How this CA quit her job and launched a a profitable E- Commerce store - Gifting Wardrobe

 

  • Hi, I am Astha Jalan a qualified Chartered Accountant from India and founder of the e-commerce story Gifting Wardrobe.
  • After qualifying as a CA, I started as a fresher at EY in the Transfer Pricing team. However, while working at EY, I realized that I was looking for something else. I quit my job randomly without anything in hand or in mind!
  • The entire journey of trying to figure out what NEXT, encouraged me to pursue my passion for curating beautiful gifts and that is when Gifting Wardrobe was born.
  • In this article, Astha I am sharing my journey of how I was successful in starting an e-commerce store.

Becoming a Chartered Accountant

My plan was never to become a Chartered Accountant.

While in class 12, a friend of mine was preparing for the CA Entrance exams. She randomly asked me if I would be interested in doing the same, I said yes and went ahead with the exam. Here started my CA journey!

I am really creative since childhood. Putting a smile on someone’s face with a nice personalized gift always made me feel great (and still does!).

Looking at my gifts, my friends would approach me to make gifts for their friends and family. And that’s how I started getting orders. I loved what I did so it was never a burden.

While in college and even during my CA internship I would manage my gifting side hustle post office or on weekends.

Coming to my CA journey, I cleared the first two levels of CA Exams from ICAI easily but failed in the CA Final exams

I somehow gained the strength and confidence to appear for the CA Final exams one last time. I studied for only 2 months this time and cleared my exams on the second attempt.

I am so thankful that I appeared for the exams and did not quit CA.

Managed a part-time business while working full time at EY

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I got an opportunity at EY, Mumbai (India) in their Transfer Pricing team. Getting into Transfer Pricing in a Big Accounting firm was a dream come true.

After joining EY, I continued my gifting side business easily. I would take limited orders which I could manage during my free time or during weekends! In fact, while working at EY pursuing my passion for gifting was so refreshing. (I would encourage each one of you to pursue a passion you love even if you are super busy).

However, during the busy tax season at EY, I would limit my gifting work and concentrate only on office work.

Luckily, since I have been doing this side hustle right through college and CA internship I knew the gifting business/ work in and out.

I just thought of it as a fun venture which brings me some extra cash and starting my full-fledged gifting business was never my plan.

Quit my Transfer Pricing job and took a 7 months break to set up my business 

EY provided me with great learnings and opportunities. I considered myself super lucky to get into this profile early in my career. However, while working at EY, I realized that I was looking for something else.

I quit my job randomly without anything in hand or in mind! Now you will be wondering if I Quit my job to start my online store? The answer is NO. In short, I did not know what I wanted to do next so I thought taking a short break would help me figure things out.

In the meanwhile (like always), I would take small orders to curate gifts for others. Like there was no plan to start a website or make this gifting side hustle of mine into a full-fledged business.

A few months later I met my mentor, told her I was clueless on the career front. She knew about my gifting side hustle and suggested that I should give a few months of dedicated time to my Gifting side hustle and see if it worked well for me.

Since I had a fair idea about the gifting industry and about the growth it has, I decided to explore that segment.

Also, when working at EY, I observed that many of my friends had the will and capacity to buy gifts for their family and friends but they had no time.

And that’s how  Gifting Wardrobe was born - to make professional and corporate people’s life easier when it comes to Gifting.

Dealing with noise around me

Everyone told me I was CRAZY to get into something like this. Friends and relatives mentioned that since I am a Chartered Accountant, I should work as a Chartered Accountant only. They were of the opinion that I worked so hard to become a Chartered Accountant and I should continue with the same.

Some people also told me NOT to do it full time and pursue it as a hobby or a side hustle like earlier!

However, when I started working towards it full-time I realized it actually made me happy and was a great business.

I knew that setting up a whole new business needs a lot of time and constant effort and I was mentally prepared for it.

Luckily my parents have been supportive and never doubted my capabilities. My close friends also supported and motivated me to do what I like.

Honestly, working with EY was way more simple than starting my own business. But I knew if I could stay up all night to complete my assignments at EY, why not stay up all night and work for my own business.

Starting with limited savings and creating an e-commerce store

When I quit my job, I had around $8,000 (around INR 3- 4 lacs) in my bank account.

There were days where I would wonder what if all my savings got over? I even panicked a few times when I had to invest to stock goods. There were times where a few items were slow-moving and that would really scare me.

But somewhere I always had faith that I would easily recover my investment and yes, I did so!

I also knew my CA backup was strong enough to support me to earn money again if at all anything went wrong.

I have to mention that how much money you need initially completely depends on the nature of your business. For an e-commerce business model like mine, a saving of $ 8k was more than enough.

Growing the business

 Initially, I focussed on recovering my variable costs. 

Initially, when I started working on Gifting Wardrobe it was super hectic. But I knew, in the end, my hard work would be recognized.

The whole journey started in December 2017 when I quit my job at Ernst & Young (EY). During the period from Dec'17 to Feb'18, I had nothing in mind.

I started Gifting Wardrobe Instagram page in Feb'18 and had no clue that I would land up launching my website in July 2018.

So, this is what I did when I started Gifting Wardrobe as a full-fledged business:

  • I calculated my opportunity cost as compared to my salary at EY.
  • And I started setting goals to say like a minimum of 100 orders every month.

It was tough to meet my target initially but somehow I started working harder and harder towards it and started achieving my goals. There were times where I would not get a min of 100 orders per month. But I kept pushing.

Also at times, I would take orders from a few big clients even if my profit margin was not much.

We also did bulk corporate orders, some of them even cost to cost. The goal was to always keep serving. It helped in marketing as well. So, if not monetary growth we looked upon long-term brand growth as well.

Getting the first few clients was the most challenging task.

Today some of our top corporate clients include Shein India, AT Academy, Icekraft etc.

Questions I get asked often.

"How many orders did I get in my first month of business?"

  • During our first month as Gifting Wardrobe luckily we had one bulk order and a few small ones. The first month I had a total of 35 orders.
  • At times we get 100/ 200 orders per month. We have also seen months with 250 orders.
  • Diwali 2018 was our first season period as Gifting Wardrobe and we made amazing profits.
  • Yes in between we did face a month with only 10 orders as that month I was engaged in sourcing of products and building my e-commerce store's website in detail.

"What is my cost of running an E-commerce store?"

  • To start with an e-commerce store, the most important thing is the Website.
  • The website might cost you around $3500 (approx INR 1.5-2 lakhs) along with GST and accounting software (more details below!).
  • So, depending on the country you belong to, you will need software to keep your taxes in place.
  • The website also needs monthly maintenance and that will cost you around - $100 – $175 per month.
  • Since I have started my e-commerce business with my own money, all the money I earn goes back into the business.
  • Luckily, we have been getting so many offers from Investors. However, we are yet to find that investor who shares the passion for gifting as we do!

In Conclusion...

Starting your own business means - You have no backup, no security of constant income inflow. It all depends on how you work and stay strong.

One simple thing I would like to tell what I believe is especially for Chartered Accountants / CPA's is that we can risk and try to pursue our ideas and passion easily.

I say this because CA as a qualification can help you bounce back if at all anything goes wrong.

When I left my job and started working towards Gifting Wardrobe I had various thoughts running through my mind.

To mention a few - Like what if my venture did not work out, or what if I lag behind in my career, etc. However, I was never scared of failure. I was more scared of not trying what I wanted to do. You can never know the outcome unless you try

Gifting Wardrobe's most successful and popular gifting range are Gifts for Chartered Accountants especially its CA Hamper, CA in Making Hamper, customized desk decor, and leather diary. They are also known for their bridal hampers, baby hampers, and quirky products with clients US, Dubai, and Singapore. 

Now it is your turn

Astha Jalan is more than happy to guide you. You can connect to her at asthajalan5@gmail.com.

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