Just 20, Riya Nafeesa is already a budding entrepreneur. Through her Instagram handle selling craftworks, she has managed to prove her critics, including her close relatives, wrong. Bravely, she took a sabbatical from studies and started her online business, and the rest, as they say, is history.


I was relatively a good student till Class X, but eventually, I lost all the interest in academics during my higher secondary. The turning point in my life too happened at the same time. I was visiting my friend’s home where her big sister was busy making a custom-made box to gift her best friend. Luckily, she asked me to help her make the box. I had no idea what it was but then, on that day, I got to know about it and I was so excited about helping her. I continued to help her for the next two days and my curiosity became more and more intense. Frankly, little did I know it was the beginning of a new journey. So influenced was I by the craftwork that I wanted to make one by myself. During the same month, it was my friend's birthday and I decided to make an “explosion box” all by myself. With the help of YouTube, I started my work, with trepidation. I completed the work in five days flat. I still remember the day and the moment, I gifted it to Hana. My hands were shivering when I walked towards her, amid a group of friends watching us closely, to give her the gift which I made. The feedback from my friend and our common friends were unbelievable! In fact, they seemed wonderstruck. They swarmed me with appreciation and accolades and, I was like flying, with my self-confidence hitting the sky. There I decided I must do more craftwork.



The next natural step was to take it to social media, to get a wider reach. Once I posted on Instagram, I started receiving requests to make different, custom-made pieces for them. Frankly, there was no business angle in my mind. But then soon after my Class XII public exam In March, I thought of monetizing it and soon put up a poster about orders and I got really positive replies. My exams ended on March 30 and the very next day I started my work. From there onwards, believe it or not, my life was like a rollercoaster ride. With so many ups and downs, I continued to create. That was also the time where I had to take an important decision regarding my higher studies. I chose to take a break for a year because I didn't want to take up any degree course just for the sake of acquiring a degree. I wanted to do something that is beneficial to me. Unlike other girls (especially, Muslim girls) who take college as pastime before they get married, I wanted to do something productive. Anyway, I didn't join any college and happily continued taking orders online. It was a hard battle to fight because I was criticized heavily for not going to college. Worse, ridiculing comments too started coming. I remember a relative of mine told me, "You ain't gonna reach anywhere with all your paper-cuttings. It’s a total waste of time.”


And another cousin who completed her MBA (though married, mother and still un-employed) mocked me for not attending college. I believe they slammed me, maybe because they loved me too much. But their criticism was fuel to the burning desire inside me and I kept doing what I wanted to do. I didn't give up. It was not easy to stay on your ground when a majority of the people around you try their best to dampen your spirit.

Slowly, rewards too started coming. So, I saved my earnings and bought gold bangles for my mom which was a big deal for an 18-year-old girl. I took a picture of the bangles and the very first picture was sent to those relatives who doubted my ability. I still remember the caption, “Dear, I bought these gold bangles for my mom by the so-called “PAPER CUTTINGS” . The message was clear and loud.


My greatest supporters were my mother, father and my fiancé, Rishad. They were my superpower. Unlike most other parents, they never forced me to do anything. They gave me complete freedom to choose my fate, rather destiny. My mother is the only inspiration and role model in my life. No celebrities, no other great personalities, ever influenced me like my mom. At times of financial crisis, I drew inspiration from my mom who beautifully dabbled every role in her life: as a businesswoman, as a wife, as a daughter and as a mom and all at once. Rishad was and still is top among my well-wishers. Through the thick and the thin, he stood by me helping climb the hardest hurdles. I am blessed to have found a soulmate who knows exactly what my heart beats for.



To talk about my academics, I am a person who dislikes walking the path that society paves for us. I want to take my own path that I have created for me. I never go in a direction just because someone has asked me to go that way. So, after a year's break from academics, I enrolled myself in a college. It’s quite an expensive college so I wanted to take all the responsibilities, including financial responsibility by myself, just because I no longer wanted to trouble my family in any way but they were and still is always there by my side to lend a hand whenever I fall.

A great blessing I received is that, Alhamdulillah, I visited Mecca (holy place of Muslims) and performed Umrah. And that too all independently. In this time and age, I can proudly say that am an entrepreneur as well as an undergraduate interior designing student. I believe I have a milestone to go.

To every struggling soul out there, it's worth surviving than giving up. Break the glass ceiling and listen to your heartbeat. To do what you love matters the most. Stay away from everyone and everything that makes you feel anything less. The strongest action for the women is to love herself, be herself and shine amongst those who never believed she could. Set the standard you want, don’t just settle for the people around you. Be passionate, determined and hard-working. Everything else will fall into place.

And then one fine day, attended an event with Zaitoonings, where I was to talk about: How to turn your passion into a business. I felt extremely happy to be part of their event conducted by Business Club. That was my first ever experience interacting with students like them. It was all about sharing my experience as a young, successful entrepreneur.


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