Accessorize Yourself

It’s alright to be a geek, and even better to express the kind of geek you are. Puts you right in the group of people you’d like to be surrounded with.

People in Pakistan are beginning to express their likes, beliefs and choices through not only tailor-made T-shirts but via other accessories too.

Enter Prisms and Paintbrushes

What may seem as an anomaly is now a trend. Take a look at a register with the cover page of Pink Floyd. It’s suggestive of your music preference – psychedelic rock. People want such stuff. They like to express who they follow.

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Unlike a famous quote from a Game of Thrones’ character or the album cover of a popular music band, Sadia Gilani – owner of Prisms and Paintbrushes, creates original content for people and tries to strike a chord with her customers’ thinking patterns, using puns and verbiage to incite a certain kind of response.

From funky badges to hardcover notepads to friendship and birthday cards, all the designs are made by Sadia herself, who is concurrently pursuing a bachelor’s in Fine Arts from National College of Arts in Lahore.

Starting off

Prisms and Paintbrushes was launched in January 2013, after Sadia had a successful pop-up shop stint at an exhibition organized by late Sabeen Mahmud at The Second Floor (T2F) in Karachi.

“I always loved to draw, but the overwhelming response I got from my first pop-up shop proved to be the moving force behind Prisms and Paintbrushes,” said Sadia, while showcasing her products at a popular bookstore in Lahore, The Last Word.

Later on in the same year, Crafter’s Expo Karachi also gave impetus to Sadia to carry on with her business idea as she saw a lot of artists exhibit their work.

Starting with merely Rs 11,000 as a loan from her father, Sadia quickly broke even and made sure that she could finance the future of the project herself.

Who’s the target?

One very clear impression that you get from looking at the products made by Prisms and Paintbrushes is that they are mostly for the fairer sex, perhaps a disappointment to some.

Sadia, however, defends her stance by saying, “I like to do what I can relate to myself. That’s what I love to do, and yes it’s mostly for teenagers but people in their 20s and 30s are also my customers.”

She has introduced a few unisex products too, with cover pages suitable for both sexes, and a couple of products for men only; carrying taglines such as ‘Manly Notes’.

Pricing Strategy and Business Model

Sadia has decided to have a mix of both when it comes to pricing: cost plus pricing and competitive pricing.

While the major determining factor is the cost, Sadia keeps in mind the prices of her competitors (average bookshops and stationery shops) so as to make sure she can offer a better quality product at a relatively lower price.

Badges are priced at Rs 200, small notepads at Rs 300-350 and big notebooks at Rs 800, amongst other products such as cards.

According to Sadia, pop-up shops at exhibitions account for the highest sales, followed by orders through her Facebook page and lastly, other bookstores such as The Last Word and Haryali Store in Defence Housing Authority Lahore.

Her bestselling products are notepads and badges. Sadia does everything herself except for the printing which is outsourced to local printers in Royal Park, Lahore.

Sadia Gilani, Owner Prisms and Paintbrushes

Diversification and Expansion

“I’m not sure if I’ll have enough funds to open a brick and mortar shop to sell these products, but I’m definitely planning on bringing more products to my current portfolio,” said Sadia.

Sadia is planning to introduce detailed planners, calendars, enamel pins, tote-bags, and notepads with checklists to increase the variety of products she is offering.

She also has another business named: Absolutely Booked. It’s a book subscription box service, wherein, a new theme is announced every two months and people order the box if they like the theme. The box contains a newly launched Young Adult original novel, following the theme of the box and other accessories such as scented candles, bookmarks and stickers.

Her first book subscription box was launched in July last year and carried the book ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’, along with several Harry Potter themed products.

She managed to sell almost 200 of these boxes.

Challenges faced by women entrepreneurs

“The biggest challenge I have faced is the outright harassment by men when I go to get my designs printed,” Sadia lamented.

She recounted her experience of dealing with different men, who, upon learning that she worked alone, started harassing her through calls and messages and inappropriate advances.

“They would offer me drinks and sweets, which I would politely refuse but then they would make sure I paid for the refusal by ruining the work they were supposed to do,” said Sadia.

This process of being harassed by a printer, refusal to deliver the right quality of product, and as a result trying to find a new, better printer is what impels women to shun entrepreneurship of such a nature and instead work at a reputable organization.

“This patriarchal society is blind to the urgent reforms that are needed to safeguard women entrepreneurs so that businesses can thrive in the country, instead of living in constant fear of men who will not work with you if you don’t get frank with them,” said Sadia.

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Abbas Naqvi
The writer is a contributing writer for Profit at Pakistan Today. He can be emailed at [email protected]
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