Inspired by the strong women in her life, Puja Malhotra jumped into her dream job. The Toronto resident has over 10 years of experience in design and communications and founded Vibrance Designs, a couture stationary studio. The creative go-getter shares how she went from a nine to five to also launching Roop Creative Agency, a branding boutique that helps entrepreneurs market their businesses to make their own dreams a reality.
What challenges were there in starting your own business?
It sounds so easy to leave the cookie cutter lifestyle and start running your own business, but I stood in my own way a lot. Getting past my doubts was the biggest challenge. Once I did that, it was just a matter of setting a plan. I think this is where people go wrong. Passion is great and you need it, but you have to be ready to hustle and work hard every day. When I started my own business, I knew it was going to be work, but you are still not 100 per cent sure how much.
Tell us how you chose the name Roop?
When my grandmother passed away, I wanted to honour her and to let her name live on. Roop Rani Malhotra was a strong woman, a feminist before her time. She had gone through the partition of her country, lived in a world with no electricity, became a widow at a young age and still persevered and became stronger everyday. She somehow managed to raise five children and set them all up for success.
My grandmother, Roop Rani Malhotra was part of a generation that only understood certain career choices like doctors, lawyers or engineers. She wanted me to be a doctor. When I studied fashion communication she was a bit confused, even though my parents were super supportive. I always felt like she never understood me and what I did until one day I overheard her chatting with her best friend in Punjabi, “Sister, I don’t fully know what Puja does, but that girl works really, really hard. That’s what I’m proud of.”.
I wanted my company Roop Creative Agency to stand for strong, independent women like her. To empower them and help them get their message around the world, regardless of where they come from. In Hindi, the name Roop also translates to form, appearance and beauty. What drives me everyday it that my clients trust me to manage their brand’s “roop”.
Where do you come up with your ideas?
You truly have to get to know the client on a deeper level. For me this relationship helps drive the idea generator in my head. So I get to know my clients on a personal level so that I can truly be their brands voice. The creative process involves my first creating a simple mood board with lots of ideas through scribbles, doodles and notes. Somehow when I sit and stare at this, ideas just come to me. It’s hard to explain but it’s somewhat magical.
What inspires you?
When I’m struggling I ask myself what I would want the generations to come to think of me? It makes me strive to build a stronger voice for myself. Especially when I get to meet young women who are told arts aren’t profitable. I take that personally and want to not only help them prove everyone wrong, but to be a part of that movement. The generations of women CEOs before me and after me will always inspire me to push forward, stay strong and build my empire.
What do you love the most about what you do?
I get to meet so many people with different businesses at different levels. Some small, others national and some international. Watching their products launch and pitching social media campaigns gives me a high in knowing that I have helped these entrepreneurs get to their attained bottom line. Everyday is a new challenge.
What is a typical day like for you?
I usually try to wake up at 7 a.m., see my husband off to work, do a quick meditation and yoga session, then have breakfast while reading, listening to a podcast or watching a quick episode of my favourite Netflix show. Then I step into my office, organize the projects for the day by deadlines and then check a list of everything we have on the go. After emails, that’s when I usually go into my meetings or creation time. I also take breaks every so often to go for a walk, run an errand or just have a quick chat with a girlfriend. I try my best to keep studio hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. After that it’s me time. I think over the years the balance of keeping space for my personal life has become very important. When I started respecting my time, so did my clients. It made for even better business.
What made you fall in love with art?
Art has always been a part of my life growing up just like math and science. One of my first experiences with art was drawing a circle. My mom was reviewing our homework and she made me re-draw everything because, “I would never know how to be an artist if I didn’t put some effort into it”. You could even say I was born with a love for art, it was just a matter of cracking it open further.
What are your thoughts about South Asian women going into the creative field?
We need more! When I entered the creative world, there were hardly any South Asian women perusing the arts. Today I see so many and it makes my heart happy. I think as women, especially in North America, we are given a chance to change perspectives and live our dreams. So don’t take that for granted. Dive in and chase your dreams. If you want something, go get it and never let the colour of your skin or the community you were born into stop that. Over the years my network of successful South Asian women who are happy to support each other has grown. Keep cheering for each other. That’s the only way we will all be successful.