Nidhi Kapur didn’t always know she wanted to be an entrepreneur; but with the right mix of experience, mentorship, spark, and dissatisfaction with a furniture industry she knew she could improve, she made her move. This week we’re sitting down with the New York-based CEO and founder of Maiden Home, and we’re covering the story behind her budding biz, her guilt-free approach to prenatal self-care, and how she turned self-doubt into self-actualization.
LIFE & CAREER
How did you know you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
My experience at Birchbox was the catalyst. The bug bit later in life for me, relative to other people because [becoming an entrepreneur] wasn’t my intended path. I’d always been a bit risk-averse in my professional decisions – I started my career in corporate America, at McKinsey then Google. Birchbox was my first startup experience; and the learning opportunity was so enormous, as was working with Katia, who’s a visionary entrepreneur herself.
That’s when I saw the magic of entrepreneurship and felt the satisfaction of solving hard problems. I was managing business development and strategic partnerships. That experience, combined with great mentorship, gave me the courage to jump in. I think a lot of people who think about entrepreneurship doubt themselves – especially women. We tend to be risk-averse, but I think that entrepreneurs aren’t natural-born. Anybody can be an entrepreneur.
What was the moment when you knew that Maiden Home would become a viable business?
I came to the furniture industry as a disgruntled consumer. At first, I didn’t know much about furniture; I didn’t know where and how I should be shopping, but I could relate to my consumer because of that. Now it feels like we’re crafting the model, coming up with this idea for a direct-to-consumer brand to harness American-crafted pieces, which are very unique to our industry. America is the heartland for beautiful, custom handcrafted furniture globally.
The first time that I felt that this would really work was my first trip to North Carolina. I knocked on doors and pitched [our current supplier] a partnership idea: they would make our furniture and design, and in turn let us tell their story. Going into those conversations flying down from New York, it all made so much sense to me – it was a no-brainer. But you never know what’s going to be on the receiving end. Luckily, they got it immediately. They’re super savvy business minds; they’ve grown multi-million dollar companies, and they just understood right away. Having that level of commitment and partnership with your suppliers makes the customer experience so much better.
Was it difficult to leave a steady job to pursue building your own company?
Absolutely, it was difficult. I was very lucky that I had the support emotionally and financially of my husband and that we could take that risk. The income portion of it was a major consideration, but it wasn’t as much of an issue; and I don’t discount that that made it easier for me.
But beyond that, you have to be prepared, especially if you’ve been a successful, self-sufficient professional for your entire career beforehand. The time that you’re building the company, you may not be earning anything at all or much less. It took an emotional toll on me for sure – I felt a sense of pride earning an income, contributing to my family, even rewarding myself, and that goes away when you’re building something.
What advice do you have for anyone who is interested in doing the same thing?
My advice is to do your best to prepare for that kind of emotional toll. Find ways to self-assure. Know that you’re going to run into moments of doubt. It always feels like the reward is so far down the line if you’re not positive.
What are you most excited about that’s on the horizon for Maiden Home?
So much of it we can’t announce quite yet; but there were small and big things. Before we launched publicly, we made a private beta.The site was closed, and it was literally via email through friends and family. Small milestones were exciting: those first 5, 10, 15 customers who bought furniture from us wrote 5-star reviews, glowed about it, told their friends. Now we ship every single day.
Real, honest customer feedback [is exciting]. Putting a product in someone’s home that you’re so proud of [is exciting]. One of our earliest customers was a friend of mine – she was having a baby and she hosted a baby shower in her home. We went, and it was first time I saw one of my products in someone’s house. Because the products that we make are essential to people’s lives, it gave me so much pride and happiness. Those are the little things that keep you going.
Bigger things we have on the horizon: We’re working on some exciting things with a celebrity that I think is so aligned [Editor’s note: It’s Alison Williams!]. And we have so much information now – we have so much info about who our customers are. That’s something to be excited about.
Have there been any surprises as you’ve learned more about your customers?
Geography has been a big surprise. We crafted this for a woman who I thought would be like me. I chose the name Maiden because [I imagined it as being for] your first home and maiden voyage and creating a home for yourself. I thought of her as urban-living – I was self-centered [in that way].
The surprise, which happened after all of our press came out, is that most of our growth is happening outside of the major cities. We have customers in upstate Maine, Missouri, and Denver. Many of them are in rural areas. The reason why they love Maiden Home is because they don’t have as much access in physical stores to a modern, cutting-edge experience.
In New York, we get spoiled with how much we have access to, but it’s different in other parts of the country. They have the same taste level as we do, but often times they might not have access to a Crate & Barrel. We have an advantage in those markets because we can ship to them in 6 weeks or less. Now those customers get the same quality experience as someone sitting in New York City. That’s exciting.
What are some ways you like to either unwind or have fun during the evenings? Are there any things you do aside from going out for dinner and drinks with friends?
I’m very big on exercise. We’ve been doing lots of prenatal stuff together recently. We recently got a Peloton in our home. It’s amazing because it’s tough to tear away and go to the gym, and now we can squeeze in a workout at home. I like to do that when I have the energy.
What does self-care mean to you, especially now that you’re a busy entrepreneur?
We watch a lot of TV and I don’t feel guilty at all. I think my pregnancy has helped me turn a corner on this – about not feeling guilty about self-care and not being productive all the time. I think that when you’re pregnant, obviously your health becomes more of a priority because there’s just more to think about. You’re thinking about someone else for the first time now and everything you put in your body treats your child. So now I feel like this is my job, and if I’m tired, I just relax.
What are some self-care routines that interest you or that you want to incorporate into your routine?
Meditation has been on my list for so long – even just being able to do 10 minutes in the morning. I think it would be the ultimate challenge for someone like me. I have friends that do it, and nobody says anything but the best things about it.
1. Book on your night stand? The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fck* by Mark Manson. Hilarious and refreshing!
2. Favorite TV show or podcast right now? The Leftovers on HBO - so intense and so many layers!
3. Woman or women who are inspiring you? All my friends who have recently become working moms - truly superstars and inspirations to me as I get ready to become the same!
4. Your latest treat-yourself splurge? Peloton stationary bike
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