“Become a master before you break the rules. My fine art teacher said to me.”
Good morning darlings! Meet Matryoshka Wadhwani. A creative soul with an entrepreneurial spirit who has done impeccable things over the years. To name a few a successful jewellery line and creative studio. It has been such a pleasure speaking to her. Find the interview below.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BUSINESS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING EXACTLY?
I run a studio called Matryoshka for the past ten years – where I cover fashion, beauty, product and advertorial projects. A year ago, I founded STAGE Creatives – a creative production house where we do photography, videography, animation, illustration, graphic design and website development.
A few months ago, during the midst of the pandemic, I partnered with a veteran model in Hong Kong, Nikola Lines, to launch STAGE Management under STAGE Creatives. The purpose of the management is to break stereotypes and the one track standard of beauty within the industry. We proudly represent diversity and inclusivity. Despite the difficulties in today situation, we are grateful for all the opportunities we have got so far. Our models have been doing projects with companies such as McDonald’s, Fila, New Balance and Link Reit.
I also work as a co-founder at the Academy of Design in Hong Kong, where design-related short courses and workshops are organized at low costs to promote the art industry in English or Cantonese.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
I majored in Fashion Design and started studying at the age of 16. During my first year, I tried to get internships to learn about the Fashion Design industry but wasn’t able to. So instead of spending my summer unproductively, I decided to launch my handmade jewellery line Matryoshka. Over the next few years, I was mingling in different aspects of the fashion industry and picked up on photography.
Nikola, my business partner at STAGE Management, is a mixed-race veteran model who has worked with brands like Samsonite and Canon. I am an actress and model, and we both felt we wanted to make a difference, on how people in Hong Kong would perceive beauty. We want to represent diversity and inclusivity by managing talents with, for example, different body types, skin colours or culture.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THIS, AND IS THIS YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?
I’ve been running my own business since the age of 16, so I guess I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Growing up amongst a family of entrepreneurs, it became my dream to build my own business and earn a living out of my creativity.
DOES THE PANDEMIC HAVE ANY EFFECT ON YOUR BUSINESS?
Most definitely. It has been difficult for us to create content for our clients to market their products; there was nothing for us to promote. Clients were saving marketing costs, but I have to say that Hong Kong has been doing very well in containing the virus, so clients are now starting to promote their business again.
WHAT SPECIFIC ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. I work in a predominantly male industry. Where I have heard countless times that I couldn’t possibly be a photographer. Cause how on earth would I be able to carry all that gear? And how would I know how to light my subjects and be able to do the technical aspects? When building my studio, I spent six months with my partner constructing the area, it was loads of fun, but I kept receiving the question of how I could physically build the place with my own hands.
MY GREATEST OBSTACLE AND HOW DID YOU DEALT WITH IT:
My biggest obstacle is delegation. I’m a perfectionist and a workaholic, so I find it very difficult passing off work to someone else to complete. But over the years, I got to partner with people that I trust, so it’s becoming easier for me to share the workload.
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:
I would say starting STAGE Management. It’s something I feel very strongly about, and I have always wanted to do something about how beauty is perceived within my city. I’m tired of looking at billboards and wishing to see representation that reflects the International city that is Hong Kong, and in a way, the pandemic allowed me to do precisely that!
HOW I BLEND LIFE AND WORK TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT:
I’m a workaholic, so my life revolves around my work – mostly because I love what I do, so I feel satisfied when creating a beautiful visual or working with a team on a production. It’s a fun environment! But I do take breaks and enjoy spending time with my family, and I practise self-care by painting and dancing.
I AM INSPIRED BY:
I get inspired by making a change to better the world around me. Every time I hit a roadblock, I think about how I could contribute to changing that so the next person doesn’t have to go through it.
WHY I CHOSE THIS CAREER:
I have a creative soul, and as a child, I spent all my time drawing, so it was no surprise for my family and friends when I chose a creative career path. However, my original route was fashion design: photography and acting became pure luck. Opportunities came my way, and I took them.
HOW I PREPARE FOR SUCCESS:
I love to do self-analysis. I think about individual decisions I made and how I could do better next time. I think about my weaknesses and what I can do to improve on them, and I like learning practical skills that I could apply to my career.
DID YOU WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN? WAS IT AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR YOU?
I know it’s an essential aspect of running a business. But, honestly, no. The first business I started was at the age of 16, and I didn’t know anything about running a business. I sort of learnt along the way. And everything I’ve started afterwards was out of trying to provide a solution to an issue I felt within my career. However, I did spend time with my partners to work out our business plan for each business which helped us with a more unified approach.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC ADVANTAGES, DISADVANTAGES TO BEING A WOMEN BUSINESS OWNER?
Yes! I don’t look my age; I look much younger – thanks to my genetics. I’ve dealt with clients who love my work, but when they meet me, they feel surprised and sometimes lose trust that I’ve produced or managed a team to complete their project. Secondly, the idea of a female photographer is a woman who is strong physically, whereas I’m relatively thin naturally. I’ve had clients who’ve asked me whether I could hold my camera.
MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS TOOL IS…
My creativity! It sets me apart from other photographers. The skill is not difficult to learn, but what makes my work unique is my art direction.
THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN IS…
“Become a master before you break the rules”. My fine art teacher said to me. I used to question a lot of the rules; he never stopped me from changing things and doing things my way; he simply told me why I needed to play by the rules first. Only when I fully understood why the rules were there in the first place could I find the gaps in which I could apply my creativity.