Manali Shinde’s business idea evolved from a journey of grief and healing.
“I came to this country from India at 26 with my new husband to pursue corporate work opportunities. A year later, he was killed in a car accident, and I found myself a widow in a foreign land without a support network,” Shinde said.
Shinde said she then began to lean into one main source of comfort to cope with this tragedy: nature.
“I was grief-stricken but found that the only thing that brought me peace was interaction with nature,” Shinde said. ”I started hiking and climbing — exploring nature in all its different forms.”
It was this connection with nature that led Shinde to pivot her career focus. She said she was working as a technical engineer and was struggling to find fulfillment through her work. So, she decided to follow her heart rather than continuing with her original career plans.
“I was determined to find a way to meld my love of nature with my business acumen to start a company that would make a difference,” Shinde said.
With this goal in mind, Shinde started Gratinsta, a nature-inspired jewelry company. From cherry blossom necklaces to water lily rings, Gratinsta’s products all celebrate the beauty of nature.
Gratinsta also gives back to nature. The business plants a tree for every purchase made through One Tree Planted, a reforestation non-profit.
“Our customers can look fabulous and feel fabulous doing it. To date, we have helped plant thousands of trees in California forests devastated by wildfires,” Shinde said.
Beyond donating to reforestation efforts, Shinde has considered sustainability in every step of Gratinsta’s supply chain. She uses recycled silver and sustainable packaging to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
Shinde’s approach to marketing and sales has changed since the founding of Gratinsta. Originally, she used traditional online marketing, but did not have great results. After this, she decided to research new marketing methods, which was when Shinde discovered the pop-up world. Pop-ups are temporary markets featuring products from typically smaller businesses and artisans. Although Shinde said pop-ups are an untraditional marketing strategy, for her, pop-up markets were the perfect way to get Gratinsta products in front of customers.
“For those in the know, it is a great way to build brand and name recognition. The reach isn’t just local. If you pick the right venues, you will have a national and even international clientele,” Shinde said.
By creating connections with customers at pop-ups, Shinde has driven business to her website. Since customers get to interact with the people behind the brand and hear about the brand’s mission, they often come back to purchase more.
Gratinsta’s first pop-up was at the The Snowport Holiday Market in Boston this past winter.
“We secured the last remaining space only five days before the opening. It turned out to be a wonderful success and we decided that pop-ups would be a continuing part of our strategy,” Shinde said.
Shinde said she truly dove into the pop-up world head first, learning many lessons along the way. To those interested in selling at pop-up markets, Shinde said there are 5 main pieces of advice she would give: plan ahead, design an inviting space, market yourself, get organized and make friends with other vendors.
“You can craft a beautiful atmosphere with the use of inexpensive fabrics and a few sprays of artificial greenery,” Shinde said. “Make sure, if you are hiring help, that everyone has the right attitude — a warm smile can draw someone in as easily as a nice design.”
In the future, Shinde plans to expand to the retail sector and utilize influencer marketing to drive sales. There is still much room to grow within the world of pop-ups, as brands can build up credibility and then participate in larger markets.
“Gratinsta is on an upward trajectory, and we are looking forward to expanding distribution,” Shinde said.” … Our goal is to gain enough traction and credibility to participate in the largest shows. We have clear and specific goals which will require an even larger investment of time and effort, but we believe it will be worth it.”
By creating meaningful connections with customers through unique sales channels, Shinde has made her original vision for a sustainable nature-focused company a reality. Just as nature once helped Shinde heal, she is now helping nature heal through her brand’s mission.