How often have you had the talk with your kid about losing stationery in school, only to replenish his empty box every week? Wouldn’t you say those tiny items somehow always slither out of the school bag…no matter what!
Do you struggle to find or make a pretty card every time you gift wrap? Has scrambling for an appropriate envelope before every occasion, somehow, become a custom that you can’t seem to shake off? Are you always on the hunt for the perfect present but need to settle with something you aren’t happy with?
We’ve found a mompreneur who has created a whole new market space while catering to the above needs. The journey from an idea to a full-fledged running business is anything but smooth. Our chosen momspiration this week took us through her tumultuous entrepreneurial journey, highlighting how she single-handedly created a brand new marketplace. Her tales of success and exponential growth have attracted multiple players into this segment! This is the story of the dynamic Sheetal Goel – the Founder and Chief Designer of the famous Cupik Design.
Cupik Design redefines creativity in the premium personalized stationery and gifting segment. These products are unique and the perfect ensemble of personalized luxury. Cupik Design products range from tags to gift hampers and accessories to theme-based collections. If you can think about customized stationery or gift product, we are certain Cupik Design can deliver them! So let’s trace the journey of this spirited mompreneur.
In conversation with Sheetal Goel, Founder and Chief Designer of Cupik Design.
Hello Sheetal! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. When and how did you start Cupik Design?
The seeds for Cupik Design (and the kids’ personalized stationery industry!) were sown in 2012. When my daughter started playschool, I was asked to label all of her tiny possessions. I couldn’t get myself to put her name on an attractive piece of white paper. I needed something attractive and cute, so I hunted far and wide but couldn’t find anything remotely similar to what I had in mind! So, I rummaged through my creative skills and came up with fun and vibrant labels. Before I knew it, I was making these labels for other kids in the class too. When my friend in New Jersey placed her order for these labels (after peeking into my Facebook post)…. I knew I was in business.
I couldn’t think of a better name than ‘Cupik’ for this business that was beginning to bloom – it was my daughter’s first attempt at pronouncing the word ‘cupcake’!
What products did you start with, and how did you diversify?
The first few products were born out of my personal needs. I created personalized stationery labels, tags, and gift tags made of superior quality paper, print, and creative designs. The business began to see a natural diversification when parents demanded more products. Soon I started making personalized wrapping paper, gift envelopes, folders, and planners as well. We now offer over 100 categories!
How was the start of your entrepreneurial venture? What was the most challenging aspect of starting your own business, and how did you overcome it?
The process of creating a product from scratch to being purchased and appreciated by clients filled me with excitement and put me in a state of pure bliss. I lived and breathed Cupik Design. My newly acquired motherhood status, along with my new baby venture, took over my world. The most challenging aspect was managing home, baby, and the business. I didn’t sleep much the first couple of years, I think! Finally, I approached my family to help me with my baby and business. This accelerated my ability to diversify my business and take it to a whole new level.
According to you, how has the luxury personalized stationery segment evolved over the years?
To be honest, the first few years were rather infuriating. People would blatantly copy our designs and sell them as their own. Thankfully, the quality-conscious customer knows what he wants. Several personalized stationery brands that create unique, world-class products have sprouted over the past few years, which has led to this industry’s growth. It’s an exciting time to be in the personalized children’s stationery segment in India.
What is your business model?
We work through an extensive print and fabrication partners network to bring high-quality personalized products to the market. In addition, we operate through our own e-commerce platform, www.cupikdesign.com, and sell through several marketplaces and e-commerce giants. You can call for your custom stationery and gift hampers on Amazon, Natty.in, My Baby Babbles, besides a network of home-based resellers.
How do you come up with new categories and designs? What is your source of motivation?
My journey from a small start-up to being the pioneer in the personalized stationery segment has equipped me to make personal connections with customers. I was able to get new product ideas, instant feedback sessions over coffee, the occasional brickbats, and an overflow of encouragement and support on slippery rainy days. Over the past nine years, this pool of about 200 customers, most of whom are mothers like me, has been my source of inspiration.
How has your family supported you throughout your venture?
Unconditionally! My parents and my husband have been my daily soundboards for every product idea, every milestone, every challenge, and every heartbreak. It sounds like a cliche, but I would never have managed any of this without their unwavering support.
Who would you categorize as your competition? How do you manage to sustain yourself in this competitive personalized stationery and gifting segment?
I always say I’d rather have a 10% share of a $500 million industry than an 80% share of a $5 million one. Competition is good! And there’s enough room for everybody to grow. Customers need to get a taste of what’s out there, and ultimately the best personalized stationery brands will survive the test. But stationery makers are just one segment of competitors for us.
Everything from toys and games to personal accessories and lifestyle products counts as competition. In terms of gifting, globalization is bringing international quality stationery products to India. We’re vying for a piece of that pie.
The only way to stay ahead is by innovating. Investing time and energy in innovating new products aligned with customer needs is what we love to do and have been doing consistently for the past nine years. For example, we just launched a personalized work-from-home planner for the grownups. It aims to help people navigate through their busy days with reminders for a bit of self-care too.
How do you advertise and market your designer stationery?
Like most e-commerce players, we advertise through social media channels. But, ultimately, when you create a quality product, no marketing channel beats word of mouth publicity!
What does your typical day look like as a working mom? How challenging has it been for you to be a mompreneur?
The last year has erased the concept of a ‘typical day.’ Thankfully, I have a wonderful team who are great at what they do and are as quality-conscious and customer-centric as I have always been. So I try to stick to my job now and let them handle theirs.
The past year has been full of challenges and losses on the personal and professional front, but we soldier on. When you love what you do and have the support of your loved ones, it becomes a bit easier. And when your child sees your resilience in the face of adversity, they pick up that quality too.
What has been Cupik Design’s recipe for success?
We follow three things. We believe it’s imperative to clearly define your goals at every step – annual, monthly, weekly, and daily. My team and I set up our goals for the day and don’t get up from our desks till they are completed.
The second is ongoing communication with customers. This keeps you in the loop with customer demands and expectations. A casual conversation with a customer will give you more insights than a formal research study conducted with several people!
Lastly, the trump card is Innovation. We try to stay on top of the market to understand what kids and grown-ups need and how we can be part of the solution. This is our favorite part of the job!
What advice would you give moms who want to start their ventures?
Routine Routine Routine – Fixed hours of work in a designated space are essential to success, especially if you’re working from home. Build a routine because life will always get in the way.
Goal-oriented approach – Where do you want to go? And why? What is the purpose of your business? Answer these questions for yourself, and your goals will emerge. The quickest way to achieving these goals is by writing them down. Just by putting them in words, the goals become more tangible, and therefore, more achievable. I’ve lived by this mantra in all areas of my life, and so far, it’s worked wonders for me.
PLEASE don’t try to do it all on your own. You will burn out! Build a support system around you. It’s amazing what friends and family will do for you if you just ask! Don’t be a superhero when you don’t need to be.
Limit social media to 10-minute breaks. We don’t realize how much that mindless scrolling eats into our time.
Set aside some time just for yourself every day. It could be to read, skincare routine, listen to music, or speak to a friend. It’ll refresh you and give you the energy to face the day.
One word for Kidskintha
On www.cupikdesign.com, you can buy personalized stationery, personalized school stationery, personalized office stationery, personalized stationery gift box, a personalized stationery set, and gift hampers.