On this week's edition of 'The Founder', we feature Lihini Morel Udawatte, the founder of 'Styled by Lily'. Lihini is an alumna of Good Shepherd Convent, Kandy, and also holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. She is one of the island’s most sought after Wedding and Event Stationery Designers.
(1)In your own words, what is Styled by Lily? Styled by Lily is an Event and Wedding stationery company where we design and create unique, customized event stationery for Weddings, Birthday Parties, Milestone Parties and Corporate Events. We also have two sub-product lines; personalised holiday and seasonal décor, where we create personalised Christmas baubles, Santa sacks and Easter baskets, and Creative Gift Packaging.
(2)What inspired you? My craving for creativity. I have been an artist all my life and I absolutely loved styling pieces of papers, boards and fabrics. Designing and creating gives me much happiness; its therapeutic.
(3)What was the journey like, starting from scratch and building the business up to where it is right now? The journey was tough, but very exciting at the same time. I started nine years ago, and had to work hard to get the business off the ground. Being a self-learned designer, I had so much to learn and so much of research to do about the market. I loved gathering knowledge and evolving my business. I also had three babies along the way, hence handling pregnancies and a growing business was very challenging. But looking back I am proud of where the business is today.
(4)Being an Entrepreneur, what was it like facing the global pandemic? How did it affect the business? The global pandemic continues to be a difficult period for us all. We were not prepared and we were also just about recovering from the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks. It has been quite difficult as the entire wedding industry has come to a standstill. Initially, it took us a few weeks to realize how things were unfolding, eventually we decided that we needed to look at other options. We started to introduce new product ranges and we started our personalised creative gift packaging collection. We also launched a subsidiary brand, Stitched by Lily, where we introduced stylish fabric masks and a range of household linens.
(5)Explain a few marketing strategies you have implemented, and what makes them successful? Word-of-mouth and Social Media marketing. Referrals and word-of-mouth has helped us tremendously.
(6)What motivates you to do what you do on daily basis? My ongoing projects and my three kids, Pehan (age seven), Seyan (age five) and Menaya (age three) motivates me. It gives me so much of joy to see a completed product, and to know that you have satisfied your clients beyond their expectation.
(7)What separates Styled by Lily from its competitors? The originality of the designs and the quality of our finished products.
(8)What is your definition for the word success? “If you are living the life you want with the help of your business you’re successful.”
(9)Why did you decide to enter this industry? Approximately, nine years ago I took some time-out from my then corporate career at HSBC to complete my higher studies and to focus on myself, as I always felt a bit empty in my job. I enjoyed staying home and was looking at options to earn from home. I was exposed to the wedding industry primarily due to my own wedding.
(10)When did you discover your passion for your business? I loved everything that came with the business; the excitement, the freedom, the creativity, the learning curve, the recognition, the appreciation and the stress! I loved calling it my own and I was so proud of it. Designing event stationery gave me so much happiness. With the opportunity to research, explore and create, I fell in love with my business over and over again.
(11)Who are your role models? Ramani Fernando. She is an icon. An inspiration for us female Entrepreneurs. She built an empire starting from scratch whilst being a wife and a mother.
(12)What advice would you give other start ups? Do your research, information is easily accessible in this digital era, and have a solid business plan. Evaluate, educate and evolve accordingly. Stay true to your own ideas and skills, and always remain an ethical business. Maintain a positive frame of mind, as the journey is a marathon and not a sprint, and there will be times you will fall, but learn to lift yourself up and keep going. Don’t give up.