‘Find a purpose and the means will follow’ the golden words spoken by the Father of the Nation comes to life in the form of Sankalp – founded by 43-year-old Priya Menon from Pallakad, Kerala.
A graduate in English Literature and a Post Graduate Diploma holder in Interior Designing.
In spite of her active involvement in the family industry of manufacturing welding electrodes, it did not deter this dynamic lady from starting a social enterprise that would provide the much-needed launch pad to many a budding artists and entrepreneurs.
Here’s her unique story of how she founded Sankalp with a vision and hope to give people a chance to showcase their talents.
When did it all begin?
Sankalp as a banner was launched through which Priya organises exhibitions in Palakkad with the aim to showcase a wide range of products brought in by talented women from various fields.
“The name ‘Sankalp’ was chosen to signify my resolution to do something creative which would encourage women, in general, to stand on their own feet and increase their self-esteem and confidence levels,” says Priya.
Sometime in mid-2009, the idea of starting a women oriented project cropped up in the course of a casual discussion with her sister Deepa and friend, Gowri.
The lack of any proper avenue for amateur artists to display their talents or sell their products in a small town like Palakkad, brought in the idea of organizing exhibitions that would facilitate not just women artists, but also amateur women entrepreneurs to get a foothold in their chosen career and open the doors of opportunity by connecting them to consumers.
With the wholehearted support of her family and friends, Priya succeeded to make her vision a reality.
She recalls, “Initially, it was a challenging phase mainly since I had zero experience in conducting an event and had no precedent to follow. Most of the exhibitions which were organised in Palakkad were commercial trade fairs which were done at a larger scale with a purely commercial aspect.”
She continues, “I essentially wanted an exclusive affair where I could connect to people in a more personal manner. Taking one step at a time, I met a few local talents who were eager to join in for the exhibition, and decided on a date for my first venture. I enlisted the help of a friend of mine, Mr. Sujith Venugopal, an animation pro who helped me design the logo, posters, and all other publicity matter and moreover offered me his office space too. This was the humble beginning of Sankalp, a dream which materialized in January 2010.”
Priya’s family and friends worked as a team untiringly that was fueled with passion and dedication, and they were able to attract the attention of the Palakkad crowd for the event who were very generous with their appreciation.
In fact, her son, Varun, along with his friends have also been actively involved in all the events, to the point that they would personally go and distribute notices at various residential colonies and invite people for Sankalp. Not only that, they also willingly volunteered on the days of the event, lending a helping hand right from the arrangement of the furniture to coordinating with the participants and helping them whenever necessary!
Initial investments and growth
Sankalp started off with the money obtained as stall rent from the vendors who had taken up space for the event. This money was used to pay the rent for the hall, which was the auditorium of my son’s school, furniture and other essentials.
“But I had misjudged on the publicity matter which required notices and posters to be distributed, plus a couple of newspaper advertisements all of which required more money,” admits Priya.
This compelled her to look out for sponsorships and Ahalia Heritage Centre, a unit of Ahalia group of companies, Palakkad, came to our aid in this matter. Our first event, the Ahalia Heritage Art and Craft exhibition did extremely well.
She adds, “To be very frank, I was not comfortable with the idea of approaching people for sponsorships and so from my next event onwards, I planned meticulously and all expenses were met with the stall rent that I collected from the participants.”
Costs were curtailed wherever necessary and my family and friends actively helped me distribute notices/pamphlets/invites within Palakkad town, which also helped bring in a personal element to the event.
The main challenge in conducting this exhibition is in getting participants from outside Palakkad to come and display their products.
There are a lot of women who deal in lovely handcrafted products and other goodies which are immensely attractive and innovative. But the challenge lies in getting them to come down to Palakkad and take part in the event.
For most of them, this is new territory and an unknown one at that. They are unsure about the economic prospects of coming down to a small town and hence are quite reluctant to do so.
“After my first event, I realised that the only way of getting in more people for the event would be by interacting with them on a personal level and stirring up their interest. I started being more active in social networking, got to know a few artists/online entrepreneurs personally and started marketing Sankalp actively,” mentions Priya.
But the challenge of working with limited funds is something she is still learning to deal with after all these years.
What makes Sankalp so unique?
Priya firmly believes in personal dealings and that coupled with her motto of excellence has helped her in establishing Sankalp as a recognised brand in Palakkad.
“Each event of ours is like a family affair with all the participants getting together in a friendly atmosphere, and conducting the show. This positive energy certainly rubs off on the visitors too, which is evident by the fact that they have always supported this endeavour,” smiles Priya.
She feels the success of Sankalp also lies in the fact that most of their participants are indisputably talented and enterprising enough to open the doors of opportunity and move forward. Their products are genuine, unique, and priced reasonably too, which is very important for a small town like Palakkad.
Exhibitions by Sankalp
She shares, “I started the events under the name of ‘Sankalp’ in 2010. Since then, I have been holding similar events on a yearly basis. The current one to be held on the 27th, 28th December is the fourth in the series and will feature about 20 women entrepreneurs who will be displaying their wonderful products. I hope to see a footfall of at least 2000 in number, and I hope that as always, I am able to see the happy and contented faces of our participants.”
The entire theme of Sankalp revolves around women entrepreneurship and encouraging artistic talents among women coming from different backgrounds.
They have had amateurs coming in with designer wear, accessories, jewellery, clothing, lifestyle products, handicrafts, recycled and upcycled stuff, and consumer goods sourced out from places like Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Sholapur, etc apart from the local talents who are seeking a platform to display and sell their handmade products too which also includes food items as well.
Getting in touch with artisans
Whenever she come across an interesting product/person through social networking sites that Priya thinks will be appreciated by the people of Palakkad, she contacts the artist/ hobbyist to gauge her interest in taking part in Sankalp.
“Similarly, participants who have attended my previous events also connect me to other interested vendors who may want to take part in our upcoming events. I normally announce my event online and I get a lot of enquiries that way too. I also have people contacting me personally after sourcing my phone number to let me know of their interest in participating in the event,” adds Priya.
Sankalp is essentially a two-day event and its only source of revenue is from the stall rents Priya gets from the participants. This money is further used to pay the hall and furniture rent, publicity material and distribution expenses, designing charges, and other related expenses, which are inevitable while conducting an event.
She says, “Currently, Sankalp is a passion with me and a sort of hobby which I enjoy to the ultimate. My family too gets involved in this which makes it all the more enjoyable. More than the revenue earning part, it is the whole process of getting together with my team and organising the event, witnessing the contentment of the participants, and the happiness of the crowd who enjoys their shopping that gladdens my heart. Thankfully, I have never run on loss till now which is certainly an achievement.”
Marketing and promotion
Sankalp is promoted and marketed actively through online networking sites. I have a Facebook page through which I announce updates and event highlights.
Flyers, posters and newspaper inserts are distributed a few days prior to the event so that the local people are notified about the event. Personal invites are sent out to prominent clubs/associations across Palakkad and the event also gets featured in the local editions of prominent newspapers.
She further adds, “I do have plans to take Sankalp to its next step and conduct exhibitions in cities like Kochi and Trivandrum. I also have plans to conduct workshops periodically on different and unique crafts so that more local women could avail of the opportunity to further their career and confidentally lead a life of self-reliance.”
Benefits of joining Sankalp
The progressive part played by Sankalp in the life of the women who have participated in the event is clear by the fact that a good many of them take pride in coming back with their products for the event every year. They have benefitted immensely in the publicity as well as the sales factor and are always happy to be in touch.
Before signing off Priya is happy to add, “A couple of our participants got featured in a prominent Malayalam magazine ‘Vanitha’, and this was a major achievement as far as I was concerned since one of them had started off her entrepreneurship through this exhibition. Many of them dealing in fabrics are active in the online world, with brisk online sales and some of them even have opened retail outlets of their own. Kerala style Mural and fabric painting on fabrics are also actively encouraged through this exhibition since it forms part of our tradition and culture. I also see to it that I offer a space for an NGO/charitable organization for their fund raising activities through our event. “
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