- Urban Vibes is a home-based business started by Gaayathri Prabakaran in 2016 that specialises in handcrafted designer clutch purses.
- The business is run through an online store, with some occasional appearances at pop-up markets. Each clutch purse sells for around the RM200 price range.
Many dream, some with grand plans, some with meeker aspirations. But while many sit idly on their ambitions, only a few take steps towards realising their dreams. Gaayathri Prabakaran is one of the latter.
In 2015, Gaayathri—who holds a Masters in Development Studies—quit her job and a long break without incident followed. This carried on until she became pregnant and had her son in 2016. During the following months she spent as a stay-at-home mother, she pondered over her life and what could be.
Editor’s Note: The previous paragraph has been edited to clarify Gaayathri’s educational studies.
“I did a bit more research and decided to go on a new adventure’,” she said. “And that’s how it all started.”
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Today, Gaayathri runs Urban Vibes, a small side business that sells handmade statement clutch purses and more recently, designer natural stone earrings.
On Learning The Business
Gaayathri recounted the time when she noticed a gap in the market for both casual and formal handmade clutches and decided to pounce on the opportunity.
“I curated the first collection and shared it with the public,” she recounted. “I’ve always loved artsy stuff, so being able to do that through Urban Vibes was pretty cool!”
Currently, Gaayathri runs Urban Vibes as a home-based enterprise, with clutches sold through an online store or at the occasional pop-up bazaar. The clutches fall around the price of RM200 each, give or take.
Speaking about the early days, Gaayathri noted her complete lack of know-how in running a business.
“I had no knowledge or experience and really didn’t know where or how to start,” she said. “All I knew was that I wanted to create a lifestyle brand and not just sell a product.”
Luckily, Gaayathri had support from her immediate family members, most notably her husband and mother.
“With this being a home-based business, the initial setup cost was solely to purchase products,” she said. “The capital was mainly from my savings, generously topped up by my husband and mother.”
“I started the company in 2016, but only got the business going in 2017,” she added.
“Once I slowly established the business, I looked into setting up a website, the packaging for the products, and participating in bazaars.”
Down The Right Path
Speaking on the milestones of her business, Gaayathri highlighted the time one of her clutches was auctioned off for around RM2.1k at a charity event.
“We got to know that Pintar Foundation was planning for a charity event in November last year,” she said. “Coincidentally, we were in the midst of designing four limited edition clutches for Christmas.”
“Hence, we thought it was a great opportunity to give back to the community,” she added.
“We presented Dato’ Sri Siti Nurhaliza with a clutch handcrafted with mother of pearl and it was auctioned off during the event.”
With her business still relatively new, Gaayathri is just thankful to be able to be relevant in the community, and counts every small achievement as a milestone—from gaining followers on Instagram and Facebook, to having people search them out at bazaars.
“We also did a stint in Singapore during Christmas and the response was great,” she said.
Taking It Step By Step
To date, Gaayathri says that her business has sold a couple of hundred clutches, and was keen to share some of the lessons learned along the way—the first being the amount of effort required to set up a business.
“I had underestimated the amount of work that goes into setting up a business online,” she said. “It sure takes a lot of planning, executing and, monitoring.”
It was also particularly challenging for her to balance starting up her business with taking care of her then nine-month-old son.
“At that time, it felt as if I had two ‘babies’ to take care of, and it was overwhelming,” she said. “But I could not balance both equally.”
“Raising my son took precedence over everything else.”
Gaayathri said that she only time she got to fully concentrate on taking care of her business was when her son was asleep, and noted how this clashed with her preference to have full control over her own schedule, such as planning her social media content over the week.
“When that doesn’t happen, I get a bit overwhelmed,” she said. “So it was hard for me to set aside time to do my stuff as I went along with my son’s schedule.”
Eventually, Gaayathri learned to put things in perspective, and is now able to better juggle between her business and parental duties.
“I still feel guilty leaving my little one at home, even if he is in the care of his grandparents,” she said. “But I’m slowly getting over it as he grows older.”
Through it all, Gaayathri drew inspiration from her parents, who she described as self-made people.
“My mum has strong leadership characteristics and is wise when it comes to decision making, and my dad built his medical practice from scratch to what it is today,” she said.
“I always tell myself that I must have the same quality somewhere in me and that I can be successful in anything that I do.”
“These two people gave me everything that I needed to be successful in life, so my success is theirs as well.”
On the future of Urban Vibes, Gaayathri said that there are plans to expand her current collection.
“I love playing around with different textures and materials, so you can keep expecting something new and different always,” she said.
“Besides, we make it a point to create new designs for all major festivals in Malaysia—so look out for our upcoming festive collections!”
For now, Gaayathri is just thankful for the warm reception that Urban Vibes has received, and always looks upon the day she decided to pursue her own ambitions with fondness.
“From here on out, we will always need the support of people to keep growing,” she added. “Without them we wouldn’t be here.”
“I believe starting out on my own has been the best decision because it gave me the flexibility in terms of time and the freedom to control my life.”
Feature Image Credit: Urban Vibes