A mother to four daughters, Cicily Jeffin had quite a time looking for the right dresses to deck up her girls in, in time for celebrations, weddings, parties or festivals. She knew it was no small task to shop for and get them stitched in time for daughters Mary, Jhanvi, Angel and Esha. If the dress materials were readily available, the stitching part would be the pain and the clothes would invariably be ready much after the occasions were over. If at all they were stitched in time, they would never be anywhere near the designs Cicily had visualized.
Finally, sick and tired of the same old story, she decided to attend a 10-day course in Kanjirapilly, which offered classes in cutting and stitching. Her sole desire was to see that her girls were well attired for all occasions and that their clothes could she had on time.
However, she never expected that “twist” to her life once she had mastered the art of stitching. Neighbors and friends saw Cicily’s daughters in their get-ups and liked what they saw. There arose a clamor for similarly styled dresses when they learned that she had worked the design and stitched them herself. The germ of an idea was sown.
And why not, she contemplated.
The beginning was in 2011 when a modest collection of her dresses put up on display in Punalur turned out to be quite a hit. Her husband, Jeffan, chipped in by opening a Facebook account for Tropical Kerala, a page set up exclusively for Cicily’s dresses in 2012. She then registered her venture as a small scale business.
Inquiries started trickling in, people began placing orders. The gradual swell in business saw her appointing assistants. But then it took off on a much wider scale than what she’d ever bargained for. The idea of going online was thought of when housework, daughters’ concerns, customer demands and business deals became too big to handle. Thus was born Cicily’s custom-made stitching boutique, which would take orders for frocks and party wear churidars, all as per the requests of customers.
A lot of factors had to be weighed in before the business took off, the most prominent one being total customer satisfaction. Then came perfect stitching or work execution, delivery on time and choice of style. The homemaker-turned entrepreneur saw to it that customers got their stuff delivered on the dot and this, even during trying times when she had none to assist her.
Tropical Kerala has delivered on all counts. Everything, except sari blouses, is stitched here. Whatever is undertaken is executed to perfection. She has dresses, special ones, worked to months of perfection. She takes on new patterns as a challenge and tries to work out the designs. Cicily says she tries her best to see the designs as visualized by her customers.
Despite her wholehearted commitment to her business, she’s particular that her venture does not eat into the time she sets apart for her daughters and this is precisely why she refrains from taking in more than what she can deliver.
Almost 80 percent of her business is done online with most orders coming in from abroad. Only those who know her well and live around her place come directly to her to place orders.
Online work is no small matter. The pattern sent in by the customer has to be strictly adhered to. If the material requested is not readily available, frequent trips to shop for the right fabric becomes a must. But then every bit of hard work and the related stress just melts away when customers, happy with her work, call her to express their elation. Nothing could be more fulfilling.
Turn to Tropical Kerala and search for the “how to measure” section. You have all instructions and charts here on how to get the measurement taken in all accuracy. So far, there’s been no single complaint and it seems to have worked out well. There are difficulties in stitching dresses for customers abroad. Alterations seldom work out as they involve time and effort in sending and re-sending. So the clothes are worked out in such a way that they can be altered easily at their destinations.
Cicily never puts a price tag on her clothes. They are priced based on the time and effort that go into their making, which is seldom beyond the paying power of the customer. She is forthright in her dealings. If there are orders which, demand time and minute attention, the customers are apprised of the details and work is undertaken only after the final bill is worked out.
She has quite a number of celebrity customers but is loathe to revealing their identity. A business, which took off with a single sewing machine has now grown out of hand. It has spread out to her car porch too with six machines more working full time.
The mother of four, who started off on her own compelled by the needs of her daughters, is quite happy and fulfilled in that, what was once a tiny venture has now become a full-blown business concern.