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Women in Entrepreneurship- Mallika Sharma

My name is Mallika! I run a niche cleaning and repair service for luxury leather products called The Leather Laundry! We clean, colour, repair and revive leather shoes, handbags, jackets, upholstery & other leather accessories! TLL is my baby and was conceived in the year 2015! We have offices in Delhi & Mumbai and cater to pan India with drop off centers in all major metro cities of the country!

I faced a lot of challenges in the initial days of setting up the company! Having started out a young age of 26, there were a lot of hurdles that I had to face and overcome! The biggest one of all was selecting and hiring the right people! Even to this day- hiring and retaining the right people has been the biggest challenge for me as an entrepreneur! In the first one year of ops I had to hire and fire some 65 odd people! It took a huge toll on my emotional health! At one point of time, I also thought I will never be able to get the right team to work for me! For almost 3 years, we operated with note more than 2-3 people on the administrative staff! I used to do most of the work myself! Phew, remembering those days still gives me the jitters! I also felt that being a woman, and being young, there were times when I was not taken seriously! I went for a meeting in Bangalore for a brad tie up, and I vividly remember their team thinking that I am a rich brat who has started her own venture as a hobby to while away time, only to eventually shut shop and get married! I had a hard time dealing with the bluecollar staff as well as they are not used to having lady bosses! Some never took me seriously, others literally used to address me as ‘sir’ sometimes, as they were so habituated to work under male superiors!

I had to do a lot of contemplation and introspection to understand where I was going wrong! I used to be very passionate about my work and could not stand any deviation from the norms set by myself! It used to be my way or the high way, I used to micromanage and strive for perfection all the time! I could not endure my team making a single mistake! And every

time they would, I would naturally lose my cool at them and eventually lose out on them! Over the years I understood that it’s important to make your employees feel like they are a part of your business family! It’s ok for them to falter – humans tend to errat times, and that’s what makes us human! So I grew up to become more understanding, compassionate and accommodating! I eventually also became more encouraging of their achievements! I started valuing them more, I learnt to let go sometimes! I realized that they are our employees and taking care of them is our responsibility! TLL has now slowly evolved to come a ‘people-first’ kind of an organization! Of course as I grew older, I became more bold and confident in my interaction! My business became my forte – and I learnt the ropes of the trade fast, so naturally I realized that business partners, customers and vendors started taking me more seriously!

The biggest takeaway was to hang-in there, to not quit, to not give up! I also learnt to work with a little bit of dispassion! It may sound counter-intuitive to some, but trust me, a little bit of dispassion goes a long way in making you a little unattached with what you do, which helps to sustain a lot things in the longer run! I also realized that Rome was not built in a day, it takes a while for any business to settle, so be patient and hopeful always! You have to be in it to win it! Dissipated focus is a quick recipe for failure! My business has taught me to be ‘egoless’ to have ‘humility’, ‘patience’, ‘control over my emotions’ & ‘magnanimity in thoughts and deeds’! In a way my business has taught me a lot of life skills, that have shaped me into becoming a better human!

Never give up! Keep going :) You should already consider yourself very lucky and privileged that you are blessed enough to be working and having an occupation! Challenges are a part of every business! Take them on with vigor and bravery! I very strongly feel that all women should be independent and on their own feet! Suit up, step out, do something creative and wonderful, change the world in your own little way! My parents always brought us up emphasizing that it’s important to earn your own livelihoods… I strongly stand by this notion!



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