The Entrepreneurial Journey of a Cornell Graduate

Inspiration can be derived from anything around us, an incident from childhood, a stranger at the metro, an article that you come across. How you respond to the cues that the world around you help you pave your career path. The path you choose would not be the well-trodden by, and you encounter challenges on the way, but the will and the spark that made you begin your journey keeps you going.

Here is a Cornell graduate who found her tryst with jewelry and started a one-of-a-kind jewelry boutique for the ones with a love for unique artisanal pieces to adorn them.  A feel for the minimal yet impactful design led her to her line of clothing, and going by the example set by her father; she is helping hundreds realize their true potential and choose their career path, and prepare for competitive exams. In conversation with Raagamaria Sajeev on her wonderful entrepreneurial journey.

Tell us about yourself, your background, and your previous ventures.

Growing up in Trivandrum, I did my schooling at St. Thomas Central School. As a child, I always found myself escaping into the world of books and reading. That, along with my father’s guidance and my belief about the impact law could accomplish in society, brought me to the study of law. I did my BA- LL.B (Hons.) from NUALS, Cochin. On completing the same, I decided to learn from the world and pursued my LL.M (Masters) from Cornell Law School, USA.

How did you fall in love with designing and jewelry? When did you realize that this was your passion?

I have always been someone who enjoys collecting and customize unparalleled designs. However, my love for jewelry and its design found its path when I met my husband, Paul Paul Chiriankandath. Paul’s family has been in the jewelry business for numerous decades. I was thoroughly specific for all my wedding jewelry that I wanted to adorn pieces uniquely mine. Through months of designing, Paul and I brought together my dream jewelry. This journey made us realize our love for designer jewelry, and CJ Artisan Boutique was born.

What are some of the challenges you faced while setting a career in this field? How did you overcome these?

Whenever you choose a path distinct from the usual, challenges are bound to arise. Our story is no different. We envisioned and brought a one-of-a-kind jewelry boutique to life—valuing aesthetics, understanding our customers, and putting hefty loads of time and energy into each of our unique pieces. With the usual market where customers are used to mass production of pieces, to accept our concept of a limited edition of artisanal pieces was a whole new debacle. We also introduced rare gemstones and ancient and skilled craftsmanship in Jewelry around India and the world. What we realized over time is that, just like us, our customers are also perfectly unique. We found our little world of niche customers who value design and respect craftsmanship.

How do you reach out to your potential customers? And could you brief us about the work that goes behind the final product?

Our pieces always speak for themselves. At CJ Artisan Boutique, when we create bridal Jewelry, that design is uniquely hers, and we don’t replicate her dream for

any other. This is something today’s bride values a lot. We understand our customer’s vision and channel our efforts into creating a masterpiece for them. A piece that is just hers. These factors and many others have brought customers from far and wide, primarily through word of mouth. 

Storytelling is inherent to our boutique. Each piece has a different story of its own. Once we take our customers through our pieces, we sit down to understand what they envision. Many sketches, gemstone pairing, and designing later, we get the best of our artisans to create the jewelry of our customer’s dreams. 

Do you have a role model you look up to? If yes, what are the qualities that you admire of that person? If no, then why?

Like any daughter, gleaming with dreams, my parents were and are my most significant role models. My father’s passion for his work and dedication to face every challenge is something I admire every day and strive to live up to. The compassion my mother radiates is what makes me want to be a better person every day. 

I also gather immense motivation and inspiration from women around the world.  Autobiographies and biographies of women treading towards their goals are a constant eye-opener. 

I have also been fortunate to be surrounded by women who are paving distinguished paths in their field and are my fellow dream chasers. 

What else do you pursue outside of designing jewelry? And how does a regular day in your life look like? What is your schedule?

Days are not specifically scheduled from hour and to hour. It’s more about how I feel and adapting the day accordingly. Mornings are my sacred time of the day. I cherish my walks, the perfect cup of coffee, journaling, reading, and with my husband around; there is always music at home. 

We love to travel, experience different cultures, and learn about them. Also, spending time with our close friends and our dear family is integral to us. 

Could you talk more about your career counseling and entrance coaching venture?

Zen Mentors LLP, founded by my father, Mr. Sanjeev Thomas, is an institution dedicated to inspiring and understanding young minds. We take our students through a visioning process and help them realize their inherent greatness. Depending on their interests and strengths, we train them for various competitive examinations within India and abroad, especially for Law, BB. A and Liberal Arts. We have our centers in Trivandrum, Thrissur, as well as online classes. 

Could you brief us about your venture  ‘The Prêtline’? How is it different from the other options available in the market?

I have always loved to get my dresses customized according to my likes and comfort. A sense of style that is minimal yet impactful. This is precisely what drove me to launch The Prêtline. It is a limited edition of soulful collections and incorporating textiles that are well suited to our lifestyle. Our launch collection ‘ A Surreal Summer’ was very well received. The positive feedback from our lovely clientele has motivated me to develop my new collection, launching soon. 

What are your plans? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Today, I believe five years is a very long period to predict your future. More than setting goals and destinations, the journey towards growth is more exhilarating to me. Every decision in my life and the decision to start each of the businesses have always come to me organically. Most importantly, never stopping dreaming and never-ceasing taking risks in life is a philosophy I live by. Nurturing each of our businesses with my whole heart and doing my very best to take it to greater heights will always be a driving force. A balanced life, with time for businesses, my family, and myself, is where I hope and dream life takes me. 

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