A mother-daughter duo has taken the skincare world by storm by starting a business together after completing university degrees at the same time. Prerna Aswani, 28, and her mother Malika, 50, spend every weekend together at Greenwich Market selling homemade serums and concoctions originally created to solve skincare problems for their close friends and family.
Prerna, from Barnet, graduated from Oxford with a 2:1 in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 2014. While studying, she helped her mother type up assignments for her degree, which she began at the College of Naturopathic Nutrition near Oxford Circus that same year. The two graduated within months of each other.
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(Image: Prerna Aswani)
“It was really funny to be doing our degrees at the same time,” Prerna told MyLondon. “My mum isn’t the biggest fan of technology so even with her assignments she’d be writing up her assignments in a notebook and I’d type them up for her when I was supposed to be doing my own work. I joke that I have a degree and a half.”
After finishing their degrees, Prerna and Malika took very different paths at first. While Prerna took on a “soul-crushing” job in economic consultancy, her mother looked deeper into skincare formulation, developing homemade blends for friends and family.
“I really did not enjoy consultancy,” said Prerna. “Other than the fact that the money was good it was crushing my soul. It paid the bills in a way but it didn’t nourish my sense of what I wanted to achieve in the world, so I quit my very comfortable job three years into it and decided I needed to change my career.”
Prerna’s brother has special needs and a number of health issues, so Malika continued learning more about the chemicals included in modern medicines while developing holistic alternatives using natural ingredients. Prerna, meanwhile, undertook a “really obscure Master’s” at SOAS in contemporary Indian studies, after which she began volunteering for an organisation helping rural children in India.
She later moved to Mumbai to work for the organisation full time. While there, she connected with a designer who helped her create professional-looking labels for her mother’s blends. Eventually, she returned to London to help her mother launch the business properly, teaching herself how to use social media and build a website along the way.
(Image: Prerna Aswani)
Initially, Malika’s blends were packaged with a label made on Microsoft Word by Prerna and given to friends who had problems with dry hair and skin. Prerna said: “All the products we sell have their origin in solving a problem for a loved one. At first, only immediate friends and family members got them.”
Now, Prerna works for a non-profit organisation in London while living with her mum in Barnet. The business she shares with Malika is her “side gig” and she spends “every waking moment” working on it. Despite the distance, the pair have been going to Greenwich Market for years after Malka “fell in love with the vibrant community there.”
Prerna said: “That really is our mum and me time when we’re at the market. It’s my favourite time of the week. The nice thing about working with your mum as opposed to some random person is that you know each other’s personalities really well having grown up together and you know how much time to give someone to digest a new idea and the process of convincing each other.”
Malika and her daughter will be at the market on Mother’s Day – and Prerna plans to take her mother on holiday to celebrate soon. “My dad and brother are quite jealous, I think. But it’ll be nice to have some girls’ time,” she said.
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