Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. Today we chat with Supal Desai, a familiar face who has contributed to our blog (here and here) and who recently just launched her own company, C&É Consultancy. The London based firm provides businesses, brands and designers from the worlds of fashion, food and interiors with insight, strategies and much more.
Image courtesy of Sara Lejon Photography
1. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your career.
By day I specialize in the business environment in the Middle East and Central Asia, which includes things like conducting due diligence through international networks, monitoring political and regulatory developments and presenting my findings to senior decision-makers or players interested in making an investment in the region. I started traveling to the Middle East when I was in college to conduct field research and really enjoyed learning about the society and culture. Though I always wrote in journals, I wanted to document my experiences and share it with family and friends back home. These experiences included recipes, DIY projects, tips about travel and narratives about my experiences. When I moved to Washington, DC after college that’s when I started taking blogging seriously as I wanted to blend both my work in international affairs with my love for culture and adventure. To my surprise, people were interested in what I had to say! Soon after I continued backpacking and eventually started graduate school at the University of St. Andrews working towards a MA in Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies. Studying something so dynamic on a campus full of people from all over the world, it enhanced my outlook and refined my opinions and style. I started C&É Consultancy because I believe combining a company’s business goals with design ambitions is important to strengthen a brand and my international experience can provide a unique perspective!
2. How did C&É Consultancy come to exist?
When I was at St. Andrews, I was reached out by a few major department stores based in London to do some concept design for windows. I was working alongside reputable brands in the fashion industry and was becoming more exposed to the design world. After moving to London and doing a bit of networking in the fashion world, companies and designers were reaching out to me because I was bringing a unique perspective, one that combined design with diplomacy and business ethics, which is what gave rise to C&É Consultancy! It marries both my worlds of business intelligence and management with design.
3. What draws you to the world of fashion, food and interiors?
Well, my mom with fashion. My mother is incredibly beautiful and has always loved quality clothes. She used to have long, dark hair that she braided and wore stunning floral frocks. I can confidently say that I share the same love for skirts, dresses and frocks! Also, growing up in an Indian household, I was spoiled with beautiful traditional clothes of silks and cottons and vibrant colors. When it comes to interiors, my parents bought a home when I was about 12 years old. It was a blank canvas, one that we were going to truly make our own by decorating each room and painting the walls! My parents took point in involving me in the entire process of designing. They consulted me on color selections, dining sets, chinaware, etc. It’s the fact that they had confidence in my choices. And when it comes to food, just about every narrative on c&é’s recipes is a personal story about how food has always brought my family together. I mean, even our home is centered around the kitchen island! I remember after submitting my dissertation at St. Andrews, I was home in Florida and we decided to grill out. The scene: my dad was trimming the meat as my mom mixed together a spice rub right next to him. My brother setting up the table outside and helping me put together the side dishes and dessert, but mostly taste testing everything. We’re a stream without a ripple when it comes to the kitchen. Everyone has a distinct, essential role and it’s something I cherish and love so much.
4. Where would you like to see C&É Consultancy go in the next 5 or 10 years?
I want C&É Consultancy’s philosophy to be something emerging designers and business owners prioritize. In 5 years, I imagine we will have a network of retained clients that entrust us to help them navigate critical business decisions. In 10 years, I hope we establish a strong enough impact in the design and boutique hospitality industry where it is natural for companies to outline business goals encompassing what we believe in at C&É Consultancy.
5. How do you balance business and pleasure?
That’s a really good question! I’m still trying to figure this out. In a world where social media dictates our lives (and my social media being so connected to the brand of my blog) it is incredibly difficult to emancipate myself from blog/business time. There are a few habits that help me unwind and enjoy myself: I never go on the internet when I’m in the tube. That 20-40 minutes without internet is pure freedom and I usually don’t even listen to music just so I can force myself to live in the present. I always wake up an hour before I’m supposed to and I write letters to readers, friends and family. I go rowing out on the River Thames once-a-week (if weather permits in London). Finally, I can never fall asleep without reading.
Image courtesy of Sara Lejon Photography
6. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Travel, adventure, experiences, my past. I was fortunate enough to have parents that continued to push me to learn everything I possibly could. When I was younger my weeks were full of after-school activities like piano lessons, dance classes, language courses, sports and the like. Those skills defined my characteristics and open to new experiences, which is why culture through art, music, language, and literature drives my creativity. I take raw experiences and adapt them into relatable posts or projects for my readers and clients.
7. What advice would you have for those thinking about launching their own company?
Be ready for early mornings, long nights, and lots of caffeine! But really, it’s one of the best feelings in the world and if it is something you are truly passionate for, you will never work a day in your life. Be prepared. I drafted a business plan and went over it with my dad, until I constructed a business model that I was happy with. Defining a philosophy and outlining your goals will build a stronger brand and make the transition into being your own boss that much easier.
Just for fun…