Priya - Feisty Little Woman in the Big World of Imiloa.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Priya, who are you?

I wish I knew myself!  I was born and raised in the UK, in an area called Hackney. My parents are Mauritian/Indian, so I was quite fortunate as a young child to travel and experience various African and Asian traditions and culture. I previously worked in media and PR and was then offered a job opportunity in Mumbai, which, I guess that's where it all began.

Imiloa... What is it?

That came about when I was on the road. I was in a somewhat "crossroad" situation ,whereby I had to make some drastic decisions career wise and personal ones too, so I left with VERY limited money and kicked off my own escapade. I met so many beautiful souls , random acquaintances and particularly one whimsical fella. It was this random stranger who asked me, "so what do you do?" I didn't have a reply at that time, so he just answered for me , "imiloa..." 

Which means someone who explores. It resonated well at the time... whether I was exploring my own vulnerabilities, self being or what was to come - it was apt timing. So the name just stuck. And to make sure I would never forget it, I got it tattooed on my wrist soon after! (lol) Today, Imiloa means so much more to me, and it became a design collective which focuses on disadvantaged artisans and artisans. Many of their craft is sadly becoming somewhat obsolete, so we ensure we create new designs and processes to upkeep their traditions and make it marketable. We provide a platform for their creativity by nurturing and exploring their traditional techniques. 

Imiloa, is about building and unifying artisans. A creative community - no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, caste or disability. My intention is solely about the artisans. For me, my goal is their goal. I simply want to help them reach their potential. It's about creating that realm of hope for others.sometimes you have to plummet to great lows to regain your strength. So I guess the difficulty is, finding that eternal faith and strength when you are rock bottom.

Tell us how you embarked on this adventure?

When I returned from my road trip, I pretty much had a better grasp of where I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do. I had very little funds at the time. But a great support came from my friends and family who would fine tune my business plan. I focused mainly on the creative aspects, where my heart and soul is. I  knew for certain my focus was Africa, and Mauritius which would be my stepping stone.
Priya's office in India
So with little funds, I tested our concept by doing the first ever pop up shop in Mauritius 2012. I converted a 100 year-old building into a boutique displaying our artisanal goods and sourcing finds. The response was overwhelming, and from that moment onwards, I knew I was onto a good thing...
Where does this intense passion come from?
From a very young age I was always  told and re- re told of the hardship of my parents, grandparents and families who left their native homelands with literally nothing in their pockets to live and settle in foreign countries. Their aim was to fulfil their dreams. It was about making a difference and creating a whole new foundation for generations to come.
Just to hear their stories of such endurance and perseverance is as heartbreaking as it is inspirational. But it shows drive and stamina. I admire that, personally, you have to be hungry for your goal in order for your passion to settle in.
To be honest, I'm far from being silverspoon fed, but I am in a position where I can aid those who are less fortunate. If I see someone has talent, I want to help them grow and expand  into whoever they want to be or become. If I didn't have the same guidance I don't think I would be where I am today.
Sampling of colours.

As a woman entrepreneur, what were the difficulties you have to put up with?

I mirror a lot of my mum's ideologies and strength. She is and still is a very strong woman, who juggled so much to achieve a successful career. She never placed any emphasis on gender, but on diligence and hard work ethics. So I guess I'm the same. 
To be honest, the real difficulty was to take on the business in the first place. To leave those natural comforts of having a regular pay cheque, and the security that comes with it. I've had to sacrifice so much, missed out on so many things.  But in return, I've  acquired grounding values and experiences that makes you unbreakable. When you run your own business and responsible for people's wages, and their well being, etc - your priority shifts, you just overcome constraints, failing is not option.
I've experienced so many ups and downs , where I have realized more and more that there is no such thing as difficulties or setbacks, it's all a learning curve...

What is your driving force?
When I'm on the road, I'm sometimes in the most poverty- stricken places. I live the way they do, eat the way they do, I adopt their lifestyle and its certainly eye- opening. Yet despite their improverished conditions, their positivity and warmth is admirable.  When I am sinking in my own ordeal, it's short lived, because I reflect on these incredible beings - nothing is comparable in terms of their courage and tenacity. What pushes me further is seeing the results of what we do. Just to see those in unprivileged circumstances and how we  make a difference for them makes me strive further and further.
Testing Designs.

The future of Imiloa?
There are so many plans on how I want to develop imiloa. But as I am told by my peers each step at a time. I strongly want to get more and more companies, institutions, etc more ethically aware of our artisanal concept. We are slowly moving towards the hotel industry with some exciting projects, our online shop is also in progress. I suppose it's the unpredictability of the decisions made and how they come about that make this business challenging, you just never know what will come up next!
Priya has a beautiful little shop in Pointe aux Canonniers. She proudly displays the amazing art works of her artisans. These are just a few amazing work of art. I love the shopping bags made out of news papers. 

And finally, a piece of advice for woman entrepreneurs out there?
Many artisan believe that their form of art is insignificant and they are completely unaware of how talented and valuable their craft is, so to be able to restore their confidence and watch them grow into individual entrepreneurs, is beyond words. There's no work without play and vice versa. Live it, experience it and enjoy it. Be positive. Failure is your backbone to success. Let your intuition be your guide and don't conform. Just remember the people who take risks are the ones who create opportunities, don't limit yourself with fear. It's a game of law of attraction - what you put out there, you get back!
Priya Ramkissoon. A woman with a heart of gold, a woman of steel.
Follow her beautiful adventure on Facebook and Instagram: Imiloa

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