“My mother is a working woman. She started from our drawing room with a 3 man team. Now, she’s got 40 or 50 projects going on at one time. A lot of working women have this feeling that they have not had the opportunity to do the things a non-working mother does for her children. But I’ve grown up seeing her doing incredible things and I want to tell her that she did it right,” says Neha, the co-founder of the Karachi Candle Company. “I am proud to be following in her footsteps.”
Answering your true calling is not easy and Neha has struggled to finally be able to do what she really wants to do. For a start-up, it is a major challenge to transition from the testing-waters to the expansion stage. “We worked for 2 years before even launching the brand with full time jobs on the side just to make sure that we were really happy with what we were doing. So there were a lot of failures along the way. Sometimes I’d feel I am not being taken seriously because I am a woman. Sometimes, our shipment would get delayed and at other times, we’d simply run out of money!” explains Neha. She was a project manager at a reputable firm and was making fantastic progress in her career. But taking that leap from a safe job and a promising financial future to a candle making business that did not have any direction in the beginning but was an idea she loved was a challenge. “After quitting, I saw my team continue to do incredible projects whereas at my end, I was running out of all my savings. The shift from a 9-5 job to working from home meant I had to be my own disciplinarian. There were countless times when my partner and I gave up but eventually optimism would take over and we persevered and those who did not have faith in us at that time finally take us seriously now,” says Neha with pride. She adds that when they started off, they got rejected by all local suppliers and they had to resort to importing their raw materials. Neha realized that was mostly because she is a woman and was instantly considered incompetent. “There was a time when I happened to go with my father and the difference in service was astounding. We never had the problem of being taken seriously by foreign manufacturers because they consider gender less of a factor and quality more when it comes to selling a product. Now that we are doing well, the local producers are coming back to us.”
Neha thinks it’s critical for a woman to be able to stand on your own two feet. This was the very path she had decided to take from her early years, coming from a strong family led by women. She stresses the importance of dual income in this day and age and advises young women to find mentors. “As women, we tend to be shy and undervalue ourselves. We must reach out and ask for help, ask for advice from senior people in our fields.” But, while striving for success, a woman must not forget to take care of herself and pursue hobbies to unwind. “I have a lot of pets, I write on the side, I enjoy my crafts, I like spending time with PS3 and I do childish things to keep myself from getting consumed by intense work demands.” She is certainly correct in believing that sometimes one needs to switch off and then start again the next day.
It is not surprising that the Miracle Moment for the very positive and energetic Neha was the first perfect candle she made. “We called it the alpha and at that moment we felt beyond excited. We knew this little candle could lead the way to brighter ideas,” she says. She had a great time when she was an employee but the gratification you get from doing something of your own is a lot higher. “The joy of making something with your own hands and then seeing people burn those candles that I made in their homes is an indescribable feeling.” It is indeed a beautiful thing when your career and your passion come together. Neha Mashooqullah’s journey shows that when you engage in work that taps your talent and fuels your passion, you are at your best.