Zenobia runs a fashion boutique called ZS Embroidery which specialises in hand-stitched embroidery. She is recognised across India as an expert in her craft and is proud to keep the beautiful tradition of hand-made embroidery alive.
Zenobia was first introduced to traditional hand stitching at school. Unlike most children her age, she was inspired by the intricate designs and was eager to practice at home. However, it wasn’t until many years and two children later that Zenobia was encouraged by her mother-in-law to leave her job as a secretary and pursue her dream of studying fashion and garment manufacturing. She graduated at the top of her class and was thrilled to start her business as a fashion designer.
Zenobia worked from home for 12 years, balancing her career with raising her children. She knew that she was capable of creating beautiful, high-quality products, such as dresses, wall hangings and cushion covers, but without the knowledge and skills to harness technology, she struggled to market her business and expand her customer base.
When Zenobia joined the Mentoring Women in Business Programme in 2014, her goal was to build her digital literacy and marketing skills to help her advertise more widely, enter new markets and increase her sales. Zenobia was matched with Ximena, an entrepreneur who runs a digital agency in Mexico. The pair met online every week and Ximena’s expertise in digital design enabled her to support Zenobia to access resources and tutorials on everything from setting up a webpage to uploading pictures. She even inspired Zenobia to take courses to improve her IT knowledge and start using Photoshop.
Zenobia and Ximena next turned their focus to expanding Zenobia’s customer base. They added a payment function to her website to open up her business to the global market and started diversifying her products to include homeware and embroidered frames. Zenobia said, “Initially, I was scared of computers and latest technology, but I have learnt how to make as well as manage my own website through the tutorials sent by Ximena. It has built my self-confidence and made me digital savvy.”
Since joining the programme, Zenobia’s business has seen significant growth. She has gained eight new clients, nearly 2,800 Facebook likes, and has started successfully selling products in the US, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. She has also increased her revenue by 40% and already has several months’ worth of advance orders, which has enabled her to rent out a workshop and hire six new employees.
Over the course of the year, Ximena and Zenobia developed such a strong bond that they chose to complete a second year together. Zenobia said, “She is a friend, philosopher and guide to me. It’s more than a mentoring relationship, it’s more like family.” Likewise, Ximena said she is proud of Zenobia and delighted to have made a life-long friend.
Feeling confident about her skills and her business, Zenobia has started to teach high-end embroidery to others and one day dreams of opening an art and design institute where she can share her passion even more widely. In the meantime, she has now joined the programme as a mentor, keen to inspire other women entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams.