Lisa Mohapatra had an idyllic childhood. She grew up in Rourkela, in a family that valued gender equality. Lisa and her brother were given the same education, the same opportunities and were encouraged to aim equally high in all their endeavors. The path to success was all figured out — study hard, get straight A’s. Or so Lisa thought, back then. She hadn’t expected the surprises of the real world yet!
It all started after graduation, with an opportunity to work in a reputed tech company. The policies in the corporate sector were mostly flexible, although she did notice a few scenarios where women had to drop out due to their personal circumstances. However, it was mostly a comfortable and empowering journey for Lisa herself. She was given many opportunities to attend seminars and lead the way. Being the only woman in the team didn’t hinder her growth.
And then one day it fizzled out. Lisa was hit with the realisation that there is something more to life than a comfortable corporate lifestyle. She had been enjoying a comfortable way of life and ample career opportunities. But where was the challenge? Where was the excitement of working on herself? Being a curious, strong-willed woman from a family that values gender equality, this couldn’t surely be all that she was cut out for? This led to Lisa exiting the corporate world in 2014.
Feeding her hunger for entrepreneurship, Lisa started her first online furniture business, which later evolved into an interior design white label firm. That’s when she started experiencing the biases, one after the other. She went from the comfortable environment of her past into a very different reality. There was even a point where vendors and partners refused to collaborate with her because she was a woman entrepreneur in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Lisa recalls her surprise when they’d refuse to even look her in the eye for the sake of ‘courtesy’. ‘Today I cherish entrepreneurship and the resilient woman it has turned me into. This experience is far more enriching and valuable than any job position’.
Determined to break stereotypes in the industry, Hofeto was built on the layers of this strong foundation. The firm specialises as an e-interior design marketplace – and it is a 90% women-centric company. During her years in the corporate world Lisa had personally known many women who had to quit their jobs and be stay-at-home moms. Typically, those 8-hour workdays no longer seemed viable to those women, and so their careers took a backseat. Keeping this in mind, Lisa implemented several workplace policies that would enable women to keep their financial independence, even after marriage and kids.
‘I believe monetary freedom is extremely important for anyone, especially women. It empowers them to make flexible choices without having to sacrifice and stay in abusive circumstances’. Hofeto believes in providing the team a choice to pick their hours (a flexible schedule) that would accommodate those situations. This empowers women to perform their best for even the 3-4 hours during which they choose to work. This also gives them a chance to work on themselves.
This turned out to be a blessing in the post-Covid context. ‘The pandemic made me realise that I didn’t work with the same type of schedule that my office-going grandfather used to.’ With such an open, flexible policy, Hofeto is thriving. It started out in Bangalore in 2018, and today, they are spread across 11 cities in India. To help out women left vulnerable after Covid, Lisa recently reached out to us to hire some members from our #NotAlone community. ‘It has been a hard journey, but we are a bootstrapped, cash flow positive company, and we are growing fast!’ says Lisa.