Growing a business is a rewarding and challenging endeavor, but the process becomes much easier when you learn from the experiences of successful entrepreneurs.

So in our Our Own Kids Club Interview Series we have interviewed Shabana Gulrajani of MAVI Artisan Chocolates & Gourmet Desserts to share with us  some of her challenges and rewards of her journey as an entrepreneur.

OOKEM- What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?

Shabana- I got married fairly young and when I moved to china, as a lawyer here there were not too many opportunities for a foreign lawyer to excel in their career and the type of practice I was most interested in was domestic law which was not an open option for me at the time. I was bored and dissatisfied and I wanted to invest my time and energy into something I was most passionate about.

I was having dinner one day with a good friend who I consider now a sister to me, and I spoke about my passion and the idea of beautifully designed wrapped chocolates. I spoke about how back then there were no good quality local cakes. I was born with a sweet tooth and I was always the type of person that had room for dessert.

One thing led to another after our dinner conversation and then MAVI was born. A lot of blood sweat and tears followed after that …literally!!! It wasn’t easy but I’m so grateful to God because I always wanted to experience what it would be like to run my own company, handle a business. With that experience I am blessed to have learnt a lot in the process. Made me stronger and wiser.

OOKEM- How did you come up with the name MAVI?

Shabana- I put the first 2 initials of my son and my partner’s daughter’s names together … Manya & Vivaan …it was always my heartfelt desire to create something kids would appreciate and love, my kids have always been my inspiration and driving force to do and be better than I am. I wanted to create QUALITY in my work, in every sense of the word. Not only in image, but in taste.

OOKEM- What is unique about your business?

Shabana- Every business is unique in its own way, what people bring to the table, their thoughts desires vision passion love is what makes everyone unique. I think MAVI is all about quality and passion…it’s about creating something more than a desert! It’s about making someone smile on their special day and making them feel special. That’s always been our aim from the get go until today and that will never ever change. If we can’t do our 100% we won’t do it! I’m very strict about this.

OOKEM- What are the projects that you most enjoy working on?

Shabana- Customized/Personalized Desserts ~ I absolutely ❤️ LOVE working with my clients to create something they want. I do this as a personal homemade business…I took a training course myself in Hong Kong, where I’m from, born and raised. My parents still live out there. I woke up one morning and said “I’m ready to start learning more, I want to do more”…the best decision I’ve made in my life is investing in myself. I called my parents and told them I would be on the next flight out. After my practical training I started putting in more time and effort when I went back to shanghai in developing my skills, watching videos, reading books. Practice practice practice is key.

OOKEM- How many hours a day do you work on average?

Shabana- I’m not and never have been someone who can relax. I love keeping myself active . For me it’s always making the most of my day so when I’m not working on a client’s order I’m working on myself on another project. There’s so much to do and so little time as it is. I have a list of projects I have yet to attempt when I have time….and no doubt I keep adding and continue to add to the list. It’s about trying to improve myself and my work and that comes with persistence passion and practice.

OOKEM- Does being an entrepreneur affect your family life?

Shabana- At the beginning of starting the business yes! Absolutely. I was the face and force behind everything and I had to put in the extra hours to make the business stable and successful. I needed time, lots of time. It was a lot of money time effort and love that went into it. It took a toll on my health. Now that I have started my personal customized work I enjoy a balance and I wanted that. Nothing makes me happier than giving quality time to my kids and for family life. It is important to have that balance but in any business when you start and it’s your baby, it will be hard and it does take time. Earning the trust of your clients is important.

OOKEM- How do you define success?

Shabana- Honestly learning from mistakes…the more mistakes you make in life the wiser the stronger you are. I’ve made many but I’ve learnt from them mistakes. It’s made me better in business and stronger in making decisions that prove to be a success. It’s hard to keep the faith when you hit big obstacles and at times I felt I was playing snakes and ladders, but you learn more from going through difficulties.

OOKEM- What advice would you give to a kid who wants to be an entrepreneur, but doesn’t quite know where to start?

Shabana- INVEST IN YOURSELF. First focus on you!!! If you can do it, if you understand your business well then you’re half way there! We cannot prepare for all obstacles/ problems / difficulties that come our way, but when you have power of knowledge of knowing what you do well you will earn the respect of those who work with you and for you. You can take decisions based on knowledge not speculation. Of course even if we are masters of our craft there is always something to learn and room for improvement. But it helps and efficiency increases. Language is important. In China mandarin is a must. It’s not ok to be vulnerable in business The most important thing is to learn where you can delegate and where you cannot. Who you choose to help run the business is one of the most important part of running a ‘successful’ business. Your employees represent you. They should also be taken well care of because then in turn they will take the reins in running your company happily. A lot of aspects in running a business properly but it’s important not to rush or feel pressured. Take your time and do research well. Location location location if you want to open a shop is so so important. It will determine profitability and marketing strategy.

OOKEM- Let’s finish our interview with an interesting question! If you had a magic stick, which are the three things you would change in the world?

Shabana- I swear I wish that people are more considerate and loving towards others. Not selfish as I do often witness. Wouldn’t this world be such a beautiful thing if people realized that helping others brings the greatest joy. I wish people had passion in their hearts for what they do for a living. What a beautiful place this would be if people enjoyed their work. How it would impact others in a positive way. Really wanting to do the best they can and be the best they can be. Greed gets the better of many. If people could just realize how much success will follow with passion, opportunities would be endless. I wish more people could become spiritual rather than be materialistic. There’s so much more to life, such a deeper meaning so much to learn.

OOKEM- Thank you very much for being a source of inspiration not only for our young reader but also for the adults who are planning to step into the field of business!

Shabana- Pleasure is all mine! Thank you OOKEM!