“For a winning image you should be fabulous and carry yourself with confidence, attitude and grace!” says Sonika Shah, the founder of Brand and Image Studio. She is a personal branding specialist, an image consultant, a transformation coach, a corporate trainer, a keynote speaker, an anchor, a soft skills trainer, and the list goes on. So good at what she does she managed to bag the Power Woman Award on Women’s Day for her work as an image consultant.
KYE: What was your motivation behind starting your own studio?
Sonika: I have been working as an image consultant for the last 10 years and my studio has been working in the same field for the last 5 years. In the process, I realized people don’t always have a place where they can open up or a place that is very non-judgemental. So we created this studio, which is a counseling place, a consulting zone, a make-over section, a training room, and my work zone where we carry out all these functions under one roof. It was conceptualized 5 years back because conducting meetings at a coffee shop for every session didn’t work for all my clients. I needed one place where all the above activities could be catered to in a very concise and more precisely need-based manner. That is the reason I came up with the Studio.
When you are passionate about something, there is always a scope for innovation there, something new you can bring to the table. When I thought about doing something which could help my clients, customers, or the participants, for them to get the maximum out I realized I need to take a step ahead. Normally, a consultant or a personal branding specialist conducts these sessions at the house or studio of the client whichever is comfortable for them. But, when they come here, they are free of all their daily thought process and are more adaptive to what is being taught to them. We are a place where our clients can get all their solutions in regard to their visibility, authority, credibility, a fabulous first impression, and how they can actually become a brand. Nowadays, that plays a very important role in whatever stream you are, whatever you do. Having a passion for people has definitely been a motivation for me to start this Studio.
KYE: What gives you an immense sense of satisfaction?
Sonika: This profession actually came to me; I haven’t chosen it. And I came to realize the smile and the immense satisfaction that my client takes away from me gives me that peace for the night. I passionately work for people who are planning to do something great, are willing to put in their time and I’m there to handhold them throughout their journey to success. When my clients give me positive feedback such as “I’ve been trying to do this for a very long time but I could only do it now with your help”. When I see my clients are happy that takes me to the next zone of happiness.
I realized there is no one place where other than your technical skills you can get support. There are different places for different areas, people who are into leadership, people in soft-skills, people in law, people in the different areas of your personal growth but there is no one place where you can know what is your problem zone and have a solution which is customized as per that. So that’s what made me do what I’m doing this right now.
KYE: What were the challenges/obstacles you faced on this journey of entrepreneurship?
Sonika: Challenges? Yes, there were a few. I believe every entrepreneur who is starting in a new zone faces certain challenges. With my profession, I’ll specify a few things.
Creating awareness about Image Consultancy: People considered Image to be personality development, public speaking, for those who are the elite-few or those who are into PR, for people who are rich and love to have a lifestyle demonstration. This perception has played with individuals, corporates believe Image is about your clothes the way you dress. Whereas, Image is all about two important aspects, Your First Impression, and Perception Management. What people think about you after they meet you and what they think about you when you are not around is your Image. For me, my major goal was to spread awareness about this.
The relatively new field of profession in India: This profession is just 10 years old in India and 40 + years internationally. Do one to one in a coffee shop? Conduct the meeting at a client’s place? What to do? There was no set idea for how one could go about it. I figured I had to upscale myself into two fields i.e. connectivity with the people in communication so I conducted my training in various languages; understanding the main problem because I’m not here to provide a solution, I’m here to solve a problem.
Determining which field/zone to target?
Determining what services exactly needed to be provided?
And last but not the least, as an entrepreneur, how to make profits without being exorbitantly expensive for my clients?
KYE: What is required to achieve your business aspirations?
Sonika: The first and foremost thing would be to start marketing. Up until now, all my clients have been references from clients I have worked with previously. I am going to find customized solutions that will help my clients, get the right solution within the shortest period of time. It is needed because the world is moving very fast. I’m trying to use the technology more so I can get better connected with my clients and other people, so I can reach out and provide my solutions on a platform which is accessible to most and is also available as per their need.
KYE: How has this venture
Sonika: I was born into an entrepreneurial family, so I’ve seen entrepreneurship very closely since childhood. It has definitely changed me into a better person and has helped me understand people in a better way. It has grounded me more.
KYE: Being a mompreneur, How do you manage both the work and the home front together?
Sonika: I would give the credit to how I’ve started allocating work to people and believe in my resources effectively and considering them capable enough to take care of things they have been handed. This has always been a backbone for me. I think every mom who runs a business or is a homemaker is an entrepreneur by herself. She negotiates, she takes care of operations, shes into stock-keeping, shes into maintaining, shes into admin, every possible zone. Somewhere they have lost their identity in the process to change and become an entrepreneur outside their comfort zone, which they have built themselves. As a mom-entrepreneur, I feel my daughters have played a very important role in supporting me. So has my family and my help, my house-help, the person who helps me in my day-to-day chores have given to me as a human as much as I have given them an authority to work in my space. I treat them as my family and behave with them in that manner so they feel responsible for what they are doing and also feel as much credit for everything they do.
I work with the thought process that I’d like to do something in my life after my kids attain the age of being a responsible individual. For that I started making them individually responsible for their activities from a younger age. So I wouldn’t literally sit and do their projects, rather I’d sit next to them and encourage them to do it on their own and if they’d need my help I’d be there to help. Putting up their own need in front of themselves, that everything you do you are liable and responsible for it while giving a sense of assurance that you can take help from every person around you, its doesn’t make you less to ask. My daughters, one is in the 12th and the other in 10th, they do all their work on their own I don’t have to tell them to do anything. I do not even feel like either one of them is going to appear for their boards this year! They have been habitual of taking care of their own work on their own and this was instilled in them since their childhood.
KYE: What are your words of wisdom for the budding entrepreneurs out there?
Sonika: To all the moms out there, I’ll say start paying attention to yourself and don’t feel guilty for it. It is not wrong to love yourself. I believe if you have a love for yourself, you’ll be able to spread happiness around you. If you are filled with oranges you cannot give an apple, it’s as simple as that. A person who is happy can spread happiness and be lovely, however, a person who is lovely but not happy can’t do much.
As for the budding entrepreneurs out there, I’d say, first and foremost make sure you scan the market and conduct surveys. Next, define your goal and start working backward step-by-step. Remember not to be a do it all. An entrepreneur is a skilled person, he/she has a specialty, that’s why they chose the journey of entrepreneurship. Doing it all or being a know-it-all takes them away from their specialty. For an entrepreneur, how important one thinks is finance equally important is managing one’s skills.