Today we’d like to introduce you to Uma Arumugam.
Uma, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
“When opportunity knocks at your door, always be willing to take a chance, because you never know how perfect something could turn out to be” this is my mantra!
By nature, I am an independent person from my childhood. I was never afraid to take chances and started building my entrepreneur dream from my teenage. When I was in college, me and my cousin started a clothing retail business for fun and pocketed fair money. There it all started and tried several small businesses throughout my life. But as an entrepreneur, I always admired three domains: Food, Fashion, and Education
After completing my college in 1998, my career began in the educational field. I worked as a Computer Science teacher at a local school in Chennai, India. Later in 2003, I quit my teaching job and started my own education services. We taught various subjects like Math, Science, and Accounting through that. In mid-2005, my husband got a job transfer to the USA.
So, we all moved to the USA, that’s the first time I came out of my hometown to a completely new place and environment. With lots of expectations, questions and worries, I was ready for a new ride. From June 2005 to January 2006 I took time to adapt to the new location, culture, people, etc. Due to my immigration visa status, doing any business immediately didn’t sound like a great idea.
So, I started looking for jobs, but nothing worked out. In the meantime, I worked on my culinary skills. My husband suggested me to experiment with the food catering business. I started to cater for few bachelor guys who had moved from India for work and desperately looking for Indian food.
I used to serve lunch @ $3 each and, I started to offer dinner @ $4. I got a very good response, and people started liking my food. It kept growing and continued the business for around three years. But due to physical health challenges, I decided to close my catering business & started to explore my fashion desire.
In 2009, started to learn sewing. I went to community sewing classes and learned to make quilts & dresses for my daughter. I applied my creativity on pre-patterned designs and got compliments from my sewing teacher. While I was exploring my expertise in fashion and learning the art of sewing, a few normal changes happened in our life that moved us to Orange County in 2011. I started working again and was still thinking about possible business opportunities for the near future. Idea about Navam started to bloom during this time.
Later, due to our family commitments, I made to move to India with my kids. Life took me through a different journey. Routine life with kids and I was not able to find time for myself or my passion. But just kept the spirit alive and continued with research that would help me when I start with the business. Navam started taking more shape. Then came the time to move back to Orange County.
At the end of 2016, I moved back to OC, and took a couple of months to settle down. In June 2017, I registered “Navam Collections,” and the brand was born. I was thrilled and excited, but at the same time I was nervous about the acceptance from the larger community. I wanted to start slow.
Initially, I launched only the jewelry collection, and added Clothing in a couple months. I started to do stalls at various community events and focused on branding our business. That helped us to advertise our brand, to display our quality products to people and understand customer expectations on price, choice, etc.
Every day, I am learning from my customers that helps me to understand their needs and cater to them the right products, at an affordable price. My goal is to make Navam a preferred and exclusive brand for Indian Jewelry and Clothing.
Through Navam I also want to make a difference in the community. Currently, we are partnering with a couple of not for profit organizations that caters to education and children in need. Navam also loves to collaborate and support cultural organizations in fostering various classical art forms.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not an easy journey, especially given that I decided to launch the business from home and go to the customers for selling my products. There is a lot of logistics involved starting from maintaining inventory, shipping, delivery, planning for events, packing and transporting the goods back and forth, etc.
In general, starting from procuring my supplies all the way to payment processing, and maintaining good customer service, everything was daunting at some point or the other. Looking back, most of these difficulties are now better handled with the tremendous support that I get from my family and dear ones.
Without my family and friends support nothing would be possible. Also, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful community that helped in spreading the word and recognizing my business.
Please tell us about Navam Collections.
We started Navam with South Indian jewelry collections and expanded into other Indian jewelry designs. We also carry various clothing lines starting from dresses, kurthis/kurthas, exquisite sarees, and kids collection. Now we cater to customers from all Indian regions, and very well known for temple jewelry, silk & cotton clothing.
Most of our clothing collections are designed by us and made in India. Our saree collections come as a package with ready to wear blouse and pre-stitched falls. Several of our customers expressed their liking for that package. Each blouse is uniquely designed. Also, I offer free size alternations with clothing purchases.
For me, each customer of mine is special and unique in their own way. I love to listen to my customers and offer options that would make them look beautiful and proud. Also, I want, our (Navam) designs to represent the richness in our culture.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
As an 80’s kid, a treasurable memory would be playing with my friends in the neighborhood, without worries about the safety of the environment, gadget influence, future, etc.
That small thing always gave me happiness. Another memory would be the festivals back in India.
- Unique Earring from $20
- Silk sarees starting at $100
- Temple Jewelry sets – $40 and upwards
- Address:91, Sklar Street, Ladera Ranch, CA-92694
- Website: https://navamcollections.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/navamcollections/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NavamCollections/
PC by Selvarajan Thiyagarajan