Does this face look familiar? We are delighted to introduce Charu Gandhi, sister of Studio Graphene’s founder Ritam Gandhi and successful founder of Elicyon. She gave us some insights on her experience as an entrepreneur and some useful advice for everyone else in her position.
In a few words... Who are you, what does your company do and how did it all start?
I am Charu Gandhi, the founder of Elicyon. Elicyon is a boutique interior design studio, offering exquisite interior couture for some of the best addresses in the world.
I founded Elicyon in June 2014, triggered by two driving forces – one was a handful of clients who wanted me to take on their amazing projects and instilled the initial drive and belief in the studio being a viable idea, the other was a very strong desire to create a multi-skill boutique agency that seamlessly brings together Interior Design, Architecture and Management to create some of the most beautiful interiors in the world.
What was the most challenging aspect for you personally and your team?
The early months were the classic combination of passion, naivety and adrenaline. Looking back, I am amazed at the confidence I had that Elicyon would be a success. I got an office space in the early weeks, we are now finally moving from that building 5 years later having spread ourselves across four rooms in the building. I remember some of the most mundane actions being painful – I could not get a lease for a proper printer as we did not have a credit history. I very quickly learnt to not take no for an answer and to surround ourselves with the very best advisors on the non-design side too, from legal and VAT experts to an admin team.
What are the things you wish you had known before?
Finance is one of the key elements of a business surviving, I wish I had learnt the fundamentals of finance earlier.
Learn to say no constructively. Don't avoid conflict or tough conversations when needed.
When negotiating, open ambitiously but credibly.
That it is ok, in fact it can be great, to be a ‘paranoid optimist’ and an ‘introspective extrovert’ – I fought the swinging pendulums of those opposing character traits for a long time. I have now learnt that they are great strengths for the business if I accept and channel them.
After the excitement and adrenaline of the first year, the second year can feel very tough and you have to constantly re-engage with your founding passion to keep that magical connection to your business alive.
What is the most important thing you learned?
That resilience comes with time, in the early days the highs and lows are both exaggerated, and you swing from overconfident to under confident. It takes time and self-reflection to arrive at an equilibrium of sorts.
To build a team that is better than me at a myriad of skills. A true leader is one who can actively seek that out.
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better (credit: Maya Angelou). But in its essence, it’s about achieving clarity and then moving quickly.
What was your biggest success?
In the early months, we won a really incredible country estate project, competing against some big names – I remember racing down the M25 with our hearts in our mouths after the meeting and getting a call just as we reached London that we were the team of choice. I got out of the car and danced a jig on the pavement!!
That project, coupled with our wonderful first client who gave us her incredible One Hyde Park apartment as a commission, lay the foundation for where Elicyon is today.
What are the next steps for your company?
2019 is a very exciting year for Elicyon, we are celebrating our five year anniversary and our move into our new home, the Studio in Kensington Village.
We have had some exciting new developments at Elicyon with new projects both in the UK and on the International Stage - We have recently completed our fifth apartment at One Hyde Park and current projects include a beautiful heritage apartment in Knightsbridge, and a spectacular property in Mayfair.
On the international stage, we are working towards an August 2019 completion of our 29,000 square foot Penthouse in Dubai with an incredibly compelling design vision. We continue to work on our unique hospitality project in Sri Lanka and a ground-breaking development in Mumbai, amongst others.
With our 20 strong team of the very best in the field, 2019 is shaping up to be full of optimism. The Studio will be a proud showcase of the Elicyon design experience with a sample library for collaborative design workshops
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I see Elicyon as being regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious interior design brands, with a strong base in the UK and international exposure. Put simply, it is my life’s mission to build the most extraordinary properties in the world and I remain optimistic that I will continue to do that.
We offer the most exquisite design vision, and truly bespoke solutions, championing craftsmanship and artisan products – I would like this to grow to include a luxury home accessories and furniture offering that enriches interior spaces, with a beautiful boutique where clients can enjoy the Elicyon experience.
Which advice would you give others in your position?
- Unless your entrepreneurial idea is a vocation or a slam dunk business idea, interrogate it thoroughly before you commit to it. Once you commit - start small, think big, grow with control.
- Invest in yourself, invest in rest so you can be the best. This is both mental and physical investment and I am yet to fully embody this advice but it doesn’t stop me from handing it out freely!
- Keep your word or explain why you didn’t, this is important whether externally or internally.
- Be elastic – you have to build the elasticity to regularly go from reconnecting with and staying true to the vision of the business to the minutiae of reviewing if you can save money on your stationery costs. Work hard at building that elasticity, you can train yourself into it.