Hello and happy Sunday to you beautiful people!
Thanks for having jumped on our colorful wagon somewhere along our journey the last 9 months!
I recently had a close friend ask me - why don't you talk more about what's up at Love Letter? Tell people the story and more of the behind the scenes?
And I wondered - yeah... why don't I?
I thought that this little section on our website would be to talk about the journeys of people in our community through their travels around the world, to share our music vibes and maybe some collaborations but now I think this could also be used to share our journey and our developments, some behind the scenes info to connect with anyone in our community who would like to connect! I also hope to encourage a dialogue with other young people who might be starting out their little brands in a time like this. I hope the errors they find in our story help them avoid some in theirs and I hope the good decisions they find in our story help them make more in theirs.
So now - I sit here, in my hotel room in Jaipur, writing, ready to give you a giant dump of lots of thoughts and experiences so far.
^ caught this today in Johri Bazaar, Jaipur.
We started to sell Love Letter in June of 2020, it was entirely an accident - I just wanted to do something fun through the lockdown and I'd done some R&D on these for another project I was keen on actually (not accidentally) starting. Pandemic hit, had to pause that project but there was an itch with these pieces that kept telling me to put it out there.
So bang in the middle of a pandemic, everything still in complete lockdown, haven't changed out of pajamas in 3 months - I started making these pieces. Initially, there was no brand, no karigar (artisan), no logistics figured out, nothing - just me sitting with my tools and my beads, jungle playing in the back, a glass of chardonnay on my table - enjoying my little one table studio every night for a few hours.
And then! I got my first order over Instagram and it was neither a friend, nor family! My experience so far was always working for other brands. Several of the things I worked on were bought by customers but I never knew them, spoke to them or had any kind of interaction with them. This was different, this was personal. This was a chat, about favorite colors and favorite beaches, personal sense of style and personal taste. Should she get yellow 'cause she wears white a lot or get blue 'cause her mom thinks blue looks good on her? Briefly, in that moment, it felt like a discussion with a friend and I knew that this experiment was going to be fun even if it didn't become profitable which made it totally worth exploring.
I shipped Love Letter's first order to her, she ended up taking blue. And then! Her box reached her broken! First order ever, the box broke in transit. And it felt like the worst thing in the world had happened at that point. I was afraid of sending any subsequent package out for a month after that but I did a lot of back and forth with the guy who was supplying me these boxes and no box has ever broken again.
One night a few days after, just sitting with Rachit (then boyfriend, now fiancé) I told him - I want to actually turn this into a real brand. I want it feel like a Jungle song, like carrying a little bit of Goa around everywhere and he just smiled, he knew the exact feeling I was talking about.
^ A photo I took on a bright afternoon in Goa in February 2020. It's not monumental really, but I was feeling that feeling.
Since that day, I have been obsessed with Love Letter - my first child.
A couple months went on, we were in August 2020 and I started getting the word out. Still pandemic, still no karigar, a little bit of a brand and about 300 followers were spotted on the story of one of my favorite women in the world forever and ever - Leandra M. Cohen. I lost my shit and messaged her like 1000 crying emojis as I do when I don't know how to contain emotions and she replied saying "I hope we sell you out!" and she did. Love Letter was t.o.t.a.l.l.y sold out. We got 1000 new followers that day, more than 500 direct messages and eventually over 200 orders!
But - still pandemic, still no karigar and the day this happened was little over 24 hours after I reached Mumbai with my Mom because Nani (grand mother) had been in ICU for a week. It was a crazy time for Mom and me but I'm just grateful that flying was allowed again then and we could be there. I know for a fact that although the doctor worked on her body, Mom and I worked on her mind and that's how she made it back home to Nana and her Sudoku book.
She was in the ICU for 3 weeks through which I stayed at the hospital. Someone had to be there as an attendant all the time and my Mom has her own set of health complications so there was no way she could be hanging out at a hospital in the middle of this pandemic, in the city that was then declared the epicenter of India.
^ The sky from my window when I was on my way to Bombay.
Between going in to feed Nani and doctor visits, Rachit and I created a lot of what you see of Love Letter now. It took me a week to just reply to everyone on Instagram DM, we kept getting orders for another 2 weeks. The first thing we went into was the process of setting up the business for international shipping. We really had to start from scratch here. This wasn't a business, this was an Instagram page! Leandra turned it into a business.
We had to legally form a company, we had to get a GST number, we had to file for Import Export licenses, international courier tie ups etc etc etc. While I was in Bombay, Rachit got all of this going in Delhi over several phone calls and emails, with daily follow ups with the respective Govt. departments, our accountant and a consultant we got to help navigate.
If any of you tried to file any paperwork with the Indian Govt. in those months that the offices were shut, you know that it was a riot. It took us over a month to get our GST number! It's supposed to take 3 days!
I'm not entirely certain that I knew till that point, what it meant to have a partner who is, with every cell in their body, rooting for you. Rachit and I have always been great at pushing each other professionally but in that moment I really saw him go to hell and back to make sure I didn't miss out on a shot I had to make this brand come to life.
Through all of this documentation chaos that Rachit dealt with, I made it to Delhi the day Nani was discharged. Brought on board our first team member, a karigar I knew there - Mandal (lovingly called Gobi) to start coming to my apartment there, we sat very far away from each other with lots of sanitizer and double masks and prayed and hoped that neither of us would give the other any kind of virus. Gobi and I stayed at it! We got all the pieces of those 200+ orders ready in a little over 2 weeks, and then just sat pretty 'cause we could not receive any international payments and we didn't have license to ship any international shipments. We just sat there, waiting.
Through this waiting, Rachit and I started setting up the website because this was no longer just an Instagram page, it was a business, a Direct-to-Consumer brand. Direct-to-Consumer brands need to have websites to reach these Consumers (especially in the middle of a pandemic).
At this time we brought on board our second team member who has come to be a good friend - Ankrish. He helped us immensely through those crucial months - helped us with the website, backend setting up, managing customers and all round operations.
We were in the middle of our first real photoshoot for the website and Rachit walked up to me, held up his phone - there it was! Our GST Certificate! I wanted to jump and shout and do the little dance I did every time the nicest little thing happened with Love Letter but we both just smiled, that same Jungle song in the background, carrying a little bit of Goa around smile.
After that things just shaped up, one by one all the documents and processes we needed fell into place and things started running more smoothly. Surely that's not where the adventure ends! More on the rollercoaster there after in another BTS dump.