We chat with Kriti, founder of kids’ circular fashion brand, Nimbu, on everything from the inspiration for the brand, to making the leap from a full time job to full time entrepreneur. Here's what she had to tell us...
Circular fashion is a hot new trend, and rightly so, especially if you have little ones at home who grow out of things before you can say, “where’s that new top?”. If you’ve ever been overwhelmed when opening your little one’s wardrobe, then you’re not alone. Rather than wallow in the baby clothes, mum-of-two, Kriti Gupta, decided to take the matter into her own hands and launch Singapore’s very first circular kids’ brand, Nimbu. We were super excited to catch up with Kriti to hear more about Nimbu and how it aims to revolutionise shopping…
Lovely to meet you, Kriti. Can you tell us more about Nimbu and how the idea of introducing the circular concept for kids’ fashion started?
Hello! Sure – I’d been working in the sustainability space for more than a decade heading up sustainable mobility at the Economic Development Board of Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. It was my dream job and always so exciting, but I felt I was going out to work and advocating for sustainability, yet when I came back inside my house, I saw the surge of clutter and waste. I just couldn’t put the two together. I realised I wanted to bring this sustainable philosophy to my home.
We all know that kids come with a lot of stuff. How did becoming a parent influence your decision to start Nimbu?
I can definitely relate to this, and it was a lightbulb moment. I remember standing in the guest room where we used to keep all the old, outgrown stuff, and I was shocked at the number of things my little one had collected in just one year of his life – this tiny baby. It was so overwhelming because a lot of things were brand new. That’s when I thought I’m going to create a convenient platform for this very purpose because I couldn’t find an existing avenue. So that’s how Nimbu started.
And why the name Nimbu?
My son’s pet name is Nivu, but when he was young, he couldn’t say it, so he used to call himself Nimbu, which is funny because Nimbu in Hindi literally means lemon. And the whole image of Nimbu or lemon is natural, healthy and zesty, something kids love! Besides, my son was the inspiration behind the idea so it was lovely to dedicate it to him.
Tell us more about your vision for Nimbu and what circular fashion actually involves.
My vision for Nimbu is to be the one-stop shop for all things kids! When you think of shopping for kids, whether for your own or gifts for others, Nimbu should be the top of the mind brand because it provides an avenue for you to return kids’ outgrown items conveniently and hassle-free. Everything available on Nimbu can be returned once it’s no longer needed in exchange for credits which can then be used to buy something more age appropriate. The returned items are then repurposed and sold as preloved items for a discounted price on Nimbu.sg. So through this process, not only will customers get monetary value out of the outfit, but most importantly, they will able to declutter and extend the lifespan of outfits, toys and books purchased on our platform.
We don’t have a time limit on the returns either; as long as it’s still in good condition for another family to love, you can go ahead and return. Credits are calculated based on the condition and are available for immediate use upon return of the items!
And what sorts of items can parents buy on the site?
Our marquee product is Indian ethnic wear for newborns up to 14 years old. When I started Nimbu and was researching the type of clothing we should launch with, we realised that occasion wear was expensive, worn just once or twice, especially ethnic wear. It was difficult to find high-quality, comfortable ethnic wear in Singapore. I think it is so important for kids to feel comfortable and happy in ethnic wear because otherwise, they will associate that experience with the entire culture. I wanted to bring beautiful, handmade, artisan-created clothing to Singapore, which used age-old techniques of tie-dye and block printing using soft, super comfortable fabrics. At the same time, it is also about supporting these talented artisans, mainly women and communities back in India.
In the past two months, we’ve diversified our range to include Montessori wooden toys, which are handcrafted and naturally antimicrobial and antifungal, perfect for babies and toddlers. We’ve also launched bamboo baby essentials and organic cotton shirts, dresses and PJs with really fun patterns and colours. We also have books, shoes, and even hand crafted Turkish Jewellery for little girls as well as mums. Specifically for Deepavali, we launched our first Gift Hamper full of eclectic treats from books, toys, ethnic wear, all wrapped in a gorgeous box for keeps. We also get a lot of requests for matching outfits for special occasions, holidays and photos, so we’ve started offering some family sets. But our focus will always be on kids.
Does the platform only accept Nimbu products? What if parents want to return items from other brands?
For me, preloved and sustainability is a way of life, so I don’t want to restrict the items our platform accepts to only certain brands. If you think about it, your kids’ wardrobe is often a mix of branded but also high street items. So I don’t want to keep it brand-specific for that very reason. But we do keep it condition-specific. If an item is in good condition, even if it’s H&M, as long as you can keep it away from the landfill – that’s the objective. So we don’t really care about the brand. The ultimate vision is to enable parents to use the platform for all kids’ products. For ethnic wear, we have sold preloved items from FabIndia, Biba, Little Muffet; for regular clothing, we have had Zara, Ralph Lauren, and even Dior!
How did you make the decision to switch from Nimbu part-time to a full-time role?
I had two children, a full-time job and Nimbu – it was just too much to handle. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and I felt like I was not taking care of myself, so how could I be expected to take care of my kids, let alone the business? I could see my relationship becoming strained with my four-year-old. He used to say, “Mumma, you’re sleeping when you’re trying to play with me”. On the start-up front, you also need to dedicate time to it because, essentially, it’s like a baby too, and needs a lot of time, especially in the early years. Nimbu had been doing well, our traction was good, and I had plans to expand the team and range of products, and seek external investment, all of which needed significant time.
Leaving my dream job was not easy, but I realised that if I wanted to do justice to Nimbu and to my customers who love what we’re doing, I should go full-time to magnify the impact.
And how has the transition been?
The impact has been exponential. I have freed up my mind to focus on strategy, talk to investors, and research what’s happening in the industry rather than just running operational tasks. When I was doing this part-time, I was just very reactive. I’m now considering product diversification with multiple brand partners to bring on board. I’m also looking at a website revamp. All of this has happened in two months, which I couldn’t have done if I’d still been working.
I’ve also been able to seek out like-minded entrepreneurs and properly utilise networks such as Launchpad. I was barely participating until I quit. It’s also been important for my health and mental wellbeing now that I am not constantly juggling.
What does being a mumpreneur look like for you?
Busy! I’m involved in everything from sourcing, supply chain to fulfilment, as well as marketing and product selection. I do have some amazing part-time support for social media, and I’m trying to hire someone to support with digital marketing. I’m also working on my first round of investment.
At the same time, I’m trying to be disciplined and take care of myself. I want to focus at work, but also be present for my kids. Working for yourself is still around the clock, but it is more flexible being my own boss. But the stress of that is a whole different ball game as well. At the end of the day, all the progress and all the deliverables are on me. So if I’m not driven, and I’m not doing what I need to do every single day, nobody else gets impacted. . I’m a very driven person, a bit of an overachiever, which is a problem now because I don’t know when to stop. The past two months have been a learning experience, and I have to say, I’ve come a long way. During the first few weeks, I looked completely burnt out, but I’ve learned to balance and prioritise.
Any tips for achieving that elusive balance between being a mum and being an entrepreneur?
I think what I did consciously was to find pockets of time when my kids were available. So for me, dinner time is when I try not to have discussions or thoughts about work. And it’s just focused on my kids; I spend time talking about their day, reading their bedtime stories etc. So that time is precious. And then I come back in full force after nine, after dinner.
I also have a lot to thank my husband and helper for. Having that support system is so important. You might not have a village, but you have the heart of a village, and just leveraging that and having a schedule you agree on really helps. It’s still a struggle on some days, but we are beginning to find our rhythm.
What’s next for Nimbu?
I am so stoked – after months of hard work, we have just launched the most unique gift boxes ever! These contain fun, eclectic, handpicked curated items that mirror a truly multicultural global upbringing of our next generation. It comes packed inside a gorgeous gift box that’s for keeps, ideal for a baby shower, birthday, Christmas or a special occasion. We wanted to create a box with essentials as well as really fun things that represent the diversity around us. So it includes a beautiful outfit perfect for their first National Day, Christmas or Hari Raya. There’s also a cute romper for any regular day. It also comes with engaging handcrafted toys, inspiring books and even a little gift for mama. The boxes are designed by a friend of mine, with little lemons wearing our latest collection. It’s a beautiful box that can be used to keep treasured memories and mementoes ‘lemony fresh’!
We are constantly working on bringing new curated products on the site to ensure that Nimbu is the one-stop shop for all your kids’ shopping needs – so watch this space!