Just open Instagram and go through your feed, you’ll find yourself attracted to fun colours, mesmerizing patterns and visually aesthetic pictures. Or maybe just grab a magazine and scroll through the beauty products section. The ones that reel you in have an x-factor when it comes to how they look. Great visuals draw attention and colours, patterns influence your emotions and affect your actions. This stands true for journals, stationery, art supplies and anything that boosts creativity. And one brand has been consistently delivering stellar products one after another that speaks to your inner creator.
In conversation with TC46, illustrator and entrepreneur Vidhi Khandelwal, founder of The Ink Bucket, talks about her passion for all things creative, working with Myntra and how building genuine connections in the industry can help aspiring entrepreneurs.
1. What is your educational and professional background? Did you always want to be an illustrator?
I am a textile design graduate from NIFT Delhi. I always loved to paint and knew I wanted to, in some way, turn my passion into a profession. When I was in college, I wanted to start a home decor brand. After finishing college, my interest in illustrations increased and I started researching more on the opportunities available as an illustrator.
2. What prompted the idea for ‘The Ink Bucket’?
Since I did not have a professional degree as an illustrator, it was a bit difficult to apply for a mainstream graphic design or illustration job. To get past this, I started working on my portfolio alongside a 3 month 9 to 5 job. While doing so, I came up with a lot of ideas and decided to turn my illustrations into products that I would have loved to use at the time. The whole idea of creating products I could use was extremely exciting for me and that’s what keeps me going even today.
3. What was your first milestone and how did you get there?
There were multiple milestones because I feel I have taken multiple directions during the past years before finally realising this is it. The first milestone was getting into an incubator program by Myntra. It was a big deal for me since I had just graduated and it taught me a lot about running a brand and moving past just being an illustrator. They were taking in applications and even though The Ink Bucket was only an idea at the time, I applied and after a few rounds, got selected.
4. How long did it take you to monetise your talent? What was the turning point?
I was lucky to be able to monetise almost immediately, although I did struggle a little from time to time during the initial years. From the start, I knew that building a creative brand needs some amount of exploration but sustaining it also meant that my numbers were in place. We sold out the very first collection I did with Myntra. Soon after, I also started freelancing and used that to support my product business. Now, I don’t freelance anymore and work full time running the brand.
5. What kind of marketing strategies work best for you?
Organic marketing works best for us. The Ink Bucket has had a very engaged audience from the very beginning. I do believe that the better your product, less the marketing effort you need and that has always been the most important strategy for us.
6. What are your tips for an illustrator who is hoping to build their personal brand and get work opportunities to monetise their work?
I think for any illustrator, having a good portfolio is important. You might not find work right after you start but keep doing the kind of work you want to get. Work on personal projects around your interest area and you will get noticed by relevant clients. Social media is great for visibility these days but it’s also super crowded so put in some thought into what your USP is and why a client would want to come to you versus someone else.
Also, hard work trumps talent so no matter how good you are, if you aren’t willing to put in the work you might not go too far.
7. What suggestions would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to start an online business or wants to shift their offline practices online?
Selling online is great because anyone can start a web store with very little investment but running a full-fledged business needs a good understanding of operations, finances, advertising and much more. You can learn a lot as you go but it helps to have a basic understanding of these departments. Knowing everything is important but handling everything is not. Rather than spreading yourself too thin, hire people to handle your weak areas or departments that you don’t want to invest your energy in. Be as honest and real as you can, it helps to build trust. A lot of things won’t be in your control as more people get involved in the processes, but taking accountability and having a problem-solving mindset is important.
One of my biggest learnings is to not take no for an answer. If you want to get something done, there’s always a way. Rather than accepting that it can’t be done, figure out why and then see how to make it happen. Can’t tell you how many times this has saved us because a lot of people you speak to might just say no to something to reduce their work but if you do your research beforehand and push them, they will eventually give in and do it.
8. Which networking groups or events have helped you widen your network and generate collaboration opportunities?
I am a little bit of an introvert so I have never really been a part or an active participant of any networking group. But knowing people and building genuine connections in your industry does help.
9. Are there any online/offline courses you recommend for growth and career enhancement in this sector?
It completely depends on what you want to get out of a course but I really do like Skillshare as a platform. There are some really good quality courses available there.
10. What are some investments (monetary or otherwise) one should be ready to make when entering this space?
The biggest monetary investment I have made is in my business. I am not the best person to talk about other types of monetary investments.
You have to be ready to invest in yourself though. I believe that’s the biggest investment you can make. I feel the growth of my business is directly proportional to my personal growth so it’s important for me to keep a contact check on what I am engaging with, things I am consuming and how I am growing both personally and professionally.
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