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A passion for creativity

Charmanie Nanayakkara carves a niche in designer products:

Designing a customer pleasing product is an art. Building the product is a science. Moving the product from design to the customer is management. World-class manufacturers excel in the speedy integration of these processes. The creativity in Charmanie Nanayakkara has proved that demand for her end-product is growing as she keeps pace with changing trends and also meet fashion needs. Her passion for creativity has enabled her to carve a name among others in the designer product market.

She was interviewed by Daily News Business. Excerpts of the interview.


Charmanie Nanayakkara

Q. What business are you engaged in and how do you set about it?

A. I am in the fashion industry. While my primary products are fashion bags and fashion accessories such as hair accessories. I also manufacture items of interior decor such as cushions and curtains. I like to manufacture fashion products that are stylish and chic and that brings out the zest for life or the joie de vivre in one, products that one would be proud to wear on one’s person and brings out one’s personality.

I also try to design items of interior decor that are a display of elegance and luxury.

I liked stitching from my childhood, and I used to dress up my dolls in a fashionable manner from dresses stitched by me. Thereafter I used to stitch for myself. The business started more than 10 years ago upon the request of a friend. One of my friends from the US on holiday here saw my skill in fabric and wanted a wallet made for herself and for some of the friends there. That’s how it all started.

Presently I have a staff of 15 including part timers. I have a few brands registered in my name including ‘Coco Moko’ and ‘Sacred Space’.

I have participated in several foreign exhibitions and used to export before. Now I do a few exports to the Maldives. My products are available at leading malls in Sri Lanka like Odel and Paradise Road.

Q. How do you balance your business and family life?

A. Since I am my own master; I do not have fixed times to go to the factory or to do a new design. So I can balance the business with my family responsibilities. However, the flip side is that I am always working. I do not stop working even for lunch. I am constantly looking for new ideas. It is less a matter of actively


Nanayakkara with her family

searching for new ideas that being always open to new designs which just come to me. So whilst driving or cooking (Gourmet cooking is also one of my fascinations) I am looking at design options.

Different things inspire me; for example at a restaurant a well presented gourmet dish could inspire me to do a new design.

I get a lot of support from my husband, Anandalal Nanayakkara, who is a professional and I have one daughter who is still very young. My husband and I manage our time accordingly so that we can give quality time to our child. My husband is the strongest critique of my work and is also the first to see them after manufacture. My designs are most of the time shown to him and I bounce ideas off him.

Q. What were the challenges you faced?

A. My primary challenge was that I am not from a business family. I had to learn the business aspect from scratch. Everything was learned through experience. Although I worked in an office set up before, quite early on I decided to turn my passion into a living.

Learning new things and taking up new mental challenges keep the brain versatile and non-complacent. So even though I knew the stitching part and had a passion for it, the marketing aspect was learned through experience.

I am also completing an MBA and had to put in a lot of time for my studies also. However, studying for an MBA is such an enjoyable activity that I consider it a worthwhile investment in time and effort. I can also see how the MBA learning can help out in my business.

Q. What are your goals?

A. My business aspiration is to have my own shop where I can experiment with different aspects of my designs. I also aspire to develop a recognized clothing brand.

Q. Being a women was it an advantage to be in business?

A. Yes certainly. In my kind of business it is an advantage being a woman. As a woman it is easy for me to relate not only to how a fashion bag should look but also to the comfort factor when you are shopping for a considerable time with a bag on your shoulder. How is the design? Can it hold a woman’s accessories - purse, mobile and compact case in an easily accessible and secure manner? How does the fabric feel?

As I said before, the stresses for me were more due to the fact that I was new to the business environment and less due to the fact that I was a woman.

Q. What is your advice to women in business?

A. Follow your passion. Find what inspires you and follow it. If you can make a living doing what you like why not. It makes you happy for yourself and for people around you.

Q. What were your achievements in family life and business?

A: When you are happy with what you do it reflects on your family too. Our daughter is still small but still we encourage her to follow her interests.

I am happy with the way my business is progressing. With time it will be a well-recognized venture catering to the fashion market needs.

Q. What is your contribution to society?

A. I have been able to provide employment without discrimination. I have taken young recruits and trained them in the intricacies of the manufacturing business. Some of my employees later go on their own to be independent. I encourage it if they really want to do it.

Beyond that I am very excited to see someone carrying one of my bags to a fashion event or even for shopping. To see someone carrying it is to know that they appreciate the product that I have designed. I am happy that I am able to do that for my customers.

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