#StoriesbyTWW: Pink Cheese Designs

Welcome to the very first edition of #StoriesbyTWW! The idea behind #StoriesByTWW was to feature a series of interviews on our website with women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. This is a series that we hope will inspire our community smart and ambitious women as well as share stories of  women that have taken risks, challenges and unexplored paths to get to where they are today.

Whether it’s someone just starting off their career or someone who’s looking to change paths, come back to work after a break, or simply learn, we feel these stories can do a lot in helping them get a more real perspective from people who’ve actually done it successfully. 

Today, we are featuring Pink Cheese Designs, a graphic design business set up by two incredibly talented and ambitious women with an eccentric eye for style. Here’s their story!

Riba and Simran, the founders of Pink Cheese

How did the idea for Pink Cheese Designs come about? What do you offer as part of your business? 

We started out as two best friends who happened upon a freelance design project. What started out as one freelance project that we decided to work on together snowballed into the now full-fledged design studio of our dreams – Pink Cheese Designs. At the time, the both of us had jobs of our own (both in design) and thought of this project as a fun way for us to work together. But before we knew it, we were getting projects on the side that paid us much more than our actual jobs. We knew then that it was time to quit our jobs and pursue our passion for design full-time. And who better to start a business with than your best friend? For everyone curious about how the name Pink Cheese came about – we LOVE the colour Pink and we LOVE anything with cheese, go figure! 

Pink Cheese Designs is a niche graphic design studio that offers branding, packaging and website design. We specialise in both print and digital media and work with a global clientele. We love creating brand identities that help businesses tell their story. Nothing sparks our joy as much as seeing a happy client. We aim to deliver an end result that they are 100% satisfied with. To describe us as design junkies would be an understatement – we eat, breathe, sleep design, and enjoy sharing the most absurd ideas with each other. 

Pink Cheese Designs for BurgerMan

What does a typical project entail? 

Here’s a quick lowdown on the Pink Cheese process

Step 1: Client servicing – We’re all about what clients want. That’s our key to nailing any project brief. The minute we have that initial meeting with the client, we pretty much get a sense of the brand and our head immediately starts reeling with ideas.

Step 2: Mood boarding – The start of any design process begins with tonnes of research. We typically spend a good day collecting references and creating a mood board that works with the client’s brand and aesthetic. Ideating – Once we’re done with our research, we start our brainstorming session. The biggest perk of having a work wife is that you constantly have a sounding board to bounce ideas off of.

Step 3: Design – We step into our artboard and let the creative juices flow. Tweaking and honing along the way to get to a design product that we are happy with. And voila! A Pink Cheese design is created.

The biggest perk of having a work wife is that you constantly have a sounding board to bounce ideas off of.

Riba & Simran, founders of Pink Cheese Designs

We also have to manage client updates, rounds of feedback, adjustments, negotiations, accounting and all the other administrative aspects that come with running our own business. It’s not fun, but it is essential.

What are some of the biggest challenges of running your own design firm? 

We strongly believe that designers are a ‘work in progress’. In the design field, things are constantly evolving, changing and progressing. We’ve watched the industry move from print to digital media, maximalism to minimalism, Facebook to Instagram, posts to reels. The biggest challenge is always keeping up with the times and making sure you remain relevant. We have to constantly challenge ourselves to do better and keep learning while staying consistent. Designers are their biggest critics and we get sucked into the vortex of perfection. Self-belief and knowing when to stop have been huge learning curves for us. Living in a patriarchal society, we’ve had our fair share of being pushed around as two young female entrepreneurs to work unreasonable hours at unreasonable prices. It has taken us many years of slow progress to understand the value of our work and put our foot down when it comes to work timings and pricing negotiations. Like they say ‘If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’, and you bet we’re here for the change.

Pink Cheese for Classmate Notebooks

Why did you decide to get into business together and what makes this an ideal partnership? 

When you know each other for as long as we have (15+ years), you’re starting out with a pretty solid foundation. We were so in sync to begin with that people would joke of us as being an old married couple – no wonder we were destined to be work wives! The biggest advantage of working with your best friend is that you know each other’s personalities in and out and have all that prior knowledge to deal with any tricky situation. You’ve already navigated through numerous awkward and upfront conversations that it comes very naturally to you without causing offence. People management and communication is key to the success of any business, and when you already have that sorted, you know everything else comes easy. But more importantly, our love for all things designs, similar sense of aesthetics and work ethic was the driving force to get into the design business together.

In terms of our working partnership, we truly complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We each bring a certain skill set to the equation which balances out the other. Like yin to the yang, like Monica Geller to Rachel Greene, like Serena van der Woodsen to Blair Waldorf, like Pink to Cheese. What can we say, we’re a match made in heaven!

What’s the one thing you’d tell new designers starting out today – whether they’re working in companies or starting their own businesses? 

When you are starting out, it’s about gaining the right experience. Go where your gut takes you and work with agencies, individuals or entrepreneurs that inspire you to do the best possible work. When you hone your craft, the money will come. It’s the result of putting in all your sweat and hard work into projects you’re passionate about.

We always believe in looking at an applicants quality over their quantity. For example, when we hire, we value their aesthetic sense more than the number of years of job experience. 

For designers starting out on their own, a word of advice would be not to fret! There’s enough work out there for everyone. Positivity attracts positivity and vice versa. 

Pink Cheese for Olivanna

What would you say are some of your best projects and why? 

Having worked with brands across the globe, we can happily say that some of our favorite projects have been right here in Namma Chennai. We love giving local brands a global voice. Speaking of which, the rebranding of Burgerman, beautifully embodies all that we love to bring to the table. Giving an old homegrown brand a cool, new avatar for its millennial customers really got our creative juices flowing. Burgerman was a brand that we interacted with at the school culturals and enjoyed our first bite of the 50 Rupees burger. When they decided to make a comeback a couple of years ago, we were super psyched that they chose us rather than a conventional big agency. With a mélange of nostalgia and modern day design language, we successfully made Burgerman a truly “Glocal” brand.

Another project that spoke to us personally was our very first design project when we started Pink Cheese Designs back in 2012. In a serendipitous stroke of luck, ITC Classmate came to us for the design of their then new range of notebooks “Pulse”. Pulse was set to be targeted towards the hip, college-going kids that seemed a world and generation apart from the suit wearing corporate world of ITC. So, they decided to give the project to two fresh-faced young entrepreneurs right out of college themselves. That was the year memes started trending on the internet as well and I’m not sure how many of you remember this but there was this really popular meme at the time “Sh*t people say”: where people would just troll Sh*t their moms said, their teachers said etc. We decided to take this Internet sensation and translate it onto the notebook covers, which went on to be printed and distributed across the country. It was the first time we realized that something that once only existed on our computer artboard could physically touch people across the country and boy, was that a good feeling!

For designers starting out on their own, a word of advice would be not to fret! There’s enough work out there for everyone. Positivity attracts positivity and vice versa. 

Simran & Riba, Pink Cheese Designs

What are some of the things you practice when the going gets tough? 

We have an unfair advantage – we are two best friends, going on 15 years of friendship, turned business partners. When the going gets tough, we get to vent to each other, ride all the highs and tide through all the lows together. Quoting Rudyard Kipling from his famous poem “If” (which by the way was part of our English I curriculum in 10th standard that we ended up mugging up together) – If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same; One thing that really works for us is that we don’t let the highs excite us too much and so the lows don’t drag us down that much either. 

Learning to say “No” has been one of the most liberating practices we’ve learnt in the process of becoming entrepreneurs. “Less is more” is not only our design mantra but also our business mantra now. We don’t need to give up our weekends; holidays and me time to please the client. Instead using that time to recharge our creative cells serves our practice and projects more. The process to get here from being the people pleasing twenty-somethings to self-assured thirty-somethings has been a hard but rewarding one.

Talk to us about the pros (and cons if any) of being workwives. 

As with any good marriage, the biggest perk of having a #workwife by your side is you have someone with you in sickness and in health, through good times and bad, for better or for worse. When one of us falls sick, the other naturally assumes charge. When one of us has a life crisis, the other assumes the role of a pseudo therapist. Having a good support system at work is as important as having a supportive partner at home. We divide our chores (client servicing, accounts, social media etc.) and help run the house (business) smoothly. Especially when you are in the creative space and creative blocks come without warning, you need your “nagging” #workwife to help get you out of the slump.

Learning to say “No” has been one of the most liberating practices we’ve learnt in the process of becoming entrepreneurs. “Less is more” is not only our design mantra but also our business mantra now

Simran & Riba, Pink Cheese Designs

The biggest con is when you fight with your #workwife and you have no one to vent to about irritating work events or grab a hot chocolate with to hit pause on the day and remember to breathe. Your biggest support system at work fails and you are suddenly stranded in the field without your workplace warrior. And as with making up with your partner, the make up hot chocolate tastes even sweeter when you make up with your #workwife.

We hope you enjoyed reading this interview and we can’t thank Simran and Riba enough for being a part of #StoriesbyTWW. If you know a female owned business that you think should be featured here, please don’t hesitate to email us! We are at: theworkwife[dot]in[at]gmail[dot]com