Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Shagun Maheshwari, Co-Founder of Papaya, located in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Papaya is a sustainable menstruation product company. Our first product is our compostable sanitary pad that we are launching this summer in India! We are a group of young women who want to make better products for people like us. We made Papaya to be a bold, taboo-breaking brand that embodies the modern Indian woman. We want to hold up a mirror against our audience and have them see themselves and what they could become if they owned their bodies and embraced themselves. Papaya is about empowerment, questioning societal norms, and helping people lead their most unstoppable life. We are focusing on young people in their twenties and early thirties that lead active lives and are environmentally conscious.

Tell us about yourself

Me and my other co-founders, Suhani Jalota and Victoire Ambeza, wanted to make menstruation better for ourselves and others individually. We were each trying to work on this problem in our own ways - Suhani had founded a nonprofit - Myna Mahila Foundation, that works in menstrual equity for low-income urban communities in India. I was developing a compostable pad in collaboration with Myna, and Victoire had just spent a year working with Myna and getting her degree in international development. We came together through Myna and decided we wanted to make a product and start a business together. It's been 4 years since we met, and the idea grew and took shape.

What motivates me every day is the fact that very soon, there will be an actual physical product that we will be able to get into people's hands and get real feedback on. Its finally grown from an idea and a working prototype to a fully developed product. We now have a small team working on this, and it's really cool to see what we had in our minds taking shape.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Building a team, getting people excited about our vision, and slowly watching it take shape beyond what we alone could do. We have finished 3 user test runs on our pad and have just finished our website - you can pre-order your pads now! - we only deliver in India currently! We have finalized the packaging and the finishing touches on the product, and it's currently being manufactured. We are working on getting our final manufacturing stretch done, and it's really exciting. We are building our social media platforms to build a community and start the conversation.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

We are building a physical product. That has its challenges as manufacturing and supply chain can be finicky at times, and we often get unforeseen delays. Recently the place we were storing our material caught fire (thankfully, no one was hurt, and we did not get any damages) but having a physical product means dealing with strange circumstances sometimes. So trying to let the small stuff go and focus on the bigger picture can sometimes be challenging.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

Keep at it; small baby steps take you really far. Invest in good people. They keep you going when it gets really difficult and remind you why you do what you do.

Where can people find you and your business?

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