Pretty When We Win is a series that seeks to reconceptualize pretty by draining it of its negative power. This first iteration highlights inspiring stories of entrepreneurs who identify as women; it hopes to encourage contemplation of the word pretty and explore how we use it in our daily lives.
To find a founder who is as brilliant as her formulations is rare; Michelle Ranavat is that. Not only does Michelle embody the entrepreneurial spirit through her brand RANAVAT, she’s also one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. As a fellow first generation Indian-American, her luxe, Ayurveda-inspired line resonates with me in a deep and meaningful way. I’ve fallen in love with her brand, her products, and her ethos. I hope you’ll experience the same same coup de coeur with Michelle and her brand as I did!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Michelle Ranavat, founder of the skincare line RANAVAT—an ode to old world rituals once reserved for Indian Royalty. I was born and raised in the midwest, and as a first generation Indian-American, I felt a very deep connection to India and the beauty rituals so deeply rooted in science, tradition, and artisanship.
Please name a woman who inspires you and why.
My mom—she’s someone that is confident in any decision she takes and has her own unique sense of style. She pushes herself to learn new things at all ages: she learned to swim at 50 and picks up new hobbies even now. Her biggest piece of advice was about not comparing yourself to others. She said to direct the urge to compare within—compare yourself—to yourself. That has always stuck with me as I started to create RANAVAT in the early days.
What made you want to switch careers? What served as the impetus to start your business?
I switched careers not on purpose—in 2008 I was laid off from Lehman Brothers and decided to work at my dad’s pharmaceutical company that he had started when he moved to the US. I had studied engineering, so it was a natural fit. I didn’t expect to enjoy working in pharmaceuticals as much as I did; it was so incredibly satisfying to learn how these new drugs were created and what that process entails. The quality, the sourcing—it was all fascinating. Eventually, after 6 years, I decided I wanted to add those specific skills to something I was passionate about: skincare.
What was the hardest part of doing something on your own?
Convincing yourself you won’t fail.
What keeps you up at night?
Generally not much—my dad always said to do business so you could sleep at night—haha. He meant that it’s better to lose sales than to stress yourself out and to engage in poor business practices. I do literally lose sleep regularly because I’m up late chatting with India. Most everything I create is made there, so there is a lot of back and forth and night phone calls!
What struggles have you encountered that you feel are unique to women entrepreneurs? What’s the toughest part of being a woman entrepreneur?
Personally, I have had a pretty positive experience as a female founder. I believe it is because beauty is very female-centric and very much the norm. The second is because I haven’t taken any outside capital. Having worked on Wall Street, I can (first-hand) attest to how difficult it is to garner investment as a female because of the stereotypes that continue to exist.
What kind of weight does the word pretty carry for you? What does pretty mean to you?
To me, pretty is more a comment on external beauty—something that only speaks to the outward appearance. If someone is BEAUTIFUL that’s a combination of both outer and inner beauty coming together.
Where do you find strength?
People like you! One of my fears when starting RANAVAT was that people wouldn’t understand or relate to it. Seeing people on Instagram, meeting customers in stores and of course, positive reviews and personal emails really inspire me and keep me moving forward.
What inspires you?
I continue to be inspired by India’s rich history. I feel like India is a treasure trove of rituals kept alive by artisans. They have perfected their techniques for years and years, and they all come with so much history and science. I’ve been digging into ancient perfumery lately which has been so inspirational.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your clients/partners/customers?
Honestly, I love all connection! In person is always great, but recently I launched “office hours” and had such an amazing response. I’ve been doing 30 minute Zoom calls, and it’s so fun “meeting” your customers and making it more than transactional.
Can you offer some advice to other women who are looking to start their own business and/or make a career switch?
The biggest advice I have is to lean into your originality to create and develop your business. Especially when you are working in fashion and beauty. Making your brand personal and meaningful to you is very important. Even the best ideas fall short when they lack creativity and a personal spark. You are more likely to push through difficult days when you are personally inspired by the work you are doing.
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Featured image photo credit: Grey and Elle
For more from the series Pretty When We Win series, visit the Entrepreneurship section of The Mocha Minimalist.
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Clara WangMay 21, 2020 at 5:53 pm
I enjoyed this interview as well and love this series !
Mocha MinimalistMay 21, 2020 at 9:15 pm
Thank you so much for following along, Clara!!
Maggie TsaoMay 21, 2020 at 11:22 pm
It was so nice meeting Michelle on a more personal level through this interview! Both she and her parents shared some great gems—the personal spark, and compare within! Loved it.
Mocha MinimalistMay 22, 2020 at 10:59 am
Those points resonated with me too, Maggie! Thank you for reading!