From Friendship to EntrepreneurshipWomen have a special role to play in all walks of our life. However, some of them with their extraordinary performance set a noteworthy example for the society. Two preschool teachers with synchronized beliefs, came together with a brilliant idea to help small children during the lockdown phase of Covid 19. With their willingness and ability to revolutionize they turned into budding entrepreneurs. Two friends who became business partners for a very noble cause. They design homework resources beyond the classroom for students. These tools help to develop communication and an independent learning environment for children in the age groups 2 to 6 years. Two simple ladies converted their expertise into a product! Inspirational. Novice in the area of business, they now dream to create an empire with a women workforce. This is how women can transform themselves and set noteworthy examples in society. Here is the story of Ms Priyanka Jacob and Ms Kalpana V, Co-founders of The Busy Bee.
A Coincidence or Fate?We met each other for the first time in a crowded room of an army pre -primary school where both of us had come to give an interview for the post of teacher. There were about 50-60 ladies in the room. You can imagine the chatter, the chaos in the room. Still amongst the crowd we had spotted each other and got connected.
At the outset there was nothing common between us. Priyanka was a second-generation army kid from Hindi heartland Lucknow and I came from the beautiful state of Kerala. But the moment we started working together we understood we shared passion for many things. We set up the school library together which was not functional till then. We designed the activity room together. We set up the vegetable garden in the school; Oh, it was so much fun. Priyanka is a trained story teller. Together we conducted storytelling sessions in school, planned movie shows for children and what not….We had a ball of a time in school.
We had completed one academic session and were on the threshold of starting our next academic session. Planning was going on for the whole year and then the pandemic happened. Nobody was knowing what to do with Covid 19 protocols and schools being shut for. Then I got a call from Priyanka,” Kalpana, Why don’t we start sending worksheets for children. Why waste time?”. I also felt it is the best thing we can do and we started off with our online classes. We had to face so many challenges as there was no precedence of any online classes till then. We had to lay down a path ahead. Our comradery helped us tide through the challenging times together. The academic year also ended in a very rewarding way. For our contribution to starting the online classes and leading our team from the front, both of us were awarded with that year’s Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA ) Excellence Award for teaching.
A fortuitous encounterIt was time to bid adieu to the station and time to move for both of us. My husband’s posting came first and I shifted to Delhi. I had decided to take a sabbatical from work for one year. Priyanka meanwhile was awaiting her posting. Call it destiny, one fine day I got a call from Priyanka that she is also moving to Delhi. Happiness knew no bounds but still we did not have plans to start anything new. Priyanka started scouting for a job.
A phone call“Kalpana, why don’t we make worksheets? We have so many years of experience teaching kindergarten children. If we join school as a teacher, we will be able to influence only a few children. I also gave it a thought. After all, it will be just an extension of the work we had done during the past years. The thought that we can impact the life of countless children really excited me too. We had great faith in our potential and thus we decided to take the plunge.
As teachers, we had felt that preschool education is not given paramount importance in the Indian scenario(Govt has addressed this issue in National Education Policy 2020 ) . Another shortfall was the lack of awareness amongst parents and teachers regarding holistic education for children and even if schools and parents are aware there isn’t ample affordable resources available off the shelf. Preschool children take a lot of time to open up….Some are bubbly, some are shy, some are quick to learn while some take time …So we had always felt that just the way notebooks, textbooks and stationery are available with every child, skill enhancers should also be available with every single child.
A new beginning….Making a decision to start a venture is the easiest part. It is opening the doors to a long struggle.
We knew how to design worksheets but publishing a workbook was a different ball game altogether. There were days when we were clueless about how to move forward. But not once did this thought cross our mind that we won’t be able to do this. Configuring a comprehensive box with workbooks and skill sets involved sourcing a lot of things too . We had to strike a balance between quality, quantity and rates. Endless days and nights were spent planning the contents and the package.
After designing the books the next step was printing & editing the book. We took the support of our family for this. After different rounds of editing, finally the product was ready to be printed for Sampling. Testing the efficacy of the product was done by sending samples to friends and family. Anxiety had reached its heights as we were going to get a review about the product from a third person. Good reviews came pouring in, this gave us immense happiness and motivation. There were also few practical suggestions for change. We incorporated these changes and thus after 9 months our product was ready to be printed. Still, there was a long road ahead before the product could make an entry into the market. The next step was packaging. Our house help, chipped in for this part. Thus our boxes were ready to be presented to the world.
We still cherish the day when we got the first sample of our box, books and other skill enhancers. We felt all the hard work was worth the moment….
The Rolling Launch : Challenges
1.Cost Effective Website developmentIn order to have digital footprints, we had started working on developing our website. Cash crunch is one of the major teething issues every startup will have to face initially. This is where hard work and correct recruitment can help you.If you see the expense part, there are two kinds of expenses.One is the expenditure for producing your product and the second part is setting up the associated things like website, digital marketing etc.You cannot compromise on the first expense as it will affect the quality of the product.We had never cut down on spending money for sourcing the best hands for designing and printing of the books and skill enhancers. But when it came to developing our website we caught hold of a person who was ready to develop the website for a nominal amount but we had to give the design, content etc.This was one way in which we could do the cost cutting without affecting the quality.
Giving content for designing workbooks was not at all a big task for us since we have been doing that all our life but when it came to website design we were bombarded with all sorts of technical terms like footer, breadcrumbs, sitemap etc etc… We didn’t have an inkling about these terms but we decided to take up the challenge and within no time we cracked everything and our website was ready in a week’s time to GO LIVE.
2.Social Media MarketingThe next biggest hurdle was Social Media marketing.We both were media shy people.I am writing in past tense because now we are not! We have understood the power of social media.If used well social media can be a powerful tool to carry your business to new levels.We were searching for the right person to guide us. That’s when we found Mrs Timsi Bector, winner of Mrs Asia Pacific Ocean 2021. She is also a big time social media influencer.We couldn’t thank our stars enough.Meeting Mrs Timsi was another Kick- start for us. We had gone to her, to ask whether she knew anybody who can make reels and videos for us.A few hours of interaction with her changed our whole perception about social media.She encouraged us to handle our page ourselves which otherwise we had thought of giving it to some social media manager. After our meeting with Mrs Timsi, we decided to handle the social media page ourselves .The motivation she gave us was so tremendous that the very same day we planned content and started posting on social media . It’s been 5 months since we started our social media page and now it has about 1000 plus followers .The stage was set-Product Ready-Website Ready-on to the big part- PRODUCT LAUNCH .
3.Entering into the MarketOur struggles, hard work and our belief in the product demanded that the product should be presented first to none other than President AWWA. Thus we approached Central AWWA and they kindly obliged with the closest date possible to meet President AWWA. We were so sure about our product. So more than nervousness, we were excited about the launch.
What a day it had been. After our presentation, President AWWA arranged so many opportunities for us. We met Principals of Army schools in the Delhi area. Simultaneously we also participated in many prestigious exhibitions like Amritsar Book Fair, Kukdukoo Lit Fest (Literature Festival for children and parents) to name a few. Till now we have got bulk orders from 4 schools which is pretty remarkable for a starter, considering the short span of time. Now we are at the threshold of launching a few new products also.
Since our launch in March 2022, there has been no looking back.
The response we have been getting from our customers whether individual customers or from schools is awesome. Pictures of a whole bunch of nursery children sitting silently doing lacing activity, a lower KG class doing scissor cutting activity speaks volumes about our product. It gives us great confidence that what we have envisioned while designing this product is a reality now.
Though we had started our venture impromptu,once we started off with it we have given our 200 % to it.People have wanted to get associated with us just by seeing our dedication. In the beginning ,me and Priyanka had made a list ,noting down all the things we needed to do to launch this product! We sometimes tell children to write their dreams on a sheet of paper, isn’t it. Children being innocent they write down everything that comes to their mind.Me and Priyanka had also done the same at the beginning, writing down everything we wanted to achieve.It seemed to be a wild list ,a dreamy list but never an impossible one . After seven months, I was going through that To do list. Except a few points, everything that we had jotted down has been ticked off. We had strong faith that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. That faith pulled us through.
Nothing would have been possible without help from our organization-AWWA. We are ever grateful to President AWWA & team for giving us a dream launch.People are knowing about us in the army circle and otherwise also. Owing to requests of people we met during exhibitions or through instagram DMs we had decided to launch a new product for 6 plus children. We had the design of the product ready in our mind but we needed a designer for that.We were asking our acquaintances for any reference, searching digital media platforms and desperately trying to zero in on the right person.Then one fine day I get a call from an army wife saying she got to know about us from some known acquaintance and thought she will give us a call to see if she can help us.Mrs Swati Sharma’s profile matched the profile we were searching for and we started off work the same day.In fact this has ticked off one more wish from our bucket list-Generating employment for our fellow army wives irrespective of their place of residence.Within a few weeks our new product was ready for launch.On October 1st we launched our new product for 6 plus children-THE ARTWIST CANVAS PAINTING KIT. We exhibited it at one of the Army Pre Primary Schools PTM where we had a bumper sale.
And the journey continues ..
We have just begun our journey; the next few years are extremely crucial for us. We do have a few roadblocks on our way. Which business doesn’t have that. But we are very sure that we will make it big as we are working for a noble cause.We are visiting schools now for bulk orders.We have been getting positive response from the schools we have visited.We are open to customization of our product as per the requirements of the school. A lot of individual customers benefit from buying our product online from the website.
Team The Busy Bee is in constant upgradation and research. In case you resonate with the idea and would like to have more information or be partner in the journey, Priyanka and Kalpana can be reached at : Website-https://thebusybee.in Instagram:-https://instagram.com/thebusybee.in Facebook:-https://m.facebook.com/thebusybee.in/ Email:-email@example.com Whatsapp: -+91 95996 63194
Amazing duo working for a great cause
Wishing Busy Bee many many more successful milestones ahead
Thank you so much.
More power to u & the Busy Bee👏👏
Thank you Dr Suma.Its the best wishes of supporters like you which has given us the motivation to strive hard and give our best.
Real inspiration….. There is no dearth of opportunities out there…. So the choice is yours…to crib or to grab
Salute to these ladies for coming out of there comfort zones and doing something for the greater good
Exactly our point.It was not an easy path,we have a tough path ahead also….But the happiness you get when you feel that you have done something great today is priceless.
Thank you for appreciating our efforts.
What a product these ladies have made. I had bought one for my kido from an exhibition and it was life changing. It has given a different perspective to studies all together. It’s so immersive that I don’t even have to tell him get on with it..
Hats of to you girls. Your experience and the love with which you made your products are very evident
Wishing the best
Thank you so much.
Such reviews coming from a person who has used our product means a lot to us.
This is a wonder product. The busybee kit is being used in my child’s school. During the last PTM teachers were going gaga about it. Even the parents including me were giving positive reviews about it. Actually there is an evident change in the studies compared to last year
Happy to see you people on this blog
Incredibly happy that you have found our product worth every penny.
Thank you so much for taking out time and giving a very honest review
Busy Bee kit is unique and probably best in the line. It inspires children to think,act and innovate.A great asset to curriculum of Kinter Garten education. I strongly recommend
Busy Bee kit to schools, teachers and parents.
Kudos to the dedication of busy bee team…such a vision…Great going…Keep up the good work..