Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from Jen Lee Koss and Kena Paranjape, the talented ladies behind BRIKA. With years of business experience behind them and an eagerness to start their own companies, Jen and Kena decided to embark on a creative business adventure together. Their passion for the handmade world and storytelling eventually merged into the recently launched BRIKA, and today these biz ladies share their story with us. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your business journey! —Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
We both have always wanted to do something entrepreneurial and in many ways were waiting for the right time to take the plunge. We were both nearing an ideal time in our lives to commit to a business when we met each other. Once we had found our ideal business partner, it was almost like we HAD to do it!
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
We were both working full time when we decided to start working on something together. So we started meeting once a week at a coffee shop before work to brainstorm ideas. Then we’d spend time after work researching and thinking through ideas and meet back again the following week. Ultimately the idea for BRIKA came from a combination of our passions and experience and what we saw as a gap in the market.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
Jen and I both have strong business backgrounds with over twenty years of experience between us and an MBA each, but neither of us had run our own business before. The best advice we received when we started on this journey was to MAKE IT HAPPEN. A business plan is necessary and great, but you won’t get a sense of what works and what doesn’t until you take action.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
I think sharing with your friends and family that you’re leaving a safe, steady corporate job for the “risky” life of an entrepreneur is a big hurdle for a lot of first time entrepreneurs. Once you’ve made the decision for yourself, the next question becomes, what will ______think? Explaining why you are choosing to start your own business is a great exercise in itself – it forces you to think logically and rationally about your decision.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
The biggest lesson we’ve learned is to say YES to opportunities and figure out exactly how we’re going to do it later. If we’d spent days analyzing every opportunity instead of saying yes to them, we probably wouldn’t have had the successes we’ve had to date. If you have confidence in your abilities and those of your team, you have to trust that you will figure it out as you go.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
We once said “yes” to pitching our business to an angel investor group without knowing too much about the individuals we were pitching to. Jen and I believe strongly in what we’re doing, so 99% of the time, audiences we speak with catch our enthusiasm and passion too! Well, on this occasion, because we didn’t properly assess who our audience was, we only got a bunch of blank stares! We still laugh about that today :)
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
Our greatest success is the team we’ve built. Most of our team started off as unpaid interns who we’ve now hired. They are incredibly passionate, creative and dedicated. We think it says so much that they’ve come along with us on this journey and share our vision for BRIKA.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. Question WHY you want to start a business. It’s important to understand your own motives. For Jen and I, the focus was on building a creative company that reflected our values.
2. Do your research. We spent months understanding the market, getting to know potential competitors and defining our customer in order to determine how we were going to do it differently.
3. Find a great partner. Jen and I both say that we probably wouldn’t have started BRIKA if we hadn’t met each other. Even if you are launching your own business, it helps to have someone (a mentor or fellow business owner) that you can bounce ideas off of, brainstorm with, and call when you’re having a tough day. Starting a business is so incredibly fulfilling but it is also life-changing. It helps to know you’re not going at it alone!