A Reassuring Backing for Women Entrepreneurs

Kochi: It is not often that you get to see a group of entrepreneurs set aside some time to come together regularly and discuss challenges and solutions. It is more rare for this informal gathering to grow into an impactful and powerful organisation. And yet, this is the story of the Women Entrepreneurs Network or WEN, a Kochi-based group that aims to encourage and support women-entrepreneurs in the city.

It all started in April 2016 when Pushpy Muricken, a cost accountant and co-founder of PB Muricken and Associates, and Sheila Kochouseph Chittilappilly, founder of V-Star Creations, decided to add a few friends to a WhatsApp group to keep in touch. It then rapidly grew into a group of highly motivated women running their own businesses, hungry to do a lot more. The group was soon formalised as Women Entrepreneurs Network in August last year with its first meeting attended by almost a hundred women.

“Learning and networking are the primary objectives of WEN; It is a community for women, of women and by women,” Pushpy asserts.

“Although the initial response to WEN was overwhelming, we were not sure if the enthusiasm would sustain. After a year, we cannot be more convinced. WEN practically runs by itself. We have never felt the need to push for acceptance or send reminders to members,’’ Sheila chips in. WEN meets up frequently to arrange training sessions and networking opportunities for its members. Active encouragement and support for other members’ businesses is what sets WEN apart from other organisations.

WEN has 21 committee members, all of whom are carefully hand-picked by virtue of their entrepreneurial experience, credibility and diversity of their areas. In addition to Sheila and Pushpy, this list has the who’s who of Kochi’s A-listers – Roopa George of Baby Marine, Maria Abraham of Dhanam Publications, Diwia Thomas of Papertrail, Laila Sudheesh of Allure Dry Cleaning, Diana Silvester of Asianet, Anisha Cherian of Chemmanur Academy & Systems, to name a few. Membership is of two kinds – WEN members who own a business and can produce documentation of the same, and WEN associates who manage businesses, but don’t have paperwork in their names. Women who are yet to start a business can also apply to become a WEN associate. All WEN members unanimously agree that joining WEN has been the best thing to happen to their businesses. We talked to some of them to find out why.

Parvathy owns an online platform known as TasteJet, and specializes in delivering healthy meals sourced from homemakers scattered across Kochi. She believes that healthy eating is becoming top priority for the current generation, and rightly so, in the wake of lifestyle-related ailments gripping our society. WEN membership has given Parvathy access to a premium category of customers and a lot of goodwill for the brand.

CanCare Kochi is a reputed brand in the space of healthcare for the elderly. “We strive to make senior citizens who live alone in the city feel cared for and comforted,” Dr. Sarah Boby Thomas articulates the noble vision of her venture. CanCare provides the elderly with doctor visits, nursing care, lab tests, and help with medical equipment and medicines right in the comfort of their homes. Ever since becoming a WEN member, Dr. Sarah has been reaping the benefits of associating with like-minded women who are at different stages of the entrepreneurial journey. Her biggest takeaway has been the learning opportunities that WEN provides in new-age tools and techniques.

Anju Rani started her small venture of hand-made jewelry way back in 2012. What began as a passion metamorphosed into a sustainable business –AnjoosCollections, that has a group of dedicated customers who place their orders through its modest Facebook page. Anju thanks WEN for the many opportunities that came her way. “It is truly an inspiration to interact with women who have accomplished so much in their lives. As I look up to them, I get motivated to do a lot more,” shares Anju. Thanks to WEN, she is now confident about going ahead with her plans of expanding into an e-commerce site soon. CareerFit 360 is the brainchild of a team of experienced women professionals. They provide students and professionals with the right training and tools to stay relevant in their careers. “The acceptance levels are really low for women who make a regular sales pitch for their businesses. People conclude that we are not efficient. This used to discourage us in the past, but not anymore,” laughs Indu Jayaram, one of the founders of CareerFit 360. Indu just tries harder now, her driving force being the mentorship and guidance she gets from the more experienced members of WEN. She swears by the influence and networking reach of WEN members that won her many business deals.

For Linda Rakhesh, good health is holistic and springs from a harmony of the mind, body and soul. It’s with this vision that she founded RCM Wellness Center offering high quality Ayurvedic healthcare services. “Ever since becoming a WEN member, I have found it easier to acquire customers without aggressive promotion,” Linda says, adding that WEN members often act as her brand ambassadors and spread the word about the business. Her all-natural soap ‘Chandni’ got rave reviews from WEN members, and this provided her with the much-needed nudge to go all out in the market!

WEN has a lot more success-stories to its credit. But more than anything else, it is a solid example of solidarity and sisterhood that the world of entrepreneurship badly needs.

To become a WEN member or associate, write to ‘[email protected]’. Interested women can also get in touch with Pushpy Muricken at +91 98469 32111.