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Stories That Inspire – 2

Pratishtha Deveshwar Sharma The woman with wings and dreamy eyes!

Pratishtha Deveshwar Sharma is a Post Graduate in public policy from the University of Oxford. She is keen on making policymaking inclusive and ethical and contributes to achieving SDGs. She is also a public speaker who seizes every opportunity to motivate, inspire and sensitize people.

Pratishtha was always a keen learner. Even after meeting with an accident leaving her paralyzed and in a wheelchair, she never let her dreams suffer. She realized very early in life that education is empowering and life-changing. Her passion made her reach one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

She shares one experience of an interview with a local newspaper in Punjab where she was told to remove her lipstick as she was not looking disabled enough. They wanted to portray people with disabilities as ugly and helpless. However, what Pratishtha did after that is inspiring! She went back and applied even a darker shade of red lipstick. There came a big step to breaking a stereotype one step at a time! Pratishtha feels that the world needs to be more inclusive. People with disabilities are not subjected to any sympathy. They are people with desires and dreams.

Pratishtha Deveshwar Sharma is indeed a Limitless Stree breaking stereotypes and making the world more inclusive with her actions.

Sheroes Hangout Cafe and Community by Acid Attack Survivors

Sheroes Hangout is a cafe and community in India run by survivors of acid attacks. The cafe aims to increase awareness of acid attacks and empower acid attack survivors. There are currently two cafe locations in Agra and Lucknow.

The first cafe, located in Agra, was opened in 2014 by Alok Dixit of Stop Acid Attacks, a nonprofit based in New Delhi. Since that time, the cafe has expanded to open a second location in Lucknow.

The cafe began as a crowdfunded project, and it operated with a pay what you want to model. This model remained in place for many years, but the cafe now features a fixed menu with fixed prices, as of 2020.

Prior to working at the cafe, many of the women at Sheroes led solitary lives. They struggled with feelings of shame and trauma. About half of the women were attacked by relatives, and nearly all of them were attacked by people they knew.

Oftentimes, they were attacked after rejecting marriage proposals or sexual advances.

Following the attacks, some women rarely went outside, in part due to the shame attached to their physical appearance. They often struggled to find employment.

Sheroes Hangout granted the women a place to find acceptance, community, and a means of income. Some of the women are now the primary earners in their families.

Pickles And More Suman Sood

Suman Sood, 63, started Pickles & More with help of her daughters using Facebook and spreading by word-of-mouth. Like most home businesses in India. Suman never planned or intended to sell her pickles. She just enjoyed making them and was content in filling out big containers for friends and family. She shares, “Slowly, people started coming to me with particular needs and tastes. Some would want the pickle in olive oil, others liked it spicy, and so I began to customize,” she says.

It was in 2015 that her daughters—Shweta and Sunakshi—convinced their mother to start her brand—Pickles & More. “All this happened because of them. Left to me, I would still be making and giving pickles to friends and family,” she says.

One of her bestsellers is the onion pickle, while special winter hot-sellers are gobi (cauliflower), gajar (carrot), and shalgam (turnip) pickle. The varieties of pickles she makes and how her creations made their way to a restaurant in Berlin, Germany.

Nandita Designs Nandita Saharia

Nandita Designs is based in Guwahati, Assam, started with a vision to create designs that are unconventional in a way that makes a statement. Its mission is to develop a wide range of sustainable textiles, both printed and woven which will promote local handlooms.

They believe that because of the large carbon footprint of the clothing industry, it is necessary for all to take steps towards sustainability. This was the driving force and motivation for Nandita. Her designs are highly inspired by and closely connected to nature. So, going forward, it is a mission to promote environmental causes.  

Adding a little creativity through prints enhances sustainable fabrics and gives people the option to choose better. Also, the local weavers and manufacturers are looking for ways to promote the Eri silk of Assam and so Nandita Designs works with local weavers and manufacturers together to create beautiful textiles. As a surface designer, finding clients on a regular basis to sell artworks was a challenge when Nandita first started in 2020.

Birch And Threads Sadhika Oberoi

The mission of birch and threads is to bring back the lost heirloom of Juttis. The motivation behind it was to make comfortable Indian footwear for ladies and promote the lost heirloom Juttis while, promoting Made in India.

Jutti is traditional footwear worn mostly in North India. It is made out of pure leather and has exquisite embroidery and additional embellishments that give it a unique appeal. From day to day wear, weddings, to parties and festivals, juttis provide an essential ethnic appeal to the person wearing them.

However, finding the right jutti maker who can present the designs on the preferable pair of juttis to provide comfort is challenging.

Sadhika mentions that footwear can be a source of expressing your feelings. She says always to prefer comfortableness over chiqueness.

Work it through and think it through. Don’t lose hope. Whatever belongs to you will come to you at the right time!

Soulpure Soaps Uttara and Nishi

The vision of Soulpure Soaps is to reduce plastic waste and make soaps using the traditional method of mixing skin-friendly oils and lye and elevate the soap from being just a practical bar that gets the job done, to a carefully designed visual and olfactory experience, which looks great and feels amazing to use.

Soulpure Soaps was started by Uttara and her best friend Nishi in 2016. The soap ingredients are resourcefully sourced, cruelty-free, and phthalate-free which receives great support from its customers. Initially, sourcing raw materials especially good quality micas and cold-process stable fragrance oils in India was a nightmare. But fortunately, they had friends who helped them source the best quality material from the US and that opened a whole new world of artisan soaps. They source all their micas and Fragrance oils from the US. They are resourcefully sourced, cruelty-free and phthalate-free.

Their handmade soaps are made using the traditional method of mixing oils/butter with lye without adding any external heat to maximize the benefits of the butter and oils in the soap. The soaps are prepared in small batches and have monthly releases so that the customers always get the best. Their clients have been very supportive and encouraging throughout their journey and it makes them feel great when their hard work gets acknowledged.

However, Initially, it took them time to convince customers about the benefits of using handmade soaps over store-bought soaps. But when they started using it, they saw the difference in their skin and nowadays people are more aware of the ingredients and social media has also helped create awareness.

Consistency is Key! In Uttara and Nishi’s words- ‘’Anyone who wants to start soap making my only suggestion is to practice, practice and practice. Read more, research more, and be consistent. There are so many soapers out there on YouTube who has such informative channels please go through them thoroughly and try to take as many pointers as possible. And most important is patience. Be it soap making or growth of your business, be consistent, true to your art, and do quality work people will definitely recognize your efforts.’’

Aaina- Reflecting You Harina Kaur Oberoi

The vision and mission of Aaina are to deliver unique and quality earrings at reasonable prices, to convert the passion for earrings into a venture for self, and bring a smile on every individual's face with earrings. Harina personally has over 300 pairs of earrings and always wanted to make them herself to have designs that nobody would have.

This vision encouraged her to start with Aaina and spread happiness across. Her mother and sister helped her at every step and are equal contributors to this venture. It empowers her to be capable of doing everything from scratch and have something of her own that she can proudly call hers.

From creating new designs, working to improve elements, making the whole experience of purchasing to unboxing earrings is memorable. However, Harina had to face a decline in sales because of the pandemic. People are not going on with results in less number of orders or long durations with no orders. However, she is hopeful that with time everything would stabilize and Aaina would run better.

Chase your dreams, it's never too late to do anything for yourself, to convert your passion into reality.

yourself, to convert your passion into reality.

You can read our some more inspirational stories of women leading their own initiatives here.

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