MUM CRUSH | Priya Velusami an inspiring woman, supporting women, inspired by Women
We meet Mumpreneur Priya, the driving force behind the clever, colourful creations of Pri Pri. Not only has she has transformed her passion for sewing into a successful business, one that promotes up-cycling, and minimising waste, but she also supports underprivileged women in India. Oh and did we mention that she does all this whilst raising small humans…
Which came first, the small people or Pri Pri?
The concept of Pri Pri is actually something that has been with me since I was a small person! I’ve always enjoyed sewing with colourful fabrics, particularly using up small scraps to create a new outfit or accessory. It’s a skill my grandmother taught me when I was 9. The side hustle of selling these creations started later in my late 20s. Then when my little people arrived, it felt like the right time to move the side hustle to become my full time business.
Were you prepared for the arrival of number 1?
So when my newborn arrived, like many, I was thrown into the unknown. Where was my ‘how to’ guide? I couldn’t understand how parenting was essentially ‘learning on the job’. I’m still figuring it out, but now with two children, I’ve come to accept that this is one profession that will constantly challenge – no coasting here!
How was the transition from 1-2?
Many tell you the jump from 1-2 is not double the work. And I agree to some extent – you have a much better toolkit of how to approach the various stages, and a much better handle on what’s a genuine concern. However, having a toddler to entertain as well does mean that you don’t have the luxury of any sort of break at nap time, so the exhaustion is real! I have absolute respect to all with multiples and more than 2!
Did you take maternity leave?
I took a year for both of my children, and was lucky to enjoy flexible working with my employer and work part time. It was during my second maternity leave that I decided to pursue my business full time.
When was the aha moment for Pri Pri?
When my niece was born, I decided to delve into my mum’s drawer of old saris and see if they could be reused to make into party dresses for my niece. Then, when she received lovely comments about her outfit, I thought I would try and make some to sell on an Etsy shop. My first sale was a truly proud moment and felt like confirmation that my designs could be products that people would buy. While I did enjoy my career, dressmaking was always a passion. The aha moment probably came when I realised that I could pursue something I enjoyed out of work and make it my work. And while I no longer make all the products myself, I have a passion for sharing my designs with others who love colour, sustainability and style!
We saw you were part of @fentrepreneuruk – why is that important to you?
f:Entrepreneur is a campaign run by Small Business Britain, and was launched in 2017 to highlight the stories of amazing female business owners and help provide inspiration and role models across the wider small business community. It’s a real honour to be part of this year’s f:Entrepreneur #ialso100 line up that celebrates the multi-achievements of women running businesses in the UK today.
Since starting Pri Pri, I’ve discovered such an inspiring supportive community of fellow female founders. I am a real believer that sharing stories and content from fellow businesses is a way to help and inspire other women who are on the same journey, so it’s important to me to be part of a network and campaign like f:Entrepreneur.
But it’s not just about recognising the achievements of women. I’m also aware a lot has to be done to empower them to even have these choices. The Pri Pri business model enables me to support underprivileged women through my partnership with a wonderful charity in India that offers training in tailoring and a chance for these women to earn an income.
Supporting women in India, tell us more…
When I made the decision to grow the business, I realised I couldn’t make everything myself and would need to outsource. I looked for factories that I could work with both in the UK and India, and I found the Animedh Charitable Trust and it aligned perfectly with the Pri Pri vision. It helps underprivileged women in the city of Mumbai, the place where I would spend summers and where my grandmother lives. It helps women through up skilling them in tailoring – a craft that I love and know many other women have enjoyed learning through this course. And it empowers women to give them confidence and an opportunity to earn income. Plus offers a great community of similar women, something I’ve also found inspirational from my fellow small business female founders.
How do you manage the juggle of being a Female Founder and mother?
I think the juggle is present for all parents – as one of your previous blogs references, the journey into motherhood often equates to constant guilt… The most interesting, and surprising shift becoming a Female Founder is the desire to work all the time. I now understand when small business owners say “if it’s your passion you don’t mind working!” I think going forward, I need to try and manage my work with holidays a bit better or accept that things slow down at certain times of the year.
Did the Pandemic affect you?
Lockdown really shifted the pace of our family life. Having another pair of hands at bed and bath time became the norm. And while we currently enjoy a life without a lockdown, we are benefiting from more family time during the week than pre-covid. Many parents have shared their joy and gratitude to be able to do the nursery/school drop off or pick up. And with this realisation, I think many seem to have entered a new mindset of the balance we require from work and home.
Do you feel it has taught you anything?
The pandemic also taught me to slow down in the holidays. 2018 was the first year that I had to experience a summer with two and no childcare. I exhausted myself with daily visits to various events and activities. It was also tiring to constantly convince one of my boys to get ready every morning, when all he really wanted to do was play at home. It was a revelation that I can spend time at home with my children and not necessarily always revert to a screen. The constant external stimulation wasn’t necessary for my kids. I need to remind myself of this as I sign them up to every club available now that restrictions have eased.
Any Advice For New Mums?
The piece of advice that I hang on to whenever I doubt myself and my ability to parent is that ‘it’s a phase’. It seems to be enough to know now that there is highly likely to be an end to the troublesome stage, even if it means you will encounter another one. And with that knowledge that it will pass, I try to enjoy the moment, rather than wish the phase would end, as it inevitably will. While with my first child, I thought I was the worst parent when I saw him slap another child at soft play. I thought he would be known as ‘the slapper’ forever. But it did stop. As did the night wake ups, the painful mealtimes, the crying at drop off etc. So now, as my second son turns 2 and starts to enter the phase of establishing his ground, I am trying to keep my cool and let him express his little personality.
While parents have had more quality time with their kids, the pandemic has meant that many grandparents have missed out seeing their grandchildren. It’s been such a source of sadness for many parents with newborns or even older kids who haven’t been able to share the joy of their children growing up with their mums or dads. However, I do take comfort in the fact that I formed a bond with my grandmother despite her living abroad in India and only seeing her every couple of years.
She is the inspiration behind my business, making and upcycling saris, something we would do together in summer holidays. I was lucky that my boys managed to meet her before the pandemic – a memory that I will always treasure.
Pri Pri is a collection of handmade accessories and kids wear that not only look beautiful but also help people and the planet.
You can check out the full collection here….