There’s plenty to learn about wearable art as an expression of the many influences and values of the fabulous Paulomi Debnath in this episode. Paulomi founded the award-winning, Handmade by Tinni in 2020 to address the lack of colourful, fun biodegradable jewellery for fashionistas who love expressing their personality with unusual, statement jewellery pieces. You can listen to the podcast here or via the player at the bottom of this page.

Welcome, Paulomi, to the Creative Switch podcast. Lovely to have you here. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Sure. Thank you so much Nikki, again for welcoming me to your podcast. My name is Paulomi Debnath. I was born and brought up in India, I’ve been living in London for the past 17 years. I’m a founder and artist of Handmade by Tinni. I am a textile jewellery designer. I love rope knotting. I’m a rope knotting specialist. I’m a self-taught artist. I learned the crafts and all the knotting myself. And I set up my business in 2020. My brand has been going strong since, and I am really pleased to have this beautiful creative outlet, which is my passion. I love colour and hopefully make people beautiful when they wear it.

Talk to me a little bit about that journey, because you said it’s two or three years ago that you actually set the business up. But when did the connection with creativity start for you? When did you decide that you were going to explore this creative outlet?

I have always been a very passionate lover of jewellery, honestly, since my childhood. I still have pieces that I have saved from my little childhood days, and they’re still special because I’m spoiled. I am from India, so we have lots of handicrafts and crafts and colours and things to be spoilt with. It has been my passion.

When I was a little girl, I set up a little stall. I just sat down on the ground at a book fair. In those days, you didn’t need any permission and things like that. Probably because I was a schoolgirl and people didn’t bother. So, I just sat down, and I made some earrings out of beads and pieces, things that I loved, and I sold them, on a little mat, and I sold out in two days. And I think people were just very happy to see a little girl selling and making and selling her craft, and they wanted to support that.

I’m sure that was one of the reasons. But also what I created, I think was really good enough. And what I felt on those two days, I was literally, I think I was in year six or seven, so pretty young. But what gave me that, I thought that I would make something with my hands. However, life had different plans, as it always does. Once I passed out my exams (like A-levels) in India, I started sales and marketing.
I am a specialist in sales and marketing. I studied sales and marketing, and I joined a marketing agency. I was a brand manager. Then again, life had different plans. I met my then boyfriend, now husband, and he came to the UK to study. He did his postgrad here, and he proposed. We literally did the long-distance relationship for almost a year. And then we got married and I came here.

So literally, I had no other reason apart from love, which is, I think, the biggest reason of all for making big changes. And once I landed in London, I again got a job in hotel industry I was in hotels sales and marketing and so I have been a hotel sales professional for past 21 plus years and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved. I do love traveling as I said I love the industry and I think you don’t have to have one passion only but throughout my years I have always been an avid lover of jewellery. You should see my personal collection which I’ve collected all over the world, of course from India but also wherever I’ve travelled so like Turkey, Greece, Europe, US, Asian, other parts and my mum says that I’m building a secret museum for jewellery. It’s a lot honestly and I should be embarrassed of something but I’m very proud. I’m very happy, I love them and I’m still collecting by the way.

So, I think what came about was that I’ve always been creating, I always make my own jewellery with my mum’s sari or my old clothes and cut them up and mix things even my son’s old jeans have cut them up and made jewellery from it and I used to give them to my friends and family and wear them myself.
All my friends always used to tell me you should do something with it but when you have a job and you are doing well and life happens like a house, family, kids moving into bigger house, things like that, bigger decisions need to be taken and bigger responsibilities, so sometimes you forget those small little happiness’s.

The big change came, I think the turning point, is that when I turned 40, in January 2020. I felt that if I don’t do something with my creative passion, something that I’m proud of, if I don’t do it now, then I will always have a regret that I didn’t follow my dream, my passion. And I started making it professionally. And I opened my Etsy shop first, which is the marketplace for handcrafted or handmade items. It’s perfect to start. It’s not that the risk is too much. And you can try and see what you believe is what the people want or there is a demand for it or not.

And I will 100% recommend any passionate, creative person to try there first. As I said, the risk is low but you get to prove yourself first. So anyway, I did that and then I went for a craft fair and that was a game changer because I was really just thinking if I can just make my craft stall break even, I’ll be happy. And I thought, I am a salesperson. So I’m pretty good with people, I’m an extrovert, I talk easily, interact easily. But what I have never done is selling my own stuff.

While working for another brand you’re in a B to B selling situation. The whole thing, it’s completely different to selling on the ground, your own something that you have made and you’re selling, it is very different thing. Your people skills come in very handy, true. But what also you need is belief and really having that feel of what goes with what the customer is really looking for.

So again, that was my first craft fair and I made around £200 plus something. My craft stall fee was around £45 and so I made way over and I was literally on a high. I think I was floating when I was coming back home and I was really proud and I thought, you know what, this just shows that these people who don’t know me, they’re not my friends and family, they have no reason to buy my product or really exchange money for something that I made. And that belief and that confidence was a huge booster, I think.

So that started my journey, and I had the Etsy shop, but I put some effort into my branding. I opened my Instagram account after that stall, after that craft show. I had no Instagram before that. Rather I was not a very social media person either. My Facebook was literally just little holiday pics. My LinkedIn was good because of course for my work. But yeah, I was not a social media kind of person.

But then I obviously had to learn, and Instagram happened for me and then, you know, what happened in 2020, from March onwards, things all changed. And if I may say so, I think it really helped brands which didn’t have high street presence, rather the online brands to have a bigger scope because people were only looking at online. You just had no opportunity to go out and buy from high streets and I was not there in high street, I was not big enough. So all I did was work with social media, made friends, joined communities, maker communities and small business communities like Small Business Britain. And as you know, for entrepreneurs, which I obviously joined the group, the Small Business Britain has so many little pods as well to support small business owners, female entrepreneurs and the support was amazing.

I think I learned like a sponge. I joined every online training module or web series or anything was possible because as I said, building your own brand is very different to actually working for another brand or bigger brand. Because there you have a setup of marketing and you are just an employee, whereas building your own brand, you are doing everything from scratch. And honestly, we wear so many hats.

As a business owner, yes, of course, my passion lies in making. I’m a craft person, I love learning and I was so excited to actually make something with my own hands and then create and mix and match and experiment that is one side of the building brand or making a product. But what you also need is marketing. You need selling expertise; you need to have social media, it is so very important because all I did was organic marketing. I had no budget for social media marketing paid publicity or doing advertisements. I never spent one penny on advertisements. Still, I believe in organic marketing.
All I did was learned so much and how to build a brand and all the admin work. So it has been a beautiful journey and of course there have been days when I felt, ‘What I’m doing and I must be crazy’, but the joy of building something, it’s like my baby. And I’m sure we all go through that phase when you’re growing. I’m still in the growth phase, I’m still learning, that learning will never go, I think, for anybody and shouldn’t.

And I’m so proud of where I am. My designs have been featured in national press. I have achieved many awards. For example, I’ve been chosen in the top 100 Female Entrepreneurs 2022, by the f:entrepreneur. Then I got Small Business 100 last year as well. So, among so many small businesses, I was one of the hundred to be chosen as one of the key last year by Small Business Britain. I got Theo Paphitis, SBS award as well. So, it has been such a beautiful journey.
Then I was chosen for this year, I got into the EB Hundreds, which is Elite Business Hundred again, top hundred businesses to look out for FSB Award in the London region, as well as small creative, entrepreneur. I mean, there have been so many key moments and that has shaped and given me confidence, given me the support, but most of all given me community. And I’m very passionate about the community. I try to support and give the same support to the new or other newer entrepreneurs or whoever is planning to launch their brand and try to do the same with them.

As you grow as a maker, you have to wear lots of hats; promoting yourself, you’re producing what you’re making, you’re marketing it, you have to do all the admin. How do you balance that with a career? Because people are scared that they’re not going to make enough money out of their new venture. But then they’re worried, well if I do, how do I balance that with my career? And should I just switch over from one to the other? What do you do? So your story is slightly different. There’s a lot of people, when they’ve had the kind of success you’ve had, who say, ‘Oh, thank goodness for that, I’m going to stop my other job that I hate’ and that’s not your situation. Talk to me about that and the mix of the two.

Absolutely. I think obviously I didn’t plan it this way, but it did happen and I learned along the way and I would be so happy if my journey and my story can inspire others in the same way. You are absolutely right. The first thing I would clarify, I love my job. I absolutely love the hotel industry, traveling, hospitality. I am trained to be there. I have gone up the ranks, and I have worked really hard to be where I am and simply because I am also passionate about that job. And I would say I’m good at it as well. And I love sales and marketing.

And also, I believe the one myth that everybody thinks is that you can only have one passion, you only have one career, you can only be good at in one thing career-wise. I mean to say that is a myth, that’s not true, at least not for me. And it is a fine balance, 100%. It’s hard work, you don’t have the nine to five pleasures.

At the same time, if you are trying to build two separate careers and my careers, my job and my business are so diagonally different, they are opposite ends. One is creative and one is very much professional side. They’re not related. I’m not doing something apart from using my people skills, where expertise from my day job will come to my creative business. They’re very different. So the first thing that I must say, that if somebody is passionate about a creative outlet, you love your job or you don’t, that’s a different scenario and there are two different scenarios.
In my case, I love my job and I have no plans to leave that. Maybe in the future I might look at going part time but right now I’m happy where I am and I’ve just been promoted as well in January, so things do look promising there as well. On the other hand, I have a creative outlet and I’m passionate about it and I will never give up that.

As I said, I took a chance on my belief, my passion, my design essence and it worked. But when I say it worked, it’s not a fluke. It’s not luck. Yes, luck has played some roles in it, but it has been a lot of hard work, tears and late nights. So, you first have to be ready to or be prepared to give hours. If anybody thinks that it’s just typical nine to five, 40 hours a week will get through to a passion business or something that you want to build, it’s never going to work that way.

When you are at a job, your responsibility lies in the job, meaning your day job. You should not ever feel that I can take a little break and do this. No, that is your main responsibility in those hours and you do that with passion, dedication and determination like you would for anything.

Then you have to assign hours for your creative outlet. The first tip I would say is that when you plan to start a business, it’s not day one. Your day one is actually two, three years back. You need to first start saving because if you are planning, be it staying in a day job or be it leaving that day job and going into a brand, if your brand is successful, you need the financial backup. You don’t want the additional pressure of having to manage your money because that’s very important. Building a brand is already a very hard work, very much a demanding job in itself. But if you have money issues on top of it to make day to day ends meet, that’s not going to work easily.

So first thing is work backwards. If you have a dream, start saving towards it. Call it your dream saving. Think of it as if I have to go without a job for six months or a year, can I survive that kind of saving? That’s all we are looking for that is important. First, you might be doing the job like myself throughout and you don’t need to touch the saving, but still that part is extremely important.

Secondly, you need to have a clear mindset that while I’m launching, building my brand and if it’s not off the ground because it takes time in this climate and I’m just being the devil’s advocate here, for as many brands launched in UK or globally every day, a similar number of brands also get closed every day. So we have to have the positive spirit, optimism, but we also have to be realistic.

Make sure you have an exit plan. The reason it worked for me is I had a job, I had no financial insecurity, of course COVID happened, so it was less hours. It worked in my favour because I had more hours to build my brand initially. As I said, I had some savings aside, so we worked that way but it might not be for somebody else’s case. So you need to have that exit plan.

So day zero is three years back when you start saving, and that same time start your research. Market research is key and very important. I am saying that because I learned it from my brand and my knowledge, though I must say I was impulsive. So I will tell you what we should do and I will also tell you what I did. I had the belief and I just jumped in without the research. I went in because I love jewellery. I love colour and accessories and fashion and costume jewellery is such a huge market. You know that you always have a niche. And I believed in my niche.

But if somebody is launching a brand, it’s very important to know your target customer, what area you should focus. And that market research, it doesn’t cost a thing. You can do it. Get trainings on Google. You have Google keyword research. You have so many services you can use. You can ask your friends and family to start with and maybe your coworkers or people you’re comfortable with and see how your concept or brand, even if it’s B to B or B to C or a product or a service, see how it works and do the market research.

Build a brand, make sure you have a brand strategy. And when I say strategy, I know it sounds very technical, very bookish, but all it means is that having a plan. This is my brand, this is my selling strategy. This is how I’m going to start. What’s my target in my first year or first month or first six months, and where I want to be in one year or two years? Where do I see myself? So when you launch, let’s say you have saved up and you have done the planning, you have done the research, or you’re like me, impulsive. You believe in yourself and you just go for it, whichever direction you take.

People who travel, use your tube time to read and learn. I used to make, by the way, on the tube. I used to carry my little bag and I used to make. People who don’t travel make hours, at least set hours, 2 hours for your business. I don’t know what would be your hours. I have a family, have a little boy. When I started, he was younger. So if you have that, then you don’t have the pleasure of time. You have to be very critical. Again, I cannot stress this enough. You have to give up some of the other pleasures. I’m not going to go beating around the bush around it. If you are building a brand around a job, you are time poor forever, by the way.

I don’t want to discourage anybody. It is possible. It is absolutely possible. You just maybe have to give up your lazy time on the sofa or something that 100% gave you pleasure or something. But you have to give that up building something even better for yourself. So set aside 2 hours, 3 hours in the evening or in the morning. I’m not a morning person, so I’ll never can do that, honestly. But I’m an evening person. I set aside 2 hours, 3 hours in the evening. That will be your admin hour, your making hour, your building hours. So I make my jewellery while I’m sitting and watching Netflix on my sofa. I have a bag, I make all my orders till 10:00, till 01:00, 02:00. Yes, I’m watching TV, but I’m actually making that’s my making time.

My branding time is also my evening time where I’m doing admin. Your weekends are your gold mine. Save hours. Make your social media posts in batches. That will save you. There are so many apps now that you can plan your pins or your posts, your carousels, your social media, anything in that weekend and they will work for you behind the business, behind the brand, while you’re at your day job during the week. That’s a huge time saver and game changer.

If you are a creative maker like me, you have to make, you have to design, you have to plan, you’re making a collection, colours and that. So that is my design work or making work. If you are another kind of product, let’s say you make, I don’t know, food industry, you need a different kind of license. You need products. You need to make sure that you have a sell by date or by best before date or those kind of things come into place, so you have a shelf life, whereas my product, luckily, is not within that shelf life.
But before all that, while you’re making those plans, I forgot to mention something. Do find out who you are. What is your brand essence, your brand values and your mission. Your brand values in general do not change, your mission statement can change sometimes because as you grow, your brand grows, you learn more about yourself, about your brand. And you might adopt something new, you want to do something new, you might want to find a sustainable way of doing business. Those things can happen.
But your values in general are what makes you and your brand and generally they don’t change. In my case, my brand values are very clear. I believe colour spreads joy. That is my essence, that is my brand tagline. And anything I do comes from that belief. I sincerely, honestly believe, passionately believe that colour and not just with my jewellery, any type of colour by the way, colour spreads joy. And joy is so important for our mental peace, happiness, being confident comes when you’re happy. So that’s what I believe in.

And I also have sustainability in my brand values because I believe doing business ethically is the only way to do business. And I make in small batches. I work with ecology, I plant trees. So far I’ve saved 16 tons of carbon footprint. And of course, I’m a small business and I make every design in my own hands. So you’re already supporting a local business and local artist. I have a zero waste collection. So those are the things from my sustainable belief. The brand value was already in place, that I would do business sustainably. But my design came later, one year, two years into the business.

I thought what do I do with my cotton rope leftovers? Can I do something with it? And that’s when I came up with the zero waste collection. I’m using all my rope ends and I’m using them to make this collection of jewellery. Things does change while you’re building your brand. And you might have new ideas, new influences, but your brand values are very important.

Find them out. It can be balance, it can be family, it can be fun, it can be anything. But having those set down before you build your brand is very important. They will help you to grow and grow more on that foundation. And one other thing is that in my case I’m still full time.

So you planned for two years and launched a brand. Three years later, one year into the launching, your brand is doing well, you’re growing and you’re seeing the great feedback and you’re hopefully making profit. You’re breaking even and you feel that you need more time. In that case, go have a word with your supervisor. You’re at your work and maybe have part time. Go for part time or take some time away from work. You obviously have paid holidays, but you can also have unpaid leave and use the time. And so plan this with your supervisor until you are financially secure and you’re making enough money.

If you are as progressed in your job as myself, you won’t easily make the same amount of money in your brand in two years. It is possible, possibly, but if that’s 2% of brands launched. It’s normally realistically, most probably not possible but can you not do with less? You can. So plan what are your basic needs, what’s your cut off earning, what do you need to get by and also invest in your business? Obviously have that figure somewhere and add 20% on it because you still need to make savings so have that money part clear. So if my brand makes, I don’t know, I’m just saying for example a figure £40,000 a year in profit after tax, don’t forget you have to pay tax, then I can survive and I can go into my brand completely.

But if you don’t have that target or if you haven’t reached a target, let’s say you are at 20K profit meaning halfway through consistently. You’re looking at two years minimum to have a consistent figure. Overall there’ll be months, you will be dip like in the summer generally for my brand but there will be months where You will be doing double, triple the amount of the average, like Christmas for me. But overall in a year, how much you’re making in your brand, is it sustainable on its own?

If not, then you must make sure that you have a balance. You either go part time, you take time off, you do some hours as I said, not easy, it’s not an easy path, it’s not straightforward, you will find out as you go on. But most probably one thing that you must say that you have your integrity while you’re at the job. Do your job as best as you should be because it’s important. Never close a door because you never know when you have to open and knock on that door again. Always keep your professional doors open, make sure you are very clear in your communication. Let them know that you are building something on the side.

In my case they were very supportive. In my job it’s owned by two sisters, the company 53, 54 years on. I think women are more, I don’t know, supportive. I think they’re amazing. They promote me in the company, they push me forward as the employee of the month and very creative entrepreneur. They always celebrate my awards with me so I am lucky, I’m blessed.

But normally if you look at the legality of it you can set up a brand beside your job, nobody’s stopping you, it’s completely illegal, you might pay a little bit more tax but it is absolutely approved. So you’re not doing anything wrong. So your company shouldn’t have any problem. The only time they will have a problem is if it’s a competition. I mean let’s say you work at Coffee Republic and you’re building a coffee zone, right? You can’t do that. I mean, that’s direct competition. So that’s the only time you have trouble. Hopefully you are not doing that and you have something else planned because that is a different game altogether.

And talk to them, have clear communication and make sure you have that backup. But most of all, be sure that you have an exit plan, you have financial security, you have a strategy, and then go for it.
Believe in yourself, do it! Be impulsive, make mistakes. You will make losses honestly, you will make mistakes, you will make wrong decisions, you will trust the wrong people, you will make so many mistakes all the way. But they’re all an amazing learning curve. We all make mistakes in every sphere of our life. Make mistakes, learn from them. They’re not mistakes. They are your free learning training module. And there is no one in this whole world who’s building a business or a brand. Small, big, whoever, that hasn’t done mistakes. Believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself, you have a dream, you have a passion, you are ready to work hard. There is no other magic here. Work hard, you can do it.

Before we close, I’ve got one particular question which I’m sure people ask you, but I think is a really useful thing for makers, it is around one of your values, and it’s even in your name, it’s handmade. You’re one person and you have one pair of hands. So what is your plan for what’s next? Because if this brand does continue to grow, are you planning to outsource production? Are you planning to make more collections and less volume? What’s the way forward for handmade?

It’s a brilliant question and you’re right, I’ve been asked this before. Handmade is a very tricky, very passionate, very personal branding area. When I named my brand as I said, I’m impulsive and I think with my heart, even though I’m very I’m logical, I’m critical, I’m good with money, but I think with my heart and it’s very important as well, I think, for passionate brands and there’s nothing wrong with it. By the way, my name is Palomi, but my nickname is Tinni and my friends and family call me Tinni. That’s what my parents named me as a nickname. And when I started planning my brand, I thought I would go with my alternate personality. Paulomi is more professional, more outgoing, corporate, whereas Tinni is more eccentric, creative and a bit cheeky and fun. I wanted to have that different persona. It’s like alternate personalities exactly how I am. Like, I have a job and I have a brand and that’s how obviously I’m making all my designs by myself.

So handmade by Tiny is the core of the brand.You are absolutely right. So I have discussed this with professionals of how about if I outsource or if I hire somebody, I train them and I give my designs and giving the training, then it is still handmade by Tinni because it’s my design essence and my design and my making process that I’m sharing. And of course they’re trained and paid by me. So that’s how it is.

So, if I scale up, that’s the way to go, that I will hire someone and I will train and I’ll grow like that if I grow, if I go into bigger brands. The one thing is that your scalability helps you reduce your raw material cost because you’re buying more in bulk and obviously that will help a lot. So my plan is that to hire somebody, train somebody and making sure I train them myself. So the whole thing stays within my design platform, my design essence, the way I do things and nothing changes.

If somebody else is planning the same and you fear that if you are not doing the making yourself, how is it handmade? It is still handmade and it is still your way of handmade, it is still the way you would like to do it. So you’re still following your passion and it is your core design essence that they are following. That is absolutely fine.

So, I am launching new designs and right now, as I said, time is essence and of course we all only get 24 hours and you do have to sleep and you have a family. And I love cooking as well. I mean, it’s not that I have one passion, so there as well, I save time batch making, but that’s another story for another day.
And the way I’m planning end of next year, before Christmas, I’m hiring somebody because Christmas time is the craziest time for me. I generally make my best selling designs a little bit more because I know they will sell out so that I’m ready, prepared and packed. And then of course, there are the bigger orders. I work with indie boutiques, so in US and in UK, a lot of them order just before Christmas. So I already know the period where the orders will come because the boutiques or the retail shops or the brick and mortar shops will order, it is amazing, but people start buying from September, so the boutiques will start ordering from even July.

I know that my summertime, from this month onwards, I’m already in the Christmas mode and I can’t believe I’m saying this word already, but trust me, people in product businesses, especially festive, kind of gifting, some people talk even from January.

I haven’t gone that crazy yet, but I am planning ahead and growing accordingly. And then next year I I’ll hire somebody. Two pairs of hands is better than one pair of hands and then I’ll see how it goes. I have huge belief and plan to make it big. But I don’t want to lose my handmade touch, I don’t want to make it too big ever. It will still be an essence of a small design brand, made to order mainly if possible, but something that you wear with pride and show off. Wear colour, spread joy, be confident, it really changes the whole outlook.

It’s been so brilliant listening to you and I sense there’s another string to your bow, which is the mentor to the new entrepreneurs that are coming through. I’m sure that’s something that you’ll get more involved in because you’re so good at explaining what to look out for, maybe sharing some of the things that you’ve learnt, giving people a shortcut to overcome some of those and not make those same decisions so they can get there a little bit quicker maybe. But it’s been fantastic listening to you and all your advice. Where can people find you? Where can they find your designs? What are you up to? Where do you spend your time?

Thank you Nikki, and it has been a pleasure. Before I go into my links, I loved talking to you, I think if anyone listens, if even one budding entrepreneur takes the jump, I would feel I spent the time well. So I’m wishing well to all those listeners who might have a little plan or a little idea or a little dream, hope your dream goes well. My name is Paulomi, Paulomi Debnath. I am the founder and artist of Handmade by Tinni. And you will find me on my website and you will find me mainly on Instagram, some Facebook and Instagram, which is handmadebytinni and then also on Pinterest if anyone follows and little bit of TikTok. I’m not very good at TikTok, but Instagram I love. It has been a pleasure and I hope you’re right. I should be able to share more of those stories to other budding entrepreneurs.

Maybe we can get you back in in two years time and you can talk about where your journey has taken you then.

Thank you so much Nikki.

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Creative Switch. If you enjoyed it, please leave a review over on And if you’ve got any questions, please let me know on Twitter @nikki_vallance. You can also head to to join the Creative Switch community. 

I do hope you join me and NeuroLeadership expert Rachel Bamber next time who chats with me from another country as a digital nomad? And remember, Why Survive When You Can Thrive?