Celebrating female entrepreneurs

Amidst a pandemic and lockdown a few months ago, Hatch launched their “Kickass Bootcamp”, a month-long business development programme to support female founders and entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka. The bootcamp has come a long way since its inception mere five months ago, with three series completed and 30 female entrepreneurs in its alumni making a strong network of women who are making change across different parts of Sri Lanka.

Joining us on the third leg of the bootcamp were female founders from various areas of businesses including DV+Co. Architecture, an architectural design consultancy and project management services company; Butterfly Effect Training Partners, a personal growth and grooming start-up; The Cake Box and Platter It Up, two food-based businesses; Shoba Garments, a second-generation clothing manufacturing company; and Candle House Ceylon, Kikasho Twins, Yoga With Aisha, and Apé, all of which are lifestyle brands.

Here’s some deep-dive insights into what they had to say about three things: How their start-up has survived the Covid-19 crisis so far, how they promote their brand on social media, and what were their burning questions addressed through the bootcamp.

Sustaining a family business during trying times

Speaking on the company’s growth since the completion of the bootcamp, Shobija Luxmikanthan, who is now managing her mother’s company, Shoba Garments based in Vavuniya, said their objective was to survive the outcomes of the coronavirus.

“Keeping our social media activities during the pandemic lockdown was essential. I regularly advertised on Facebook and Instagram and kept my followers updated on the new designs we were working on, so that we didn’t lose momentum. I also targeted niche customer segments which helped me generate new orders. The Kickass Bootcamp also helped me look into the prospects of expanding into the local market by collaborating with well-established brands for a higher reach.”

Sometimes a pandemic means a new start

This statement is true to Aisha Wahab and Himali de Silva who started Yoga With Aisha and Apé, respectively, during the time of the pandemic.

Aisha founded an online yoga class by putting her hobbies into use to keep herself occupied during the pandemic early this year. Aisha grew her platform through Instagram by posting relevant content and creating a strong brand through visuals. What started and continued to be an online-based class, Aisha soon learned through the bootcamp that if she wants to sustain her business, she will have to switch from a virtual model to an in-person class, which she will begin in September 2020.

Himali founded Apé during the start of the lockdown. Tired with the linear consumption, Himali aims to educate and transform people towards adopting a circular economy. Apé predominantly uses Instagram and currently functions as a virtual marketplace. Himali said the bootcamp helped educate her on previously unthought areas of her business as well as refine her business model for longevity.

Transforming businesses over time

Bhagya Iddamalgoda of Candle House Ceylon has been having a successful candle business for the past few years, using Facebook and Instagram to market her products. However, after joining the Kickass Bootcamp, she mentioned that after a few years of running a business, she needed guidance on changing and navigating the next phase of her business, which included managing her finances and social media as well as streamlining her operational activities.

“The Kickass Bootcamp helped me understand the business landscape as a whole and I have since taken steps to get necessary certifications and contracts in place when dealing with both B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) transactions.”

Nima Faiz, who runs Platter It Up, another entrepreneur who has been in her line of work for over a year, had to share the same experience at Bhagya. “I was confused regarding where my business was headed in the long term, hiring, and general finances.

Kickass really cleared things up for me because I never had a business plan, and I never really gave much thought about finances on a deeper level or my business in general in that much depth. Kickass made me take a step back and analyse my business in a way that I’ve never done before. From managing social media and thinking about growth to making finances less scary.”

Connecting with your audience through authenticity

A trend that was seen during the pandemic was the growing demand for cakes and confectionaries as people were spending lockdown in their homes. Murshida Iqbal, the Founder and Owner of The Cake Box based in Kandy, is positive that her business would sustain since her business is based on catering to those who have a sweettooth and would like to indulge in some sweetness occasionally.

Murshida manages her own social media as she sees herself as the best person to put into words the love and effort that goes into baking her cakes. She states that her photography skills need improvement, and the bootcamp taught her how to manage her finances and also measure her social media growth.

Kithmi Weerantunga runs Kikasho by Twins with her twin sister Kalasi. Their Instagram resonates with the authenticity of the twins, and since the pandemic, the twins have been even keener on building a business that resonates with the love and warmth they try to provide through their venture.

The twins said they leverage their brand through social media, especially by putting out visually creative posts and collaborating with influencers who would add value to their business. The twins said the bootcamp helped them a lot in terms of managing their finances.

There is space for everyone

Tiza De Vas, who owns and runs DV+Co. Architecture, mentioned: “As a consultation style business, skill, knowledge, and experience are large components of what we offer here at DV+Co, all of which is qualitative, which still needs a quantifiable way of being priced. Kickass brought us the principles and tools that we could apply when building a sustainable pricing strategy.”

The final participants of the bootcamp were Fazla Razak and Ranmali Wickramasinghe of Butterfly Effect Training Partners. Faz and Ran commended the pandemic, which inspired them to open up their social media pages for the business. They commended the programme for giving them the foresight needed to expand into different markets and regions as well as on utilising social media to market themselves.

Applications are now open for Kickass Series 4

The Kickass Bootcamp will be starting its fourth series in September 2020. If you are a female entrepreneur and feel like a little extra guidance and being a part of an amazing group of women wouldn’t hurt, then write to and apply now!