Zeba A Rahman was only 12-years-old when she along with one of her friends gave shape to her first business model. And, the product they sold was a few plain looking pebbles. They painted the pebbles with different colours and made them look attractive. The smart thinking yielded productive results as the pebbles got sold in quick time. In 2014, Zeba started Paper to Bag, an entrepreneurial venture based in Chennai. As the name suggests, Paper to Bag started with recycling papers to create beautiful bags. Later on, the venture diversified into different product segments.
Today, Zeba A Rahman, the founder of Paper to Bag joins us in this interview session to share her inspiring story!
Hi Zeba, welcome to conflatingVisions. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello! I am Zeba A Rahman, and I’m the owner of Paper to Bag. Paper to Bag has been associated with creativity and fresh ideas for around four years. From a humble beginning of just recycled paper bags, we have come a long way to meet the rising needs of customized merchandise associated with parties, events and corporates. We have the honour of being associated with some of India’s leading brands.
What is your memory of early association with arts and crafts?
I think being in a Montessori set-up made sure I was always associated with Arts and Crafts. However, my earliest memory of mixing Art & Craft with business is when I was about 12 years old.
A friend and I decided to paint a few plain looking pebbles that we found on the ground, and after we did that we liked them so much that we went to all the neighbour’s houses, ringing their bells, and selling our goods. Our good-humoured neighbours bought them and we were sold out within no time!
Tell us about Paper to Bag. What motivated you to start this venture?
It was back during my days at Stella Maris where I worked a lot for Rotaract Club. There was this particular event where we had to make around 100 newspaper bags as gifts for our honorary guests. That is when I actually learned how to make bags. Once we had a couple of unexpected holidays and during that time my sister pushed me to start off. And I must say, when I look back I’m embarrassed by how horrible they looked!
What materials do you use in your craftworks?
When we started, Paper to Bag only did Paper Bags. At that point, our materials were limited. But now with crafting the materials are limitless. Some of the materials we use are – Papers, Cardstock, Wood, Clay, Glass, Metal, Acrylic, different types of glues and almost anything you can find at a stationery or fancy store.
How do you go about planning/choosing the designs for your products?
I mostly cater to requirements. So my clients choose their designs and I go ahead and make exactly what they require.
What are some of your best-selling products?
Polka Dot Paper Bags are definitely the best selling. They come in 5 different colours – pink, blue, red, yellow and black. Apart from that, pompoms, rosettes, buntings, cupcake and cake toppers move quite fast.
Who inspires you the most in your journey?
My business inspiration comes from my Father, and the crafty inspirations are from my Mother and of course Pinterest!
Zeba, describe a typical day in your life.
On a normal day, I get up at 5.30 am, go for my walk come back, bathe, have some breakfast and start work by 9.30 am. My staff and I sit down together. I teach them what is required from that particular order and I move on to designing while they do the handwork. Twice a week, I go particularly to hunt for new materials in the market. My staff typically finishes by 6 pm and I continue to work according to the orders due at that point.
How has been the journey so far for Paper to Bag?
The journey’s been brilliant. When I started, I never thought that it would grow this much. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would fit into the world of handcrafting with such passion!
How do you go about promoting your products?
I don’t do a lot for promoting my products. It is the basic – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Amazon. Just updating my page is considered as promoting all my products.
What are the present challenges that you are facing right now? How do you plan to overcome them?
I’ve become a seller at Amazon very recently, and my major problem now is the lack of finished products. Everything is handmade, so it actually takes time for us to finish products as well as do our regular orders. The only solution I see is to increase my staff. Hopefully, we shall overcome this challenge.
What are your future plans for Paper to Bag?
We’re moving very slowly but steadily. Our short term plan is to be able to organize and finish our orders on time.
The long-term plan, however, is to create jobs for people with disabilities in such a way that they are actually paid their due. I have been in close contact with students suffering from Multiple Disabilities during my PG program. In our country, we actually underestimate and underpay People with Disabilities. So starting a big manufacturing unit is the long term plan, God willing.
Anything else you want to share…
Just that we are ALWAYS game to try to make new products – completely customized for our clients’ needs.
And, one last question of this session Zeba, if you have had one wish…
If I had one wish? I would wish for more time in each day, so I can actually get more things done!