Esha Tiwari, founder Kastoor fragrances, shares why you should take time off as a solo entrepreneur

As a solo founder, work and play blur the boundaries. If your business is your baby, you raise it 24*x7, 365 days a year. Here’s a deep dive into the mind and (scented) itinerary of Esha Tiwari, founder Kastoor, as she takes a break to recharge and reset. 

Before we delve into her NYC solo holiday, let me tell you why I followed it so intently. Esha Tiwari is the founder of Kastoor, a plant-based perfumery brand on Modern ittars/attars, crafted to experience India’s fragrant culture. She left her corporate career to be independent and create a collaborative work ethos. I always appreciate solopreneurs for this intent. But, being an entrepreneur is not as rosy as the blush on your vanity, and it’s easy to get burnt out while you chase your dreams. On our first meeting, Esha introduced me to a book called Profit First by Mike Michalowicz, which highlights how profit is not an event but a habit. I have been following her for a bit, and I find it very inspiring how here’s a girl minding her own business and taking breaks to avoid exhaustion. I would feel that taking a break is a privilege, but if you follow Esha on Instagram, you know self-care is a habit for her.

Her vibe gives me a message I often need – ‘If you don’t prioritize yourself, nobody else will.’ 

Yes, there are life truths I learn through newsmakers or people I meet through work. I am a feature writer with key expertise in beauty and often have founders or publicists reaching out to me to be a part of my stories for publications. Some leave a mark out of the 100s of people I meet during a month. I am inspired by human spirits who follow their dreams, attracting a life of abundance and possibilities. I am always curious about what makes them tick and what they do differently than others. In Esha, it’s relaxing and taking frequent breaks to keep her entrepreneurial side resilient and relevant. Some excerpts from my conversations with her during her week in NYC. 

What prompted this solo trip?

The desire to be inspired by people, places, and perspectives. The hunger for insights and experiences, basking in stories, ideas, spontaneous creativity, and fresh mindsets that are not marked on the calendar. This year was about making time and feeding your soul and mind beyond a google meet invite. As a solo founder, the boundaries between work and play get blurred. If your business is your baby, you raise it 24*x7, 365 days a year. Although I consciously try to maintain a healthy balance and not succumb to burnout, the excitement to raise your baby is always on. Your life can be bookended with meetings, calls, research, and emails. Hell, I started talking in the email-mail language to friends, and when my friend pointed that out, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. You need to plant yourself in various experiences which genuinely inspire you. As Rumi-ish as it sounds, I have an unending desire to live my life to the fullest, and solo trips are just a daunting, overwhelming, and incredibly exhilarating way to do that. 

Solo travelling is as intimidating as inviting. First things first, why New York?

NYC is designed for solo travellers. It’s normalised or instead celebrated to go out alone, sit in a bar by yourself and sip your drink, stir up conversations with strangers and savour the spontaneity. If you are like me, NYC is a city you have romanticised all your life without stepping foot there. 

You have mapped the streets when Carrie angrily parades and destroys her wedding flowers on Mr Big’s head. The city’s skyline is impressed in your mind with Spiderman swinging through the backdrop, and you can spot many Harvey Spectres on the streets. You can practically see Audrey Hepburn strutting Manhattan’s avenues with a coffee and a croissant and Al Pacino gunning it down in Godfather. 

You know it with the good greed of Wall Street, you know the subways when you rode along with Anne Hathway in The Devil Wears Prada, and you can practically narrate what Central Park looks like without ever visiting from the reruns of Harry Met Sally. So, the minute you enter NYC, you know you have known it all along.

Tell me about your week in NYC. What was your best takeaway?  

To make the most of whatever is presented in front of me. I caught NYC at a “bad time”. I get why my friends they would say that. Five days of continuous pouring and a gloomy mist, but my experience was independent of the weather or made more beautiful by it. I experienced gratitude. How else would I have made the steam graters my warm runway on a cold pouring night? How would we have kept jackets over our heads and crossed streets to get the most generous and tastiest 1$ pizza, and how else would I have gratefully basked in the most beautiful sunshine five days later?

What you learn on a solo trip is never tangible at the exact moment. You collect your learnings in hindsight – in a changed perspective or a broadened horizon, in a new vision planted in your subconscious. I am still discovering my learnings from the trip, but you have yet to return as the same person from a solo trip. 

What do you recommend to do if visiting NYC for the first time?

I’m not too fond of itineraries. I have a list of must-visits that I spread across the week, and each day I wake up is when it’s decided which one to go to today. The rest of the day is spent casually or wasted wisely (a concept I dearly love). The travel journal is very spontaneous unless there are some ticketed events or entries based on time slots. 

In terms of food, I am a vegetarian, so no steak recommendations from me. But check out the Levian Bakery for the best cookies in town, Sophie’s Cuban cuisine for some delicious Cuban food, when you are done with your quintessential NYC pizzas and Hungarian Pastry Shop.

When in the subway, I usually get down a station or two before (highly recommended trick) and walk to the destination, allowing me to explore the block and find something incredible that wasn’t even on the list! 

As a perfumist, what are the three perfumed halts one must plan in NYC?

The fragrance tour of the city! NYC is a true perfume melting pot. 

I started with the experimental Le Sabo store, where a minimalist science lab inspires aesthetics. The set-up allows a rustic olfactory experience, with customers encouraged to test the fragrances over a vintage sink. The perfumery also has fragrances you can only get in the city, in person, and nowhere else, not even online. The NYC Le Sabo’s fragrance is Tuberose, and you can imagine how proud as an Indian I was to see that. 

The next halt was Frederick Malle , one of the most experiential perfumeries to visit. The place has ‘auric’ chambers to experience a fragrance as one’s aura is more nuanced than experiencing it on paper or one’s skin. 

Another perfumery to have a huge impact on me was Fueguia , where I met the beautiful Jennifer, the retail manager of the NYC Fuegia store. She had spent three months in Banaras, my birth city. Though she was there 20 years ago, the memories of India and the city were so fresh in her mind as if it were yesterday. We spent the evening exchanging anecdotes of scents and culture. 

Talking about serendipity, I discovered that Fueguia has the art of attar making at its heart. The plant-based perfumery uses hydrodistillation of the purest ingredients, which I felt was paying homage to the Indian influence on perfumery. Among other things, I was delighted to find a scent named ‘Tagore’ in their collection.   

I hope this blog series, inspires you to travel, take a break and prioritise yourself, not because you have earned or deserved a break, but because you want to live life to the fullest. Being a solopreneur also means, it’s very difficult to plan group holidays as often the holiday time is the busiest time of the year for the year. Hope somewhere, if Esha’s trip connects with you, you are inspired to plan ‘me-time’ to recharge and reboot irrespective of whether you have a baby or a small business.

Author

  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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