On The Up

if someone says no, don’t take it personally?: Advice from the founder of a micro brand stocked alongside global luxury giants

Hannah Wilkinson | 7 June 2016 | 8 years ago

Mauli
“We didnt wait for everything to be perfect before picking up the phone and calling stockists, despite having no idea how their buying departments worked”
Combining elements of a traditional Indian healing philosophy with a healthy dose of modern polish, MaulI has caught the attention of some of the UK’s most impressive luxury stockists. We spoke to co-founder Bittu Kaushal to hear how his micro business is punching above its weight.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

Im Bittu Kaushal, and I run all-natural bath, body and skincare brand MaulI with my wife Anita.

(2) How long have you been around for?

I had previously worked in high-tech skin care, and my wife was doing branding, but in 2012 we decided that we wanted to raise a million pounds for a personal cause, and two years later we launched MaulI to use our skills to help achieve this by donating a pound from each sale to a worthy endeavour.

(3) How do you make money?

As well as selling our products through the MaulI website, we also sell them through retailers including Liberty, Space NK Net-A-Porter and the BulgarI Spa.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

We were both born in the UK but grew up with an Ayurvedic (traditional Indian medicine) heritage. My father is an Ayurvedic doctor, which has been a key help in developing the brand. And weve gone out of our way to find the best people in the business to blend our products, which take the Ayurvedic essence and give it a British polish.

(5) What was important in terms of starting out?

We didnt wait for everything to be perfect before picking up the phone and calling stockists, despite having no idea how their buying departments worked. If you follow a formula and think: Were too small, were not well known enough, youll miss out. Buyers have targets, of course, and things to sell, but if you believe in your brand then they will too.

Not being afraid to use our network and ask people if they knew anybody was also important. That’s how we got into BulgarI Spa a friend made an introduction and in less than a year after launching we were a spa brand.

(6) What’s been your biggest achievement?

I actually think that every single step is a big step, and it’s important to remember that. Thigs that are perceived as big wins are actually made up of lots of tiny little achievements things as small as making a list and sticking to it. As easy as it can be to lose sight of this, when you spend eight, twn, 12 hours working, no big achievements will give that time back if you’re not enjoying it. It will all be over in a heartbeat, so and if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point?

Mauli
MaulI co-founder Bittu Kaushal
(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

Inevitably, people have different ideas of conversations and desired outcomes, and the grey areas that arise as a result of that have been a big challenge, and meant that things take up more time than they should. Ive learnt that it is really important to get everything in writing, not necessarily in a formal, legal, way, but just written down in some form.

Scaling is also hard, both because you have to let go of control as you grow, but also because other businesses start to depend on you. This is especially true for us because the prices of natural ingredients go up and down, but of course the price we charge for the products have to stay the same.

Weve accepted now that sometimes well make more of a margin, sometimes less it’s challenging but also an inherent part of having a natural product range. When we get larger, well be able to buy more of ingredients when prices are good, but for now we don’t have that buying power.

(8) In five years? time, I will be?

At the helm of a global wellbeing brand. As well as adding other lifestyle products, we want to start bringing people together and building a community of people that are interested in wellbeing.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

If a stockist says no, know where they’re coming from and don’t take it personally. They know their business better than you do, and they’re protecting you from getting burnt by not taking you on but that doesnt mean you should stop trying.

In my naivety, I approached Net-A-Porter two months after starting. They were very kind even to give me the time of day, but they said we werent well known enough. Afterwards, every time we reached a milestone, every couple of months, I would email them, and a year later they said they were ready to meet us.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

Brands like Neal’s Yard and Aromatherapy Associates, which were so ahead of the curve when they launched. I don’t think we would have existed without them. it’s especially inspiring because they’re around 30 years later it’s easy to be exciting in the beginning, but that’s a real achievement.

Im also inspired by people who never give up on business. When you read a profile of someone who has been successful, you hear about the achievements but you don’t see the hardship theyve been through. We have a self-employed builder who comes to our house and doesnt know how much hell be earning from week to week, and there are also the self-employed artisans who make our products -? people like that are the real heroes.

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On The Up

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