In our next interview with a Sikh woman in business we are very excited to profile the dynamic and hugely talented Pavan Ahluwalia. Pavan is a henna artist and holds the Guinness World Record for being the fastest in her trade. In just one hour she painted a staggering 511 armbands in February 2012 – where each design had to be different from the other – beating her own previous record of 314 armbands in 2008 by a mind-blowing 197 armbands.
Pavan has worked with celebrities and recognised names like Selfridges, Harrods, Sky TV, and the BBC on various high-profile projects. A self-taught henna artist, a massive part of Pavan’s appeal is that she not only keeps up to date with the latest design trends, she creates them. Have a read of her entrepreneurial journey and tips for success she shared with Rupinder Kaur.
What made you want to start your own business?
My parents had started their own business when I was about 3 years old, my father has a double glazing company running now for 30 years and my mother has a beauty salon for about the same time. I always knew I wanted to work for myself and have my own business as I saw the freedom it gave to my parents, and with hard work the rewards you could enjoy – not just financially but in excelling in what you enjoy doing.
How did you come up with your idea?
I got into bridal mehndi whilst at a family friends wedding. There were a few henna cones left on the side, so I did a few guests and they loved what I did. I took it further whilst doing my degree as I really enjoyed it, and just after completing University I was encouraged by my father to go for the World Record. This worked as a catalyst in gaining recognition for my work. After working on TV productions and celebrity clientele I realised there was demand of henna not just in our culture but on a much wider scale. This is what made me think of a henna bar and I want to be able to offer our cultural art on a big scale, in a professional environment and available at customers convenience.
What’s been the toughest part of the journey?
It has proved to be a task to get people to see my vision and show them the potential of what has been seen as something traditional and only for the Asian market for a very long time. But by showing examples and persisting with what I think can be achieved we are getting there!
What are your fears?
With no arrogance at all I don’t fear anything about my work, I believe in what can be achieved and I hope to continue pushing boundaries with it.
What are your hopes?
To make henna available to the mass market, available to all cultures and in a professional trendy environment.
How did you come up with your business plan?
I didn’t have a business plan as such, I just saw the goal I wanted to achieve. I haven’t reached where I want to be yet, but I keep my focus on the goal and deal with everything that needs to be done to get there!
How have you financed the business?
By myself, I earned whilst doing bridal henna and have just reinvested what I have earned into growing the business.
What do your family and friends think of it?
They are extremely supportive, my family have encouraged me to go for what I want, and I am lucky enough to be surrounded my great friends who push me further to accomplish my goals.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get to where you are right now?
That old saying of work now play later? That is exactly what I have done, I would always prioritise work and think about how I could get further and live the life I have dreamed of, doing what I thoroughly enjoy.
What are you proud of?
I am proud of what we have achieved in terms of getting recognised in the Corporate World, shedding new light on traditional henna – the Harrods Window display was an extremely proud moment, with my art up alongside Chopard and Ferarri, and seeing my name in the window, I was overwhelmed.
What are your tips for any other ladies wanting to start a business?
Do what you enjoy, that is a great starting point, and if you believe in it enough persevere!!
Pavan will be launching her Henna Bar in Selfridges on 1st May 2014.
For more info visit her site: www.pavanonline.com,
on Facebook www.facebook.com/PavanHenna
on Twitter www.twitter.com/pavan_henna
and Instagram www.instagram.com/pavan_henna
Interviewed by Rupinder Kaur