Welcome to our new 'Taking the Plunge' series. Here we talk to dynamic entrepreneurs who left behind everything they knew and took the path they thought they should go down, to follow their true passion.
Meet the founder of Shibusa, a new apparel brand that makes clothing basics. Rishit Jain went from being a jack of all trades to working in finance to designing the perfect t-shirt, which turned out to be a big hit at Freshly Squeezed!
“Do you want a French manicure?”, he asked.
“I don't know what that is”, I said.
“Look it up”, he said.
I looked it up.
“No, I don't want a French manicure.”
And everybody got to work.
It was shoot day for my new apparel brand and the shoot producer was asking me whether I wanted the female model to have a French manicure. Apparently, I didn’t. It looked artificial and plasticky—something I didn’t want my brand to be and that meant not having a French manicure on the female model.
It wasn’t the first time that I had found myself a little out of my depth. It had been about 18 months since I had the idea of starting a brand that only did clothing basics and the learning curve had been rather steep. I had started with a simple, basic t-shirt—a favourite piece of clothing for someone like me that couldn’t be bothered to dress up on most days and approaches shopping as a task to be completed. But I had quickly found out that a simple t-shirt is not all that simple.
I am a dabbler. I dabble in things. I spent most of my 20s like that. I dabbled in coding. In copywriting. In product management. I changed jobs before the boss could remember my name. I even went and did a proper MBA—only to find myself still dabbling. Eventually, though, I found some sense of stability in finance. The analytical, abstract nature of work appealed to the analytical, abstract part of my nature. I have been a finance professional for almost nine years now and the work still holds its appeal to me.
"But, about five years into the world of interest rates and price-earnings ratios, I began to realise that it wasn’t enough."
Sure, it was still fun to wrestle with the complexity of the financial markets and try to figure out what was going to happen next, but at the end of the day I was only seeing numbers on a screen. It could get a little too abstract. I knew I needed something more.
So when it hit me, the idea of a brand that only does clothing basics seemed almost perfect.
It solved a personal pain point.
As I mentioned, for me shopping is a chore. Going through dozens of brands and hundreds of clothes is frankly too much work. So I’ve usually sought out plain clothes that don’t need me to go to the changing room and do “this or.. this?” in front of the mirror. It also makes my everyday mornings that much easier.
It seemed to fill a gap in the market.
I think a lot of us like to have some basic pieces in our wardrobe, even if that’s not all we have. And the market lacks a brand that does basics really well. Sure, there’s Zara and H&M and M&S, but their quality is horrible, while the rest of the brands carry few basic pieces, if at all. There’s honestly no brand out there that does quality basics in non-boring colours and at non-ridiculous prices.
It appealed to my nature and interests.
I have a deep, inexplicable need to simplify and organise things. It drives my wife mad. She would leave her work desk for 5 minutes only to come back and find that her pens and notepads and earphones have been “organised”. Since her work desk won’t appreciate my skills, I had to find something else that did. And since I find nothing to be more complicated or disorganised than the experience of buying clothes, I figured straightening that out would fill the gaping hole in my soul. Plus, it would allow me to explore my other interests that I couldn’t find an outlet for in my finance work. Things like product development, design, branding, writing. At the very least, it would not be abstract.
So I took the plunge. But for a finance professional who could not tell a ply from a pleat, starting an apparel brand has not been easy. And that’s a good thing. Because if it were, it wouldn’t be fun. Since I had this idea in August 2018, I’ve had to learn and do a tonne of varied things ranging from exciting stuff like developing the best damn t-shirt on the market, designing and copywriting a website that I’m proud of, and planning and coordinating a major photo shoot; to more mundane things like learning to edit photos in Adobe Lightroom, doing accounting, and filing monthly GST returns. Everything was hard enough and some of it was harder still. I frequently found myself out of my depth. But, of course, as anything else in life, it got easier as I kept doing it and my depth kept getting deeper.
It has been a super rewarding time for me and I continue to be challenged by new “French manicures”. The latest one is figuring out how to market. I have a killer product, gorgeous packaging, and a kickass website. So how do I get the word out to people who would benefit from my work?
Well, I’m still figuring that one out. And maybe I’ll get to tell you that story in a couple of years."
Before you go...
What is your ideal work space?
A quiet, distraction-free space works best for me. A closed room, ideally. I'm currently living in Ahmedabad, but I still miss my sunlit desk overlooking the VT Station at Ministry of New!
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
An astronaut! Then my mom told me there was no money in it, so I dropped the idea.
What are your daily rituals?
One thing I almost never miss doing is catching up on my Feedly. Over the last 15 years, I have built up an eclectic collection of blogs, YouTube channels, and webcomics that I follow through Feedly, so I go through that before I begin my work day.
First thing you do in the morning?
Make my bed.
Last thing you do before you go to sleep?
Turn off the TV. Heh.