‘One’s core values and especially ones backstories should always align for a business to have a soul.’ says Tanushri Sharma Attal, Founder & CEO of Steeple Furniture, a boutique custom furniture & décor studio, based out of Aurangabad & Pune. An MBA from Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, Tanushri knew very early on that she had to listen to her heart and live her passions through her work. Read on to know more about her career journey as an young woman leader & creative entrepreneur, the challenges and lessons she learnt along the way & the mantras that keep her treading her chosen path with a cool sense of panache.
1. Tell us a bit about your journey into the furniture business space and the history & span of your work. What made you leave a stable corporate job to venture into setting up Steeple? What were the challenges and high points?
My journey from the corporate world to the business sphere is more serendipitous than planned. I have always been fascinated by beautiful homes and décor! While doing up our first home, my husband and I struggled to find furniture pieces that we were looking for. Furniture stores we visited were drab, with rows and rows of soulless furniture, just kept there without any aesthetic appeal. Imported furniture neither had warranty nor guarantee (we were unsure of the kind of material that was used) nor did the pieces match our specifications. We were looking for someone who could understand our functional, ergonomic and aesthetic requirements and create tailor-made pieces for us. This propelled us to get in touch with Indian furniture exporters and other smaller unknown manufacturers and craftsmen across the country. We finally got the right furniture made for our home and were completely blown away with the quality of Indian made furniture pieces and equally impressed with the Indian artisans. Experiencing this glaring gap in the market and finding a solution, helped us devise a business plan; we scouted for the right partners and set up a boutique studio in my husband’s hometown Aurangabad, Maharashtra for customized furniture and curated décor products. This space was ideated not just to give the clients a customized interior solution but also make their experience joyful.
I think the humdrum of a 9 to 5 job had gotten to me and the very idea of spending the rest of my life working in silos was quite a daunting prospect. Changing that very status quo propelled me to think of starting something on my own.
One of the biggest challenges I foresaw was being a woman in this primarily male dominated industry of furniture manufacturing and interiors. When you are new in this space it takes double the time to convince people that you are here for a long run and to do some serious work.
That said, the high points have been many. As a company we have gone from strength to strength growing in various facets and delivering projects we are really proud of.
2. Share with us the impact you are making in this area?
In this age of mass production, we pride ourselves on our custom service; creating made-to-measure pieces that adhere to our clients’ specifications. We help our clients create homes that are reflection of themselves, making spaces that are as unique as family’s stories and journeys.
3. How do you manage work-life balance as an entrepreneur?
I think work- life balance has to be a conscious decision for entrepreneurs. We forget to switch off and especially being a start-up, initially you are running all the various functions on your own. For me this realization came after a burn-out when I started continuously dreaming of work. That’s when I started taking weekly days off and also slowly started hiring specialists and outsourcing couple of the in- house functions.
4. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur?
I think while we should be focused on the bottom line, we should not forget why we started our businesses in the first place. One’s core values and especially ones backstories should always align for a business to have a soul. For example, we started Steeple keeping in mind the need for a brand that could create beautiful, high quality, unique and prized pieces for homes. This has been our philosophy all through. So whatever products we make, we do not mass produce to cut costs, nor do we cut corners just to make that extra buck, always keeping our clients interest above everything else.
5. What kind of a mental make-up does one need to succeed in your line of work?
I think what has helped me the most is maintaining great relations with my clients and social networks. I think our line of business works the most on word of mouth and referrals. So, delivering a satisfactory product, after sales service and managing client expectations, all become vital for us.
6. As compared to an office where there are big teams and lots of peers and leaders, in your space it could get a little isolated every now and then. How do you keep yourself motivated?
One of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur is to keep yourself motivated to keep going. You have to be your biggest cheerleader and the toughest critic, & that doesn’t come easy.
Also, I feel that when you have started something from scratch, you start by doing everything by yourself. But eventually, as you start growing, delegation becomes extremely important. Delegating work to the right team member and not ending up doing it yourself, is quite challenging but extremely important.
7. What are your top qualities that have worked for you in your career?
Those would be:
My innate aesthetic sense, that I discovered along the way
People skills really help in any business sphere
Also, perseverance is something that is an imperative being an entrepreneur as it is not always a smooth ride.
8. Share any one or two stories or milestones from your career that have been transformational for you & why?
The first one would be taking up on a bungalow project that was being designed by a leading architect, we hadn’t taken up anything of this magnitude. This particular project helped us scale up in many ways.
The second one was starting Steeple’s second brand experience centre in Pune city. We have been catering to client’s across the country for a while now. But, with the response we were getting, we felt that this was the right time for our brand to expand and start another studio. It was both a challenging experience and one that we grew from, given the curve ball the pandemic threw our way.
9. Sustainability & Mindfulness, how do these words relate to your line of work?
We strongly believe in the ethos of sustainable living. Our products, being handcrafted from the best of the natural materials, makes our pieces last long. These pieces can be reused, refurbished and find space in your new homes as well. They bringing us a step closer to sustainable and environment friendly living.
10. What’s one quote you live by? Do share a piece of advice for young women leaders.
I read somewhere long back – “The only two things you are in control of are your attitude & your effort”. This quote has stuck to me, because while life can be pretty unpredictable, it is the way you deal with those uncertainties that makes those formative moments that propel you towards greater things.
Though I think I am not still that old to impart wisdom, I would like to mention couple of things I have learnt through this sometimes treacherous yet most beautiful journey of being an entrepreneur. I truly believe, persistent effort is what is the tipping point between good and great. The big things done once in a while do not matter, what adds up are those tiny steps or sometimes even that trudge you take every day, each day takes you closer to your goal; however small or big it may be.
Also, I have realized that you feel like quitting the most when you are closest to the finish line, just like that last few seconds of a-minute-long plank. Lastly, hustle hard and have fun with it; but when that passion starts to fade, take a step back. Just like in any marriage you might need to rekindle the romance with your work!
Loved that last tip Tanushri! Couldn’t agree more. Wishing you continued success in your future endeavours as you see Steeple grow far & wide, creating dazzling precious pieces for homes.
To know more, check out https://www.instagram.com/steeple_furniture/