Madhu Challa didn't set out to become an entrepreneur. She was simply a hardware engineer with a baby at home and a problem to solve: her diaper bag. Conventional diaper bags had her digging for the items she needed the most -- diapers, wipes, disposal bag and wallet. Plus, they were ugly! In her freetime, Madhu worked on a better design that then turned into her woman-owned business, Pretty Pokets.
It's been a ride ever since. Madhu has won awards for her diaper bag design and branched out to laptop and backpacks as well. All of her bags are made from vegan leather and come in a variety of pretty colors available on TheWMarketplace!
Hear what she told us about balancing motherhood with being a female entrepreneur, and then shop for yourself or a friend in need of a great bag.
What motivated or inspired you to start your own business?
When I was a hardware engineer in Intel Corporation, I had the opportunity to mentor a young girls’ team for a Tech Challenge. The challenge was taking a real-life problem and coming up with an idea to solve it. I rediscovered my passion for the design process, technology and functional design. I was motivated to solve the problem I had at that time – my boring and non-functional diaper bag. I envisioned how I would want my diaper bag to look like. I started with a simple diaper bag sketch and kept at it, which eventually led me to build Pretty Pokets. Now I have expanded into designing laptop bag totes, backpacks and other accessories.
Is your experience or education related to your current business?
No. I was a hardware engineer. Now I am a bag designer. But I do get excited and get my hands dirty when I have to dive into the coding part!
What is one piece of advice you wish you had heard, and listened to – in life or in business?
I wish I had known that work-life balance is not possible. You have to live a life of priorities. Don't be overwhelmed. Try to keep it simple. The wheel has already been invented. Just roll with it.
What motivates you or gives you joy?
A smooth-gliding pen, a cup of coffee, my two kids’ having fun when teasing me, and times when they wrap their arms around me and say how much they love me. Things like these just fill me with gratitude and provide great joy.
What are your hopes for the future?
Empower women to be themselves. Each one of us is unique – there is only one and only one person like you. You Be You!
Have you had to overcome any significant barriers in your business?
I went from being an engineer to a bag designer. I knew nothing about the retail industry. I learned all this by taking one baby step at a time. Setbacks, failures and barriers just mean you are on the right path. Just keep pushing yourself. Listen, Learn, and Leap.
What is the one word that describes you the best?
Persistent. I never give up hope. I am always hopeful. There is something within me that wants to be birthed through me. The only way I can figure that out is to allow it full voice.
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Launched in 2020, TheWMarketplace is a nationwide e-commerce marketplace for women-owned businesses to sell their products and professional and personal services. Offering favorable terms to its sellers, it also is a supportive community of women entrepreneurs that have access to learning opportunities through the trademarked HER-Commerce™ programs. With over 500 women-owned businesses selling 4000+ products and services ranging from home goods to coaching, in over 35 states, TheWMarketplace empowers shoppers with a new way to find the communities they want to support, including Black-woman owned, Latina-owned, AAPI-owned, Veteran woman-owned, and more. The Her Story Q&A is one benefit TheWMarketplace provides to sellers.