It’s not every day that you come across entrepreneurs who’re actually making a difference. When Sneha Prabeen started Yuvanta Beadworks to bring chic beaded accessories into the market, little did she know that her venture would soon be a part of a bigger thought. While accessories and home decor remained the crux of her venture, the soul of her business lied in her beaded bra straps.
If you’ve been brought in a place like Kerala, showing off your bra straps, even unconsciously, receive a lot of judgement and unwanted stares. The shame associated it with it shows the complicated relationship women share with their bras. We see people ogling at us to hide our straps from the evil eye that we call society. We see people taking the consent-less initiative to hide our straps themselves in public. Having undergone all of this scrutiny herself, Sneha Prabeen brought in a ‘beaded’ solution to this. She introduced the beaded bra straps to the market, and that’s when it all changed the game for her.
We got Sneha Prabeen to chat with us for a little while, and mind you; her story will inspire you to take the road less travelled.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Formally, I’ve done my undergrad in Commerce and postgrad in Marketing and HR. But the core to my being has always been my creativity and artistic modes of expression. Since school, I’ve always jumped at opportunities which included any form of artistic expression, be it theatre, dance, sports, singing. I’ve also recently taken up the ukulele and I’ve taught myself to be reasonably good.
I also don’t shy away from opportunities that come my way. While I was running Yuvanta, I was also given a chance to head the setup of an after-school academy in Calicut, which is where I’m from and where Yuvanta is also currently based. This also called out strongly to me because I was working on bringing a creative medium of expression to children – drama, dance, singing etc. along with exposure to adventure sports.
Do you recall the first time you were shamed because of your bra strap showing?
I think it started when we were in school. I distinctly remember phrases such as “your boyfriend is peeping out” which was said to girls whose bra straps were visible. The signal was meant to make the girl conscious of it and then proceed to quickly hide the visible strap. Of course, I myself am guilty of having done this to other young, impressionable girls in my peer-group.
Later, when strapless or off-shoulder tops became a trend, transparent straps popped up in the market. The idea behind it was to create a sense of free shoulders. In my opinion, it failed to do what it set out to do. If anything, it only made the strap obvious, and not in a flattering way. But this feeling lay dormant in me for a little while longer. I had started questioning it but did not necessarily think of a solution then.
What made you finally take the decision to start Yuvanta?
After my UG, I took a year off to prepare for my MBA entrance exams. During this time, I bought a few beads to make anklets and bracelets for myself. I wanted to create fun things for myself. Soon, I fell in love with the colors and textures of the few beads I had. I was trying to make chains for myself. The very basic accessories I designed made me realize that I loved my combinations; I realized that maybe this is something that could sustain my interest. I created a whole lot of products for my first sale at home. I had tested my theory. And it gave me a green signal.
All through my postgraduation, I kept this excitement alive and continued to work on building my bead-skills. Once I graduated, my passion to design, excitement to learn and curiosity to create led me to learn jewellery design and since then, there’s been no looking back.
I wanted my brand to have an Indian air. I also wanted it to reflect the youth and the youthful spirit that Yuvanta carries with her. My mother is the one who finally nailed it with the final name, “Yuvanta”.
In a conservative market like Kerala, was it hard for you to market the ‘bra strap’ products?
When I first designed the beaded bra strap, it was done keeping Bangalore in mind. That was my target audience initially. I must admit, I was rather sceptical about finding a wide acceptance for it in Kerala because I believed that our conservative population would not be so experimental. My first sale for the beaded straps in Kerala was in Kochi. But here, I was pleasantly taken by surprise with the response we got from both women and men! There were still a few people who were embarrassed when they read the term “bra straps” on our stall, but the number of people who walked in excitedly because of it, was more.
This made me realize that people were looking for alternate options in the market. People have been extremely positive and encouraging. Even the older generation that one would assume to be conservative was delighted seeing our products – especially the bra strap.
You also have other products in your catalogue. What do you think is your inspiration behind the designs?
My inspiration: This might sound cliché, but I sit with my beads all around me. I’m inspired with what I see in front of me – the various textures and colours are my muse. I don’t have a process of sketching my designs. It’s very kinesthetically charged. I also am strongly attracted to creating earthy colour combinations for my products. Maybe, it has something to do with me being surrounded by nature, here in Kerala.
Taking the entrepreneurship route is a risk. How do you keep yourself motivated to push yourself to succeed in a competing world?
You are absolutely right. And I have realized that self-motivation is the most difficult and important trait that all entrepreneurs must consciously keep polishing. It is exceptionally difficult. There are days when I am severely demotivated. I go through times when I question everything I do but I have to gather myself and get back on track before too long. When I do that, there are days when I wake up and create the most beautiful patterns or come up with solid ideas to market the brand. Those are the most exciting days – the days you are in this business for.
I am also fortunate to have people around me who encourage me and keep pushing me to grow. But self-motivation is even more important. I do this is by building a framework for my work hours, being disciplined with the work I do and by setting systems in place which I abide by. The best and proved method to self- motivate is setting short-term goals that you can achieve, and this is key in my planning.
How has your life changed professionally and personally, owing to the pandemic?
Personally – I’ve learned to not take anything for granted. I now appreciate all the small things that are working right, despite many others that may not be. We have all been living focused on goals with our blinkers on but I think the pandemic changed that and allowed us to slow down and to drink in our moments instead of letting the small things go by unnoticed.
Professionally – Honestly, the biggest change is the sudden 360-degree change from offline sales to online sales. Yuvanta offline has always been our greatest source of revenue and growth. As a result, though, the fiscal discipline also grew higher. While I was careful with the expenditure earlier, this also helped me to further refine Yuvanta’s needs and question if the expenditure would really justify the returns. I am trying to be positive in the face of a lot of difficulties that people around the world are facing, which I believe is very important to keep our sanity in place. A big learning for me is that nothing really is in our control.
What do you tell people today if they shame you for your bra strap?
That’s a great question. I don’t think I will be affected. Everyone must grow through their process of exposure and the most difficult aspect of challenging what was once thought to be normal. The only thing I can do is continue to create beautiful designs so that our previous sources of shame now become accessories to flaunt.
Do you think people’s mentality over a bra strap would ever change?
For people’s mentality to change, I know is going to take some time. We’ve definitely made progress and with increasing feminism in the horizon (from both men and women), I am optimistic that people will evolve and grow confident in what they wear.
What does the future hold for Yuvanta?
I have 3 focal points. One, I see Yuvanta being available in all fashion /lingerie e-commerce websites. Two, we want to get started on an offline model for Yuvanta in the form of kiosks, pan India. And three, which is a culmination of it all, is to be a brand that empowers women.
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