Tahmina Shaily is a Woman, an Entrepreneur, a Radio Jockey and a Journalist. She is the founder of Shoilee-a Dhaka based fashion brand.
We have a great deal of respect for Tahmina—not only for the work she’s done over the years, but for who she is as a human being. Life have had thrown enough bricks on her way but she has remained strong and hopeful. Major accident came into her life. She lost her inspiration and husband, Sajal Khaled, mountaineer and film director- fifth Bangladeshi who reached to the summit of Mount Everest on May 21, 2013- at an early age of their marriage.
She was deeply hurt but didn’t lose hope and motivation to live and a full life.
It was a true pleasure and inspiration to talk with her about her passion, life, and her journey into the world of entrepreneurship, her struggle as a woman and as an entrepreneur, and her lessons from her journey.
One of our favorite lessons from Tahmian’s story is her understanding of life and entrepreneurship and reality of our life and the universal human spirit to stand up every time we fall. Life is larger than who we are as an individual and that no single story should define our life.
Please briefly tell about yourself.
I grew up in Ishwardi and my schooling was there. Then I studied commerce and majored in Marketing from Dhaka City College.
My father was a painter hence I grew up in a creative world.
[blockquote source]From my childhood I had a knack for handicraft works and I used to make my own jewellery. Gradually people around me started to like it and encouraged me to work on it. After much thought, in 2006, I started my business and launched my online shop Shoilee.[/blockquote]
However, I started my career at an early age as an Assistant Producer at NTV. Afterwards, I worked at RTV. In the meantime, I used to write in feature pages of newspapers and at one point started working with Prothom Alo.
One thing leads to another. While working at Prothom Alo, I was auditioned for Radio Jockey at ABC radio and got selected. That’s how I started into the world of RJ which was completely different from my earlier professional work. I used to work with poetry recitation group Konthoshilon and that experience helped me in my new profession. I also worked as a senior sub-editor at Banik Barta.
From my childhood I had a knack for handicraft works and I used to make my own jewellery. Gradually people around me started to like it and encouraged me to work on it. After much thought, in 2006, I started my business and launched my online shop Shoilee.
Tell us about your work?
Shoilee has six product lines including: Jewellery, Saree, Panjabi, Household accessories and Pickles.
I am the designer and also owner of the shop, so it’s quite pressure on me. I’ve to look after almost all aspects of the business and production which is hard work but I am quite okay with it.
Apart from selling online, I used to attend in different fairs with my products. However, in last March, I took an initiative and organized a group exhibition for small and medium fashion enterprises called Udhogy. The first ever exhibition took place at Nabab Hall of Westin Dhaka and it was a great success. Now that first event of Udhogy is successful, we will continue it from now and will organize four exhibitions in a year.
Apart from running my business, I am also working as a RJ and Producer at Radio Shadhin.
[blockquote source]I am the designer and also owner of the shop, so it’s quite pressure on me. I’ve to look after almost all aspects of the business and production which is hard work but I am quite okay with it.[/blockquote]
What was your underlying motivation behind becoming an entrepreneur?
It is quite difficult to express. I like to work independently and I like freedom. Business is something which allows you that. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier I like handicrafts and art and creative works. That’s another reason of why I started Shoilee.
How did you manage funding?
At the start I used to fund the business from my own pocket and then I took a small business loan. Now, I want the business to fund itself as it grows over the time. I don’t think I would like to take external funding as long as I can grow the business and fund it by earning revenue.
Suppose, if someone comes and offers me two million Taka I won’t take it. Because I know very well that I won’t be able to manage that. I’m trying to run the business, grow it, and let’s see how it works.
Tell us about few major obstacles you faced at the beginning and the way you outperformed those obstacles.
I faced two problems: one is with sales and other one was with managing people. Since I make off-track jewellery products which people wear occasionally I had to find a way to make it every day item for people. My challenge was to make off-track wear as regular wear. I did it quite successfully, I believe.
The other problem was/is managing workers in factories. Since we are an early stage company it is really difficult to find good people. Moreover, workers always tend to leave job for better opportunities and it is very difficult to make things work once your team is dysfunctional. However, now that I have experience and come to understand few things, I try to make decision wisely.
If you are given with a chance to redo everything from the beginning, tell about few things, if any, that you would do differently.
I am content the way things have sorted out in my career. And I don’t have any regrets. However, if I would’ve chance to redo I would do the same thing except that I would start working earlier.
Workers always tend to leave job for better opportunities and it is very difficult to make things work once your team is dysfunctional. However, now that I have experience and come to understand few things, I try to make decision wisely.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
To tell the truth, I don’t want to leave any legacy rather I want to live my life fullest. I want to work as much as I can if people remember me for my work after I leave that would be a bonus!
If I would’ve chance to redo I would do the same thing except that I would start working earlier.
What do you think about failure? Have you ever failed throughout your path?
I see failure from a different perspective. I don’t think that I have failed in my life ever because I take every failure as an opportunity to learn. I have many experiences of failure which I believe made me strong.
If you were to give advice to a young person just starting out, what would you say?
I think at the beginning you need a plan. More often than not, things don’t go according to plan. Nevertheless, you need one otherwise it gets difficult to move ahead.
You need to be curious enough to see how things work, have confidence and enough motivation to put in the hard work every early stage venture requires to build.
What book are you reading now? Tell us few names of your favorite books.
Currently, I am reading Chuler Gondhe Ghum Ashe Na by Humayun Azad. My all time favorite book is Satkahon by Samaresh Majumder which always inspires me immensely. I also like to read Rabindranath and Nirmalendu Goon a lot.
[blockquote source]You need to be curious enough to see how things work, have confidence and enough motivation to put in the hard work every early stage venture requires to build.[/blockquote]