(This story is a part of Chaaipani’s ‘Breaking Barriers’ series, celebrating entrepreneurs, innovators, and initiatives that are breaking the barriers for women in their growth story. )
A Quora question asked, “What is the difference between a housewife and a homemaker?”
And it received a deeply researched response, of course.
This response hits hard at home, where the stereotypical label of ‘housewife/homemaker’ is often, usually only, associated with pleasing, reproducing and decorating. But not for Rani Sabat, a successful boutique entrepreneur from Bhubaneswar.
At 55, Rani has custom-made, refurbished thousands of furniture designs, clocks a 6 digit revenue, has just made an Instagram debut and already has 1000+ followers.
“Till 38, I’d say my entire life revolved around my family, I would make things for our home but then, that was it. Until we lost my brother in a car crash. It took a heavy toll on my mental health. My kids were in class 7th and 11th. My husband suggested I get into something creative to distract my mind”, she says.
Rani enrolled herself in a 1-year interior designing course at NIDT, Bhubaneswar.
“Back then, interior designing wasn’t a subject you studied. It was something you were expected to know as an architect. And so interior designer was not someone you hire”, she says, distinctively mentioning how she ‘loaned’ Rs. 20,000 from her husband for the course.
“I paid it all back, though he never asked for it”, she adds, gleaming with self-assurance.
Soon after, an acquaintance showed faith in her and asked her to design for his office.
“Firsts are very special. And very important. This project gave me the push & the confidence I needed to take up work professionally”, she says.
“Barriers don’t break easily”
Often a woman’s success is accredited to the male figure in her life.
‘Must be a rich man’s wife’, ‘Must be a rich man’s daughter’ are pretty normal whispers in social parties.
“I don’t come from a family set-up where women who did business were a norm. After a point, I didn’t only want to be known as my husband’s wife or my children’s mother. I wanted to be known for me, my work and my skills”, she says.
Rani’s design education, till she bagged her first project, was still expected to be a ‘hobby’ meant to distract her from the stress of losing a loved one.
“I wouldn’t say my husband was very supportive back then when I had decided to turn my hobby into an actual profession. A woman on her way to becoming self-sufficient is often perceived as a threat to dominance by men”, she says, adding how she had to set her foot down and make sure ambition wouldn’t compromise on her role as a mother and a wife.
Sometimes you break the shackles, and sometimes you tactfully find ways to achieve your goals, with the shackles. That’s what Rani did.
“My biggest support system has been my children – Anupam and Mehak. They’ve stood up for me when I couldn’t. They’ve pushed me when I wouldn’t. My husband’s very supportive of my endeavors now”, she says adding how her children taught her using social media to showcase her work and generate business.
“They made me a Facebook page and an Instagram profile, taught me how to upload pictures of pieces my team and I worked on, respond to queries and reach out to more people”, says Rani, whose Instagram feed will also draw your attention to her artful sarees and accessories she chooses for herself.
Rani now works with a team of 15 artisans, in her artfully done backyard.
“One size doesn’t fit all. When it comes to designing places, I believe it is very important to understand a person’s character – everything that defines them and matches their vibe. I personally get invested in all my projects, and make it a point that every piece, every room has a soul to it”
Financial independence is of utmost importance
“Labels come free. No matter what you do, there will always be some people who’ll put you down. But I firmly believe that one must fight for their dreams, no matter what. Financial independence is of utmost importance for everyone and for women I believe it allows them to be on their own. Everyone has a different timezone – you are never too late, or too old to pursue something that can build an identity for you”, she wraps the call.
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