Madhu Challa

Founder & CEO of Pretty Pokets

What inspired you to start your business?

When I was a hardware engineer at Intel Corporation, I had the opportunity to mentor a young girl's team for a Tech Challenge. The challenge was taking a real-life problem and coming up with an idea to solve it. I rediscovered my passion for the design process, technology, and functional design. I was motivated to solve the problem I had at that time - my boring and non-functional diaper bag. I envisioned how I would want my diaper bag to look. It started with a simple diaper bag sketch and eventually led me to build Pretty Pokets. Now I have expanded into designing laptop bag totes, backpacks, and other accessories.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

As an entrepreneur who is currently chasing her big dreams, the advice I would like to give is to take that first step towards your dreams, no matter how insignificant it is, and keep going no matter how difficult the end goal is. Try not to be perfect.

What three traits define you?

My three traits are patience, positivity, and perseverance. I believe that “good things take time,” and one has to be patient, positive, and prepare to persevere through all the challenges and opportunities that one’s dream brings.

What are the biggest obstacles you see for young female entrepreneurs?

I have often come across incredible young female entrepreneurs capable of changing the world and doing amazing things, but nothing has happened for years. That’s because they want to be 100% certain. Not being able to embrace uncertainty is the biggest obstacle I have seen in many young entrepreneurs. Embracing uncertainty is the beauty of entrepreneurship and, as a matter of fact, anything that we do in our life. Sometimes we just have to build the plane in the air and sometimes on the ground.

What do you love about being a business owner?

I love the fact that I can constantly experiment and learn as I go and that there is no right or wrong way.

What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?

During the initial stages of the business, access to capital is always the most challenging part. As a business owner, you must constantly look for resources and opportunities to bring cash flow into your business. Another hardest part? That money is never enough.

How do you define success?

To me, success means taking the next step. It is all about taking one small step towards what you “wish for” and keep going no matter what happens. Eventually, when this wish becomes a reality, you will understand what success is, even if that wish is a simple thing like learning to drive a car (which is challenging for many people). Do what works for you and enjoy the process.

What’s your favorite career moment?

It was knowing that engineering is not my career path anymore. An aha moment gave me the courage to quit my job as a Hardware Engineer at Intel Corporation. “Know what you don’t want to do” - It was a simple and yet challenging concept to understand. How can something not be your path when you have been on that for more than 15 years? The answer to this is simple too. Knowing what you don’t want to do will help you find what you want to do.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

If I didn’t have to sleep, I would be reading all day. I had never read a single book other than for academics until 2017 (roughly 35 years of my life). Yes, you read that right. Once I discovered the importance of reading, I kept reading more and more. I am making up for all the lost time. You will find me listening to audible or reading on a kindle or physical book on any given day. I listen to podcasts to collect suggested books to read. I keep a pretty extensive list of books.

What are you reading or listening to now? (Book, blog, magazine, podcast, etc.)

I am currently reading Awareness - The Perils and Opportunities of Reality By Anthony De Mello and Satyagraha in South Africa by Mahatma Gandhi.

What’s the best way to start your day?

The best way to start my day is to spend the starting hours of the day by myself. I wake up early and read about 2-3 hours, and exercise for one hour before my kids wake up.

How do you unwind after a long workday?

My two kids keep me efficient and grounded. I usually call it a day by 5:00 PM and get to cooking our dinner. I typically listen to podcasts or audible when I do the cooking or house chores. We get to bed early, where my two young kids and I snuggle up and talk about all things that happened that day. We laugh, cry, giggle, act silly (if dad is around, it’s guaranteed to be a long and fun night) somedays we just are too tired and doze off.

What do you like about your workspace?

I filled up my workspace with inspiring people, words, and my vision board. My why’s and what’s are right in front of me.

Fill in the blank:

When I face a challenge, I… don’t think. I pause all my thoughts related to that challenge by watching some silly movies. It helps my mind to reset and makes me think clearly.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself read more books. Invest in your personal development.

The one thing I couldn’t live without is… my eyeglasses.

By this time next year, I will be… investing and empowering women-owned businesses and launching new products.

The best thing that happened to me last week was … I received samples for our next launch.

To get my creative juices flowing, I… just try to calm my mind and pay attention to my thoughts and the things that I am observing.

Pretty Pokets

Pretty Pokets designs unique diaper bags, laptop bags, backpacks, and totes for women.

Founded by Madhu Challa, a hardware engineer who designed a unique diaper bag that features both a diaper and trash bag dispenser, making on-the-go diaper changes a breeze, the company has now expanded to include laptop totes, backpacks, wristlets, and more in a variety of sizes and colors.

Learn more.