Success doesn’t come easy in life. What’s more, it doesn’t come easy at a young age. Most success stories we hear are of those who are middle-aged or in the prime of their lives.
Meet ShashikaMadhuwanthiRathnayake, a 27-year-old from Ridipana, Badulla and proprietor of ‘Snowgirl Bridal’. Adept at designing wedding attire, Shashika’s reputation precedes her.
Since childhood, have you always wanted to venture out on your own?
Indeed! I was 24 when ‘Snowgirl Bridal’ took off.
Had any members of your family previously dabbled in a similar area of business?
Not at all. My family comprises my parents, siblings, an older sister, and a younger brother. My Father works as a police officer, and my Mother is a housewife. My sister is in the banking sector, and my younger brother is still reading for his Advanced Level examination. We don’t come from a traditional business family background.
Was this then something you wanted to do as a child?
Funnily enough, not that either! My journey as an entrepreneur was unexpected and unplanned.
What did your previous line of work entail?
I used to do a bunch of different things earlier. I studied in the Mathematics stream for my Advanced Levels. After my secondary education, I opted to pursue Quantity Surveying at Badulla Technical College. After completing this programme, I worked part-time and interned at different organisations for on-the-job experience. The life of a Quantity Surveyor is not one that’s restricted to the confines of an office. This also pushed me away from it and in search of newer pursuits.
Is this when you decided to pursue something completely different, like designing?
No, not at all! It still amazes me how I got into this industry. Around this time, I thought of getting myself a sewing machine. It was just a passing thought. However, I acted on it. On my way home one day, I went into the Singer outlet in Badulla. I bought myself a portable sewing machine I could carry home. At the time of purchase, I was informed of a free one-day training sewing programme at the Singer Sewing Academy in Badulla. I joined this programme out of curiosity and met the trainer Ms Asha AmaliAriyadasa. I also met other students who are following various sewing courses and programmes. What drew me into pursuing what I do today was the attention to detail Ms Asha gave every one of us and how she explained complicated patterns and techniques.
So is this how you gained interest in the industry?
Actually, yes! After this course, I became very fond of and interested in sewing. I first thought of following an introductory foundation course in sewing, so I learned things from the beginning. This was while I was also employed at a private company, and it was easier for me to opt for a programme at the Singer Sewing Academy under the guidance of Ms Asha, who was already an inspiration. Upon the completion of this programme, I felt confident. I decided to venture into bridal and saree jacket design and tailoring. During this time, I also completed a course specific to this line of bridal attire sewing, so I was qualified for it.
Isn’t bridal and saree jackets a more complex art compared to regular clothing?
It is, yes, and this makes it a very niche industry as there aren’t many who venture into this field. While completing the course, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking big! I wanted to add embellishments and intricate handmade detailing to it. Still, I knew that it wasn’t something I could do with the portable sewing machine I had at home, and I knew I needed to opt for an industrial sewing machine.
What is the sewing machine that you selected?
This was a big decision and turning point for me when looking at my future. Everything my business knew was based on this machine. No matter how well I learnt the art or studied the complexities of sewing if I didn’t have a sewing machine that would bring these ideas to life, that would mean the downfall of my business. Bridal attire is something you tailor to each individual. It must fit unique body types, and most importantly, the bride must be happy with her outfit. Therefore, this isn’t something that can have any room for error; therefore, my work should be neat and precise. I needed to enter this line of work with the best possible tool (or machine) to bring this vision to life. With this in mind, I purchased the Zoje High-Speed Direct Drive Lockstitch Sewing Machine. I brought my vision to life by creating a line of elegant bridal attire and renting them out.
Where did you begin your business operations?
I started my business in a separate part of our house and continue to do my business from home. I have expanded my operations and this area slightly to include an independent clothing shop and a space for sewing.
Did you continue full-time employment while starting the business too?
I did for about a year in the business, but then I left my place of work and focused on business full-time.
Are you still focusing only on bridal attire?
Wedding attire includes a broad spectrum of clothing. This means your wedding day clothing, the going-away outfit, a homecoming outfit, and the outfits of the wedding entourage all for one bride! I have now even limited my saree jackets to only bridal jackets as I don’t have the time to take on more work.
How many more have you employed?
I have one with me full-time and another on a part-time basis. Besides that, my Mother is also a constant source of support. Because I don’t have much time to do other things, my Mother helps me a lot. My sister also helps me a lot on her holidays.
I have high hopes to expand my business in the coming days further. One such milestone is to get a few more sewing machines, including the Zoje High-Speed Direct Drive Lockstitch Sewing Machine and Zoje Five Thread Overlock Sewing Machine. The technology behind the Zoje Direct Drive has made things very convenient for those in our industry, and we can now spend more time designing and ideating newer ideas. After all, there are only 24 hours a day, and I would like to use that time as effectively as possible! Moreover, the Zoje Direct Drive is also a power-saving machine, ideal for small businesses like myself. If this continues, I will be able to hopefully expand my business and cater to other types of sewing needs and requirements as well. With the hopes of achieving this milestone, I am laying the groundwork by currently completing an advanced level programme on dress-making at the Singer Academy.
Are you still unmarried?
Yes, I am.
For someone who creates unique designs for brides, do you hope to create your bridal attire someday?
To be honest, I haven’t been able to think about it!
As someone talented, tell us a little more about your love life!
I don’t have a boyfriend or partner, and honestly, I haven’t had time to think about anyone! I have dedicated my life to this business during the last few years, from planning to designing, sewing and bringing in new customers that I haven’t had time to think about in my love life. However, my parents don’t seem to think this way and are currently searching for suitable partners for me.
For those who are reading this article, how can they get in touch with you for inquiries?
My Facebook Page, ‘Snow Girl Bridal Boutique’, and on WhatsApp/Telephone on 076 379 9699.