At 25 years old, Ateefa Azad is proud to call herself a successful business woman and the founder of Bombay Couture – a luxury boutique for Indian bridal and party wear. But this young and passionate woman didn’t simply fall into the role, she earned her way there.
Throughout high school and post-secondary, Ateefa spent many years lending a helping hand within the family retail business. She would come to know all the ins and outs of the store and stand by her mom when times got rough. It was only after she obtained her diploma at Blanche MacDonald that she found a way to branch out on her own – to challenge herself when the job became too familiar and too comfortable. With her mother successfully running the retail store Bombay Collection, Ateefa proposed to set up a higher-end sister boutique with a focus on bridal wear. After a bit of convincing on her moms part, followed up with a lot of support, Bombay Couture was up and running within three months.
MTI: How would you describe your business?
A: A business that focuses on the value and quality of the purchase. People who shop at my store know what they are trying to find. They know what the current trends are. They know that what I sell for how much I sell is a good value compared to the higher end stores. But if you don’t know the difference between a well-made tailored suit versus something that’s been replicated with lower quality fabric and stitching, then you’re going to think my prices are too high.
MTI: How do you want people to feel when they walk into your store?
A: I want people to feel like they’re coming into a luxury store and having an experience. I don’t want them to come in and think it’s like every other store in my field. I just want them to enjoy the experience.
MTI: Despite having such huge success in such a short amount of time, what is one of the biggest struggles you had to face?
A: People who like to cut corners and think it’s okay to take advantage of me and my boutique. It’s really disappointing and disrespectful. I have worked so hard for this shop, I’m only 25 and I’m not ready to put it at risk for people who don’t want to do business legitimately. Just because other people have a bad habit of not following the rules, it doesn’t mean that I want to follow that path.
MTI: On the flip side, what has been one of the biggest rewards?
A: Honestly, I meet a lot of amazing people. You just never know who’s going to walk into the store. I’ve made a lot of friends who have become like family because of this business
And my mom has really helped me. She is the main reason that I am where I am. If I had to give credit, I would give it all to her.
MTI: What is your favourite part about your job?
A: This sounds tacky, but I love it when a customer is happy with their purchase. Like when they just fall in love with something that I’ve chosen or put in my store. It’s the best
For example, one time I had this bride who saw this piece in England and showed me a picture. The piece happened to be from one of the designers I work with, so I reordered the exact same piece that she wanted. When she came in and saw that it, her and her mom cried. The whole family was at my store, and when she put it on they cried because it looked so beautiful. That’s what I live for. Nothing trumps that moment – to see a customer so happy from the product, the customer service and overall experience, that’s what I want to be known for.
MTI: What about your least favourite aspect?
A: Hiring staff can be really tricky and difficult for me – even though I don’t have very many employees. But when I do luck out, it’s very rewarding.
Like, I have a few girls who have made a significant difference in my business – Amalia Bhamji, who doesn’t work with me now, was my personal assistant and social media marketing manager. She took my business to another level with new and innovative ideas. As well as Natasha and Nahida Khan who are my makeup artists and are phenomenal at their work.
MTI: What inspires you?
A: My grandmother. I’m the third generation in this tailoring business. My grandmother owned a boutique in Fiji, and when I was a little girl me and my cousin would take scraps of fabric around her sewing machine and put it around our Barbies. And those are the memories I will cherish forever. If she were still around, she would be so proud of me today.
MTI: What is one piece of advice that you have received that you would like to pass on young women who are looking to run their own business?
A: You know what, that’s funny because I have a lot of advice I could give to girls. Being a young girl in my culture, people are generally telling you “you can’t do this” or “you can’t do that.” But I think that sometimes when you really believe in yourself, you don’t have to look for others’ approval to make your dreams come true. It’s your dream, and it’s your ambition. You know how badly you want it, so if you’re willing to do what it takes, then go get it. Don’t wait for permission if you know you’re not asking for anything wrong and you’re willing to put in the hard work.
I think girls get so caught up in looking for approval from their parents to make their dreams come true, but sometimes our parents don’t even know what’s good for you until you’ve already done it and the world admires you. So I would tell younger girls, if you’re not doing anything wrong, and you are not hurting anybody, go get your dream. Don’t ask for anyone’s approval
MTI: And of course, what is one piece of fashion advice you would give to everyone?
A: Don’t follow trends, but make your own. Do what makes you feel beautiful and make it your own.
Thank you so much Ateefa Azad for your time with us!
Check her boutique out here: http://bombaycouture.ca
Or follow Ateefa on Instagram!