Ayesha Gul is a 24-years old, graduating this year with a Marketing & Management Bachelor’s degree from London School of Economics.She grew up in an artsy family, So her business THE DRAWING ROOM is an epitome of her skills and the talent that runs in her family.So we invited Ayesha for our Pakistan Journal Talk series where we host people of vision & inspiration.
Who is the person behind ‘the drawing room? do you have a team?
TDR (Short for The Drawing room Studio) was something I came up with about 4 years ago, at the start of my business degree. it was never about money making, but only to bring a breath of fresh air of how gifts, printing & packaging was being done in Pakistan. During these 4 years, I’ve had absolutely wonderful people to work & learn with, the team has changed, and will be expanding by the end of the year. We plan to have numerous artists for collaboration on board as well as employing people from very meagre income levels with fine craftsmanship qualities.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always dreamt of being an architect or an interior designer since I was very young. But I never thought of having my own brand label. Furniture is one of my obsessions, and may soon be launching a studio furnishing line under TDR’s label (InshaAllah)
What is the strangest marketing experiment you ever did?
(Still yet to do one!)
What did you learn from your biggest failure?
I learnt that no matter how hard it may seem in that moment to get up, and brush off the dirt from your clothes and taking one step ahead may seem, but that is what will set you apart from everybody else, in any field of life. I’ve learnt how invincible us humans pretend to be, it is only our faith that will lead the way, no matter what is facing you. TDR is still in its baby steps today, but this is what I’ve learnt in 4 years of professional experience in handling TDR and building it.
What’s your productivity secret?
OOh, I wouldn’t want to give that one out. But on a lighter note, when they say “it’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together”, I can only say that is my secret. I absolutely love my job! And waking up every day is my most favourite thing to do. It’s never hard to stay up super late because of work. It’s something I enjoy the most. Never ever do something with half your heart. That is what will always set you apart from the rest, and that’s what sets TDR apart from the rest. If my own creation DOESN’T blow my mind, it’s not going to blow my customer’s mind away. I live by this.
What is one thing someone told you, you couldn’t do and you proved them wrong?
A boy asked me out on a date when I was in Grade 8th. I denied. He replied back that I won’t ever do anything creative and useful with my life, and I think today Alhumdulillah, it is up to the whole world to judge. I’ve learnt to work hard, and foremost to enjoy what I do and that has produced results that I am more than grateful for, every single day.
Where did you find inspiration to start your own brand?
I think it’s so true when Millenials are criticised for being a wee bit of stuck up. This much I always knew I had to be my own boss in the future, but I’m kind of glad about it as well. It was my sister’s wedding about 5 years ago and we went to every wedding invitation printers in Islamabad/Rawalpindi, and my sister couldn’t find something that was exactly right for her. It was that when I realised that this is something I want to do, to be able to customise this process for young, modern couples who want something more than just plain “gold & laal Shaadi k cards”. That is one of my biggest dreams come true at TDR. How Pakistan has reacted to TDR’s modern invitations & wedding stationery was absolutely phenomenal.
At the beginning did you believe that you would gain the traction or supporters that you have at the moment?
To be very honest, starting out was very scary and every day was so full of anxiety. Every point where we made a mistake or messed up, we had extremely supportive and wonderful clients that were understanding as well as teaching. Whatever we gave, we have received back 200 times back multiplied. My clients and followers are my biggest strength. They are like a family at TDR. I’ve made amazing friends who have become like family for me, through TDR. People who are so much ahead of us in the professional fields (Events, graphics, interiors) have loved and supported TDR like their own baby and I’ve had the chance to work & learn with the best in the field, and always looking forward to more experiences.
Any advice you would like to give to someone who is hoping to start a business similar to yours?
Yes. Don’t ever underestimate yourself! Because there’s going to be a hell lot of people who are going to underestimate you. If you’re the boss, be a damn good one. Enjoy your work, and make your customers your priority. Always take criticism and let it turn you into an even better entrepreneur. You are never going to be perfect, accept that. But always leave room for improvement. If it’s not something that lights your soul on fire, find something else that does then.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Ooh! I think that one only Allah has planned out perfectly, but I’d love for TDR to have its own gift and invitation selection boutiques all over Pakistan, as well as our own very popular line of studio furnishings & interior decorating solutions at affordable budgets.
One of your personal favourite products that the drawing room has produced?
It has to be our floral wedding invitations, I am absolutely obsessed with them still. I think it was our floral invites that really put us out there. It’s something you can’t copy unless you have the aesthetics to actually do it. All of my invitations are extremely special because the bride/groom have put in days of effort alongside myself where we finalised the colours, texts and finishing absolutely perfect. In the end, it was the product that made all guests who received a set literally tell me “booking you in advance for my own/my child’s wedding” and that made the whole process so so worth it.
if you could offer any advice to 16-year-old self, what would it be?
It’s going to be hard, freaking hard, but stay on the right path. You will make it. Always find time to feed your soul and to strengthen your link with your Lord. Laugh a little harder and eat a little more.
Worst / most difficult part of your job
Handling queries and making sure each and every client is catered to exactly to their need especially right now because of my studies. Every item at TDR is available for customisation. So giving individual attention to about 100 people per day gets a bit tough. I think later on after I graduate it won’t be that bad!
With society giving more attention to women, what advice would you give someone right now?
I would like to tell all girls & women out there, that no matter how much they tell you that you’re not, You are in the driving seat of your own life. You are not in the backseat. Life’s too short to live within the boundaries. Break all boundaries. Love yourself a little harder, and believe in yourself a little more. God will open doors that you could never even imagine for your own self.
What is the best thing about Pakistan?
Everything about my country is beautiful, despite the downsides of it. If I connect it to TDR, we get messages every single day from every part of the country, of people just taking out a minute to appreciate my hard work & creativity. They just drop in a small message full of love & motivation. It’s literally fuel on some of the hardest days!
Do you think media plays an important role in bringing forward artists? Or it depends on the person, that if you have skills you will be known for your work automatically?
I think both count equally. Unlike the general opinion. A lot of People in Pakistan have extremely cultured and developed aesthetics now for art & design. They know exactly what’s pleasing and what’s not. It’s not easy to fool them, but I personally feel if your work does set you apart from the rest, then it will be recognised.
Do you think that a positive change can be achieved in Pakistan?
I believe so yes, but for that each and every single one of us needs to take the responsibility, step up and quit slacking. We have to stand up for what is right and call out for whatever is whoever is wrong.
What do you want more people to be discussing nowadays?
Ugh, literally anything except Lawn, man! So overrated. Women achievements! Art, Design & Science!
How is your personality reflected in your work?
People who know me and my work personally know that usually, my overnights are because I’m an absolute perfectionist! I’ll be more than happy to delay an order by 48 hours and have it delivered absolutely perfect rather than it being “good”
Who should we be following on Instagram right now?
My absolute favourite accounts on Instagram these days are @maryamishah @elledecor @goop @mariotestino @hashimali @oliviahmagazine