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Hidden Gems: Meet Sujata Kamdar of GBS Linens

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sujata Kamdar.

Sujata, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
When you look at my resume, you’ll discover that I’ve only had one job my entire professional career – the family business, GBS Linens. I literally grew up here as our company also grew up from a tiny little leased space to one of the premiere Specialty Linen companies in the United States…

My father (and hero), Pravin Mody, started this business along with partners in 1984. I joined at the age of 16 when my dad gave me the keys to a new (well new to me) Nissan Sentra and said see you at work on Monday. Every summer and holiday break after that, I would work at the business. While getting a degree in Economics at UC Irvine, I continued to work part-time at GBS Linens and then went on to join the business full time in 1995 while also going on to get my MBA from UC Irvine in 2000.

In 2005 my dad stepped out of the daily operations and took on the role of Chairman and advisor to the business, while my husband, Ashesh Kamdar, joined the company in 2006 to help our team further grow our national presence. Although we lost my dad in 2016, the foundation he built is strong and we refer back to his guiding principles often.

What’s been a fun and exciting challenge though for Ashesh and I over the past many years has been to put our unique stamp on this great family business. We want to continue to build something that has deep roots and allows us to focus on being good corporate citizens both internally with our team and externally within our community,

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see this company pass onto the 3rd Generation!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Well, I’d say this past year has aged me about five!

This one is pretty easy to answer as we’re currently in the middle of the bumpiest road I’ve seen yet. And that’s pretty frightening considering we’ve been in some pretty tight situations over the years.

Our industry is special events and hospitality. We provide beautiful table linens for weddings, parties, conventions, galas, etc… Basically everything that Covid has put a stop to. Covid decimated our industry and in March 2020, we had to temporarily shut down all eight of our facilities and furlough 95% of our team. To say that hurt is the understatement of the century.

Those first weeks after shutdown was a flurry of activity to ensure all operations were wound down, our teammates were properly notified, and our finances were in order. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks into this did I have a chance to even start processing what had just happened as there wasn’t time to wallow when we needed to act swiftly. With the small team left, we had to strategize to make sure our company would survive this. Some very difficult decisions had to be made which included downsizing from 8 to 6 locations.

But as with all things difficult, there are lessons to be learned and opportunities presented along the way. The biggest opportunity we saw during this ‘down time’ was the chance to upgrade ourselves to GBS 2.0. Our team has gotten to examine how we ran our business and evaluate what was working and what needed change. When your business is running, making those types of infrastructure changes is difficult. However, when the business is closed, you have the luxury of time to implement change. Covid gave us that time and we’re thankful for it.

The biggest lesson I can say we’ve learned is that along with resilience, you have to have faith in what you do. We provide products to people who come together for a plethora of reasons- be it a wedding, a meeting, or a backyard bbq. So although Covid stopped that type of gathering, we have faith that as humans it’s in our nature to connect with one another in person. We have faith in ourselves and our industry and we see light at the end of this tunnel. We know that once things open up again, GBS Linens will be here and ready to serve our clients better than ever before!

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Planning events is a fast-paced, emotional business. Even when uncertainty and last-minute changes are commonplace, GBS is a dependable partner that supports our clients’ ability to create lifelong memories for their customers.

GBS is a full-service linen provider designed to work closely with business people and their frequent linen needs. We offer an unparalleled catalogue of everyday and upscale linens, covering our clients’ varied events from standard business conventions to the luxury tastes of fashion-forward brides. Our local presence allows us to respond quickly to client demands, no matter the color, size or scale. We partner with our clients, providing merchandising assistance, custom manufacturing, and even linen usage data that helps them better serve their customers. After over 30 years in operation, GBS understands the importance of reliability and we deliver it – next day or by a friendly driver.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
Best thing about Orange County is all of the pockets of neighborhoods with their own personalities and unique charm.

As a foodie, I love that you can find a huge variety of cuisines in every type of price range!

It’s really hard for me to say what I like least about the OC. I’ve lived here all my life which speaks to the fact that I love being here! If I had to say something, it would be that the real estate prices are crazy!

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Sujata Kamdar, Big Bear, Kayla Sellers Photography, Lucero Photography, Photography Luminaire Images, Plum and Oak Photo, Anar Party Rental, Baker Party Rentals

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