Setbacks young women entrepreneurs face can seem immovable and daunting. But every immovable object invariably meets with an unstoppable force. Meet Jatos Maria Tom, owner of Fab N Sew Garments, and the brand maker of ‘Frills And Bows’ and ‘Milmio’ [For Boys And Girls], Angamali. Maria decided to become an entrepreneur at the queenly age of 20. And the going has been anything but easy, with roadblocks and hurdles raining merrily down on her. But Maria was not one to cow down. HerMoneyTalks caught up with gutsy Maria to partake in her journey of sheer grit and gumption.

As Maria starts talking about herself, she seems to keep pace with the sewing machines dizzily humming all around her. “When I started my career as a business woman, the people around me were confused about my decisions, but I wasn’t. I was single then and have gone through their heart pricking comments on my goals and aspirations.”

Initial setbacks in business

Maria feels women experience a sense of not being accepted when they choose business as their domain. One of the few young women entrepreneurs in her native town of Idukki, the setbacks she experienced were truly disheartening.

Nobody was ready to support her with any advance money as they were skeptical about the product quality and credibility. The barrage of questions that came her way while pledging her own gold strengthened her mental fabric. This was to come in handy later in life.

I took a loan from Khadi Board before marriage. Even after government approval, I have experienced the official’s doubting my worth and ability, on grounds of being a woman.

Accessing loans from banks and getting licenses were a veritable nightmare for Maria. The garment maker has spent a major part of her career in convincing officials. “I took a loan from Khadi Board before marriage. Even after government approval, I have experienced the official’s doubting my worth and ability, on grounds of being a woman.”

“In a highly competitive world, where men fail to pay back their loan money, I am doubtful in trusting you with a huge sum.” This comment from an official gave Maria a body blow when she heard it for the first time. One of the self-made young women entrepreneurs from Kochi, brave Maria convinced the same banker that she can repay. Maria actually went on to repay the entire amount.

Maria’s habit of saving money helped her in surviving during crises. “I come from a normal middle class family from Idukki. Becoming a fashion technology student was beyond our dreams. After getting a job, I saved up every penny for my marriage, but later, I utilized it as capital for my business,” says Maria proudly.

The first customer and the common thread

Maria gets wound up about her first customer. “When I began, I had to run a hostel and a business outlet together, as my 5 female employees stayed with me. Their food, stay, health issues, salary, and the expenses to buy the fabric were all arranged by me. The inability in finding a reliable customer was the greatest challenge that I faced as an entrepreneur.”

If there’s a common thread that Maria’s failures have, it’s that they’ve made her only stronger. She still remembers the day she left home and began a garment stitching unit in Aluva. “Those days were truly frantic with no sleep, long working hours, cooking for my staff, and marketing products all alone.”

When I entered the shop, huge bundles of dresses thrown at me. The owner showered unforgettable insults, yelling that I am a failure.

With great expectation, she gave her products to a newly opened shop in Perumbavoor. Her heart melted with happiness for the first time as she received a call from the owner. “With a confident smile and dreaming about my hard earned money, I visited the customer. When I entered the shop, huge bundles of dresses thrown at me. The owner showered unforgettable insults, yelling that I am a failure. This shattered all my strength and hopes,” Maria explains her struggles.

Stitching financial decisions

Lack of government support, difficulty in rolling money, and the pressure from the banks to increase turnover were her other challenges. Proper planning on stitching and marketing of kid’s dresses has helped her in sustaining the profits. “My mother, brother and my husband are my constant supporters in business. I grew up seeing my mother’s efficient management of money, talent, and household chores,” sighs Maria.

Her mother’s money management strategies gave Maria’s entrepreneurial skills a new texture. Today, Maria is a successful profit spinner, with a good turnover. Her money hacks include:

(1) reduction of consumption

(2) incorporation of highly skilled staffs to increase profits

(3) expert allocation of raw materials

(4) efficient rolling of money during crisis times

“Don’t panic and stop fighting for your dreams” says Maria, as we fold up an engaging session with an indomitable spirit. Be like Maria. Be unstoppable. And live your life your way!