A success story of Cheryl and Denise: From Rs 500 to Rs 25 lakh!

Two years back when her daughter Denise asked Cheryl Huffton to quit her job as a school
teacher of 16 years to start her own enterprise, she was shocked and more than a little worried.
After several fights and lots of tears, the daughter convinced her mother to launch their own
enterprise.

Dream Weavers started with just Rs 500 and a lot of dreams. Dream Weaver makes eco-friendly
textiles. They design and make bras, panties, aprons, and other items used in spas, beauty
parlours, et cetera, using eco-friendly disposable material. These are for one-time use.
They have also plans to design and make gowns and other operation theatre supplies needed in
hospital on the same material.
Cheryl and Denise are also event mangers. The enterprise had a turnover of Rs 12 lakh (Rs 1.2
million) last year, which has now burgeonedto Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million). Now, the new
entrepreneurs’ dream is to capture the international market. Here is their unusual story in Cheryl’s words and how they made it:

Doing business the right way
Our next move was to get all the required papers from the government. I was very particular
that we have everything in order so that nobody could find fault with our business in future.
It is true we had to make several trips to various government offices to get all the paperwork
done. I had till then been happy and comfortable just sitting in a classroom teaching small
children.

Starting with Rs 500

We are a middle class family; we didn’t have thousands of rupees at our disposal to start a
business. All we could put in was Rs 500 initially.
We bought one sewing machine on instalments and put it in our house. We bought a few metres
of material at a very high price. We didn’t have money to buy a full roll.

After Prema, my first real employee was Devi who had lost her husband in an accident and she
had two children to take care of. She had just started taking training in cutting and stitching when
I met her but I decided to have her as my tailor. It was my daughter who taught her to design, cut
and stitch.

We decided that we would make something unique. That is how my daughter designed bras,
panties, aprons, and other items used in spas, beauty parlours, etc. It is hygienic to have
disposable, eco-friendly materials at these places.

Visits to get customers
With the items we made, we started visiting various beauty parlours in the city. I must say that
turned out to be the most difficult part of our business. Out of ten parlours we visited, only two
agreed to meet us.

We were often insulted and humiliated at many places. We were not even allowed to meet the
owners by the receptionists. Though disappointed, we didn’t lose heart.

We went on visiting parlours with our products. We begged many people to just see our
products. We told them we ourselves made the products and employed less-fortunate women.
We told them that by buying the products, they would be helping the poor women too.

Our first client was a beauty parlour in Alwarpet in Chennai and we got them in the second
month of our starting the business. Our sales in the first month were to the tune of Rs 5,000. I was very happy because we had put in only Rs 500. We bought a second-hand power machine
with the money and kept it in the corner of our verandah.
Help from BYST
The Confederation of Indian Industry directed us to BYST (Bharatiya Yuva Sakti Trust) started
by Lakshmi Venkatesan. I must say that BYST was a great help to us, encouraging us and
putting us on to D K Raju as our mentor.
I must thank BYST for the conferences they arranged and it has helped me, a non-business
person, to be a businesswoman. I don’t miss any of their meetings and conferences.
With a recommendation from BYST, we got a loan of Rs 2.5 lakh (Rs 250,000) from the Indian
Bank. I then bought three more machines.

Less-fortunate women work at Dream Weavers
I then looked around for women in the neighbourhood who were suffering and employed them.
We were very sure that we would employ only underprivileged people.
Sheeba had wanted to commit suicide with her two children after her husband dumped her. We
employed her though she didn’t know anything about stitching. She was taught stitching by
another lady and, now, she is a very good tailor.

Big companies as clients, too
By October, we started getting calls from a few beauty parlours. I was surprised when the first
call came.

Today, we have eight machines and 12 women working on a regular basis and another 10
women who work on a non-regular basis. We plan to start a training centre for the less-fortunate
women.

We have more than 50 small clients and 15 big clients, including Ayush of Hindustan Lever,
Cholayil Sanjeevanam, et cetera. I supply to all the branches of Ayush and Sanjeevanam.
Now the sales to the big clients are worth nearly Rs 2 lakh (Rs 200,000) every month.
Our sales kept on increasing and last year, it almost touched Rs 12 lakh. This year it has more
than doubled.

Exports to Dubai
While on a visit to Dubai, my daughter got some clients like Chanakya who gives us orders for
G-string panties, Unisex panties, etc. I am glad that I have obtained my import-export license
too. My daughter is mostly stationed in Dubai these days to market our products. Her dream is to
take our products to the international market.

Dream for Dream Weavers
Though all of us have worked hard, day and night, we didn’t expect our company to grow so
much in two years. BYST has recommended us for the Prince Charles award for
entrepreneurship and we are one of the three companies shortlisted worldwide for the award.
With hard work, I know we will reach greater heights!
Our dream is to help the less-fortunate women and with us growing; we know we will be able to
help more such women.