Delhi. Her shop sells resin, polymer clay and beaded accessories. “My business would have never existed had it not been for the pandemic. It allowed me to pursue my interests,” she said. Having extra time on her hands motivated her to take up her hobbby as a part-time gig.

However, during the lockdown, her business was affected negatively since the spending capacity of people was low, as was the general morale. But, it has since picked up pace since. With the earnings of her small business, she was able to contribute to Covid-19 relief as well.

Small Instagram businesses have been thriving since the Covid lockdown.

Her business also works towards being sustainable. “We use paper as far as possible, and only recycled bubble wrap. Resin and clay itself isn’t entirely biodegradable so that’s something we’re working on to improve or find alternatives. Other than that, we try to work on minimising waste in terms of packing,” she said.

Navya added that she would like to continue her business post pandemic, but she does not think she’ll be able to focus on it once college starts in-person. “Additionally, being the only person doing everything, in order to expand I’d have to employ and train people and I don’t think I have the time and resources to do that,” she said.

On the other hand, Jinisha Jain, 20, from Mumbai started her business Bake Me Crazy in September 2020. She sells baked goods and cakes. During the lockdown, when there were no bakeries open, “it inspired me to open up my own bakery as the only option for birthday cakes was to try homemade recipes. So that is how the business began,” she said.

Her business has been profitable but not by a high margin, like all starting businesses. The only advantage of the pandemic was that since bakeries shut down, all the people around her who knew her came for orders. Being a small business owner is not easy, but she tries to donate 20% of her income every three months to do her part for societal change. She said that she is also studying side-by-side, so she will have to take breaks from her business. But she does see herself running it for a long term.

Creative businesses have no limits. This is exemplified by Seimonee Fernandes’s small business that she started during the lockdown. Hers is a content agency called Disco & Pretzel. “We have various services for brands right from branding to photoshoots and video shoots,” Seimonee said.

She came up with this idea with her business partner. They both share similar skills and thought of this idea while working. “We realised there was a niche market for good quality content as everyone is focusing on marketing and sales far more now,” she said.

Working from home, Seimonee said, helped in supporting her clients easily. And the kind of work they would have got if things were normal would be comparatively lesser. “We are able to focus our attention working from home and can do work efficiently,” she added. This is her full-time job now and she hopes they are able to break even with profits coming their way.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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