Sana Khan Niazi, Founder, Paimona

By Anam Abdulla | Stories

Nov 25
Sana is an explorer at heart – an artist who loves to explore different forms of expression, be it design, performing arts or visual arts. She majored in accounting and finance as an undergraduate degree and then went on to do theatre for the next 4 years with Anwar Maqsood. Not only was she acting but also managing majority of the production activities. As exciting and invigorating it was, she always had an itch to do more, to be able to make a difference larger than herself. That’s when, with the help of her sister, Simra, Sana launched Paimona. As it went along, as it happens, she couldn’t stay away from the stage for long and she challenged herself to take up stand-up comedy. Sana therefore became a part of the first all girls stand up comedy troupe in Pakistan, called Auratnaak, which has proven to be a great platform for women to break stereotypes and share experiences.

 

1. Tell us about Paimona Works – what is it and how did you start, what were the first few steps like?

When I was doing theatre, we used to travel to different cities with each play. For one of these plays, we were in dubai and I was shopping for my home in one of those big fat stores there. I have this really stupid habit of checking the price tags.. one for the price and 2 for where its made. While doing that, something struck me as real odd. I could see ade is india, made in china, made in Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia you name it, they had it. But there was no made in Pakistan. What bothered me was that with as rich a culture and craft as Pakistan, what was that lacking that excluded us from being in stores abroad. That’s when I set out on this research to find what was going on, not for anyone at the time but for me. To see where our potters, wood crafters and well artisans of all sorts were, why couldn’t we be in places that would help build our work, our recognition.. I went to quite a few places including hala, bhittshah, shahdadpur, gujranwala, gujrat, multan. Whereever I went, it was the same disappointing story – bijli nahi hai, gas nahi hai – no support in the face of international competition. Because of the lack of these basic necessities, the craftsmen were either going out of business or being plunged deeper and deeper into poverty. Imagine the waste of lives and talent when the beautiful craft and skill of theirs that they have inherited from generation after generation loses its value, appreciation and worth. That’s when it struck me… what if, I could be the catalyst to the change in their lives; help the craftsmen and artisans while taking our crafts and culture to a global level. Hence, Paimona was born; emerging as a breath of fresh air in the fluidity of tradition. The ultimate transformation of traditional grandeur into modern aesthetics.

2. What do you think is key to secure funding for start-ups? What should aspiring entrepreneurs keep in mind?

In order to secure funding, the start up must thoroughly understand and plan on what costs they are going to incur over a certain period of time along with their expected revenues. Especially where will be funding be used and what will be the outcome of that injection. For someone who will be putting money in your business, you must have a very clear understanding of what is at stake and the returns in different situations. The investor not only wants to see your passion for what you do (that goes without saying) but also how well you can cater to the ground realities of running a business and how capable and prepared you are of facing the challenges that entrepreneurship brings with it.

3. What were some of the initial challenges with setting up a new business? What did you do to tackle those challenges?

The biggest challenge for any startup is funding. With the limited resources that you have, you have to constantly make a decision of what to spend on and what not to. It is easy to get tempted into spending money where it is not needed so much and we only learn once we experience it. Personally, it was a very big challenge as well because when you start, you have a very different picture in your mind and when the expenses start to hit you making the right call becomes very very important and integral to your survival. I also feel that setting up a business isn’t as challenging as growing/sustaining a business is. That’s where the real test lies. And often sustainability and growth is where most startups fail. Your savings will run out very soon, and you do not know when you will be able to get funding. So generating revenue, however small, really helps. This is one of the reasons Paimona has been doing well so far. We understood that in order to help the Artisans and craftsmen, we must learn to breathe on our own only then will we truly be able to provide sustainability to them.

4. What has been the most effective way to raise awareness of your business?

The world comes together on digital and that is what has been the most effective for us.  Social media has been instrumental in getting our message across to people who genuinely care about the lives of the artisans and the craft of our country.

5. Have you used any networks to help you achieve your goals? If so, what networks have you used and which have been the most helpful?

Do you mean social networks? Then I would say Facebook and instagram top the list amongst others

6. What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever received? Do you have any advice for our readers?

Do not underestimate the power of your network. We are very lost when we start, we don’t know who to go to, who to talk to. That’s where your own network comes into play. Talk to people you know, ask them for the people THEY may know who could help you and that’s where it begins.

I would only say that be fierce, be fearless because the biggest problem that you may have can be solved. There is no mountain you cannot cross you just have to keep at it. And well make changes along the way. Adapt, learn, unlearn, pivot – these are all part of the process.

And a few bite-sized answers for our readers:

  1. Success to me is… what kind of an impact are you making in the world
  2. The top three skills that have helped me succeed are… persistence, networking and time management.
  1. The best part about being an entrepreneur is… not that you get to be your own boss (as most would think) but to have the power to make a difference in someone else’s life for the better. No reward like it!
  1. The biggest mistake entrepreneurs tend to make… is to be obstinate. It is important to adapt and understand that the original plans may not always work out. In such cases, pivoting may yield much better results.
  1. My favourite quote or words that I live by are…“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” – Anais Nin