With a blend of beauty, natural fibres, Indian roots and sustainability, Sooti creates versatile athleisure and yoga apparel. Fitting around her family, Shireen’s ethos is combined and expressed in the range of Sooti products and how she runs her business.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Sooti is an embodiment of several aspects of my life and personality. After my children were born, my love for pure natural fibres, an innate desire to create something beautiful, my Indian roots and my belief in sustainability became more critical. I became more conscious about the environment I was exposing my kids to.
Sooti translates to ‘thread’, and it is metaphorical as well as literal. It’s a thread of pure, organic cotton reminding me of the warmth of my nana’s muslin sari. It’s a thread which ties a farmer to his livelihood. It’s also a thread which ties me back to India, wherever I am in the world.
Sooti had been on my mind for ages; it was just a matter of when. And then Rana, my now 20-month-old was born; between feeds and nappy changes, Sooti took shape.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Starting seemed like the toughest job, given there is no one guide to becoming an entrepreneur while having a fulltime job and being a mum to two little ones. It is your conviction and your motivation, which needs to be your guiding light.
I took it one day at a time. I tried not to lose sight of my core value proposition. To build a beautiful product that embodied organic to its core, high quality, and was ethically produced.
I spent hours ideating with family, researching the kind of cotton, the manufacturing process, and finding the suppliers I was looking for. I made several trips to factories, meeting owners, and workers. This went on for several months until I found the right people to work with. Understanding the import process, custom duties, setting up a business website, all happened in succession.
It seems like a blur now. The launch of Sooti was around a year from when I first started; a year of an incredible amount of learning, adventure, highs and lows and of course a dent to the savings.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Investing in the right product and truly understanding the needs of your customers is extremely important. Be it pockets on a legging or a front seam, a functional product which is beautiful while being sustainable is great!
But if I don’t go and tell people about it, then the purpose is lost. This has been my most significant breakthrough, understanding the need to get out there and educating the consumer about organic cotton and spreading the word about my business.
Doing stand-up markets allows me to communicate with potential customers and increase visibility. It also allows you to meet a diverse variety of people. After all, finding a loyal customer base in likeminded people is not straight forward. Not everyone is ready to switch to an organic lifestyle just yet. It takes time and patience is essential.