Maria Fernandes | NT Kuriocity
A Bengaluru-based illustrator, Alicia Souza helped co-found Chumbak, a range of lifestyle products with an Indian theme. The Goddess of Cute, as one of her Facebook followers has called her, she moved to India ten years ago from Melbourne and presently runs her own product chain of gifting and art merchandise, which is a huge hit online. Her distinctive style and huge following on social media networks (more than 44,000 followers), has established her as a brand of her own. In fact the platform has afforded her the opportunity not just to express herself freely but also to display her personality through her work. Her work has also been licensed by various companies.
The road to success has not always been smooth; Souza recounts her journey to NT KURIOCITY.
Born and brought up in Abu Dhabi, Souza who has Goan roots, studied graphic design in Melbourne and even had a short stint at a bank there. “Getting a job as an illustrator is not easy, unless one takes up a position at a newspaper and then you end up mostly working on political matter which was something I never wanted to do,” she says. Her time at the bank, she insists, was not at all dull, in fact she adds it taught her how to manage her money.
During her collaboration with Chumbak, Souza decided to move to India; a move that has changed her life, for good she says. The decision however was not an easy one and was taken after a great deal of soul searching and introspect. “In Abu Dhabi where I was brought up everyone had 9 to 5 day jobs and not a single person I knew was in the creative field. I think because of that freedom and privilege, I had to make it work, which when times got rough, felt like a personal weight on my shoulders.” Her parents, she says, gave her the support she required and adds, “I was lucky enough to have parents who let me get into a field that was foreign to them knowing very well that I hardly knew a thing about the field myself.” Another element that helped her she explains is her faith in herself. “I did not see or know how I was going to make it work but I knew it would happen.” Well, it wasn’t easy but eventually things did work out. “I felt having a weight to make it work was the hardest yet the most useful thing I could use in my persistence in making this career work.”
Speaking about another hurdle she had to face, she mentions deciding to freelance was a jump into the deep end. “I never ever wanted to freelance. It always sounded like, no matter what you’re doing, freelancing would be the worst way to go about it. But when the things didn’t work out the way I had planned, I realised that the only way forward was to start off on my own. I did not know any other illustrator and had no idea about whether I would find work. I even questioned myself but decided to stick with my choices.” She did have to start from scratch and handling everything from accounts to client servicing appeared rather complicated she says. Illustrating full time wasn’t a job that is readily available and the first year and a half were really hard for the young entrepreneur. “Funnily enough, now, I can’t ever imagine not freelancing. It works out so much better with my ants-in-my-pants personality and not so regular working schedule.”
Starting off on her own also meant utilising the right channels to market her products. Social media and personal promotion she knew had a better chance of succeeding than other, but speaking she felt was a Herculean task. “Most people starting off just feel awkward talking about money, mine was quite a few notches worse. I had enough experience working at a coffee shop to make small talk but talking about my work was a different ball game. There’s sadly no magic pill to get over this and I just had to force myself to do it more and more often. Eventually, I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about but back then, it was like every phone call was a recital on stage.” Perseverance and oodles of courage she admits are important especially when one begins a new venture. “I took a gamble and have been lucky that people have liked my work. It has been one of the greatest journeys of my life. It was a tough job but I am happy I pulled through,” she adds.