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Aastha Kottary, Founder Of Elevate, Meaningful Jewellery For Healing, On Running A Small Business

"The only way to cope with challenges is to consistently keep learning and re-learning. There is no other way out," says small business owner World of Elevate; Meaningful Jewellery, Aastha Kottary.

“The only way to cope with challenges is to consistently keep learning and re-learning. There is no other way out,” says small business owner World of Elevate; Meaningful Jewellery, Aastha Kottary.

At a time when a majority of the people have lost their jobs, no thanks to the pandemic, and have ventured to follow their passions and get started on their entrepreneurial journeys, a story like that of Aastha Kottary (Founder of ‘World of Elevate’ – a homegrown handmade jewellery brand) is a reminder that while it isn’t easy being a female business owner, the journey is worth it all.

We often see in movies and read in books, how the protagonist’s life changes during a trip. Interestingly, the same thing happened to Aastha Kottary when she found her calling on a trip to Dharamshala.

“I remember that from a very young age, I was attracted to the concept of ‘being your own boss’, and that only grew stronger over the years. I didn’t really know the how or what or when,” she says.

Finding inspiration – the trip that changed Aastha Kottary’s life

It was while walking the streets of McLeodganj in Dharmashala that she found something that she could dedicate herself wholly to. “The streets were filled with shops that sold gemstone trinkets and talismans, and I remember being absolutely fascinated. I was also lucky to have witnessed workshops where Tibetan refugees were being trained in jewellery making, wood carving, and Thangka painting,” she says.

Aastha Kottary

No wonder then that she was inspired to do something that would combine the two aspects of her own personality – creativity and spirituality. Elevate was born, from her desire to fill the void for spiritual yet stylish jewellery, and also utilise the immense talent and skills of the artisans making them.

Managing a business as a young woman

But the journey from idea to execution wasn’t easy and fraught with its own challenges and setbacks; right from being a female entrepreneur who no one took seriously, to conveying the idea to the artisans who weren’t too keen on adopting Aastha’s creative and aesthetic sensibilities, to navigating the obstacles that come with running a business with no prior experience. Coming from a non-business family made the transition even more difficult as there was no one to guide or warn Aastha what it is like to run a business.

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How does she manage it all then?

“The only way to cope with that, is to consistently keep learning and re-learning. There is no other way out. Till date, I have to take up a lot of weekend courses and am a part of various business training portals in order to get better at running my brand efficiently,” she says.

Aastha Kottary

She looks upon her mother, Gajra Kottary (award-winning film and TV script writer), as her role model. “She always manages to see the good even in the worst situation. I definitely wish I inherited that from her, but now I’m trying to develop that skill on my own!” Aastha quips.

Like in any other creative field, a good support system is crucial to support you during the stressful situations. For Aastha Kottary, this support system has been in the form of her friends who’ve not just stood by her through the struggles but have actively contributed by helping promote the brand, creating content, managing inventory or even packing orders till late in the night. “It is such a lovely feeling when women help to lift each other up. I cannot thank them enough for it, and even for being there for me,” she says.

Combining science and spirituality

With no prior experience in either managing a business or in jewellery making, I wonder what inspired Aastha to enter this field at all. What is it about gemstones, and why healing stones, specifically, that attracted her to this line?

Aastha Kottary

“It was in Dharamshala itself, that I stumbled upon a book about their significance and the scientific explanation for their healing energies. And not just that, these stunning elements are made by Mother Nature in unique formations. It’s like each healing stone has its own little story to tell. Let’s take Quartz, for example. it is an essential component for regulating time at the precise frequency,” she says.

It’s interesting to note how gemstones aren’t just about spirituality; there’s science involved, too.

“It’s fascinating to study this metaphysics and to educate the end consumer about it as well!” Aastha agrees, and continues to explain further. “Each gemstone or mineral is formed under different natural pressures and phenomenon or under very specific conditions. This is what gives it the uniqueness that differentiates one piece to another, even in terms of the energetic field. Science has proven that all matter is energy. When these stones are worn on the body, they interact with your body’s energy field and have their own small influences on it.”

Counting the rewards

The jewellery is designed and created using carefully selected stones that offer maximum aesthetic appeal to craft a stunning talisman that holds a deeper meaning and significance. Despite the multitude of various brands that are out there in the market, Elevate prides itself on its strong identity in its story and design inspiration.

This especially comes through in how they’ve reinvented themselves from being a spiritual gemstone jewellery and home décor brand to focusing only on jewellery designing, during the pandemic.

As much as it is challenging to run a business during such times, it does bring the rewards too, along with the possibilities of exploring newer opportunities. With the focus on small businesses and the industry-wide emergence of collaborative business practices, Elevate is now pursuing partnerships and collaborations with bigger brands and online platforms.

One such reward for Elevate came in the form of an offer from a prominent fashion giant who approached them to buy their entire collection including the concept. Aastha Kottary explains, “We decided on retaining our independent brand identity and though it didn’t work out, it gave me the validation that we were doing something right. We are now focussing on developing a multi-platform presence and building a stronger brand awareness through social media marketing.” They also intend to develop and increase the products on offer, which already are unique, classy, and affordable.

Being socially responsible with an eye on growth

With the advent of Gender Fluidity and Unisexual Fashion, it is heartening to note that brands like Elevate are already recognizing their role and responsibility in promoting gender fluid fashion.

Elevate does plan to pay a little more attention to the men’s jewellery market now, as it surely seems like it will be boosted due to the general sentiment of fashion being genderless,” Aastha says.

‘The Unisex Collection’ is a collection of jewellery pieces for men, that was a result of not just Aastha’s interest in gender fluid fashion but also a demand from the customer side, with women asking for jewellery for their husbands or sons. This enabled Aastha Kottary to step outside her comfort zone and create something that would be appealing and inclusive. Elements like the Dragon and the Buddha were combined with specific crystals to represent energies like Protection, Power, and Positivity.

Aastha Kottary

With running a business that’s socially aware, comes the challenges of making it profitable too. It’s a unique combination of having a satisfied clientele as well as happy employees. Elevate has been successful is creating employment even during the pandemic, thanks to repeat customers. “It’s like having a small community of people who appreciate your brand and even take the trouble to ask you questions in order to understand the minerals and gemstones better. However, nothing beats the feeling of your kaarigar (artisan) thanking you and telling you that because of your order and payment, he has been able to get through a very difficult month,” she says.

Aastha Kottary on living the entrepreneur life

Life as an entrepreneur is very different from what it seems on the outside. With most businesses shutting down due to the losses incurred in light of the pandemic, it is easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed at the slightest of missteps. Add to that the different functions that are an integral part of managing a business and which may be unfamiliar to the business owner.

“In today’s time, especially with the added challenges of the pandemic, every day seems like a struggle, especially with the day-to-day firefighting and the unforeseen roadblocks that make even the smallest of setbacks seem like overwhelming failures. It is important to be able to disassociate the self from the business entity – to not see the brand as an extension of your own self,” Aastha advises.

In an article titled 3 truths I wish I knew before starting my own small business, Aastha Kottary wrote how the mental health of an entrepreneur is constantly put to the test. It is also important to have the right guidance and mentoring, as she has had, to cope with failure and the tendency to indulge in, what she calls, ‘catastrophic thinking’. “I have worked closely with my therapist and a business coach in order to better myself in this aspect and to learn to view these situations from alternative and healthier perspectives,” she shares while emphasizing on the need to develop strong mental health skills and train your brain with techniques like meditation.

None of this is possible without having the right attitude or the necessary set of skills. Apart from having a strong mental attitude and the ability to cope with failure, Aastha emphasizes on having a strong sense of discipline, consistency, time management. ‘I cannot stress the importance of these enough, and am still working on improving at them. For instance, I see a lot of women starting a small business and treating it like an afternoon hobby. But that’s not going to cut it if you want to be serious about things like financial independence. The learning never stops, but the hustle will be worth it all,’ she says.

The satisfied karigars and customers of Elevate would surely agree.

You can find Aastha Kottary and her World of Elevate here and here.

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About the Author

Piyusha Vir

Piyusha Vir is a writer, artist, a CELTA-certified English Language trainer, and a Creative Writing Coach. She was awarded the Top 5 position in the Orange Flower Awards 2018 for the category of Writing read more...

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