Today we’d like to introduce you to Vayshali.
Hi Vayshali, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
There is an exciting notion that a yard of fabric could evolve into anything you can imagine; truly an endless opportunity to bring anything to life. And this idea has been stirring inside of me since my college days.
I taught myself how to hand sew, and eventually, machine sew but then I put this passion aside for a “real” job.
My Indian parents moved to American to pursue a better opportunity for their kids, and as a first-generation-born daughter, I wanted to fulfill that “American Dream” for them and myself. With my University of Memphis (Memphis, TN) marketing degree + a passion for success, I scaled the corporate ladder leading advertising, marketing, and business strategies for Disneyland, Mattel, Southwest Airlines, and Hilton Hotels.
Through the years, my career became my priority. Each job change, salary increase, and promotion had me clawing for more to achieve “fulfillment” and at the same time, I was pushing the passion project that would have given me that.
And then 2020 happened. Furloughed from my job and thinking about the unknown journey ahead, I awoke to realize the true meaning of fulfillment and being true to yourself. The dream that followed me around these years was now ready to become a reality.
From this experience came anEK. An almost 2-year journey to build and launch a handbag brand that bridges together my two cultures: Indian + American. anEK handbags are crafted in Los Angeles with a women-owned manufacturing company and each bag uses upcycled Indian sari fabric. Launching Oct 2021.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Starting anEK in 2020 was empowering for me given my new state of mind, but very difficult for sourcing and manufacturing the bags in Los Angeles. Covid-19 restrictions, supply chain challenges, and overall labor shortages impacted milestones during my path from conception to launch. These challenges were beyond my control, but I pivoted and iterated, like many other entrepreneurs, to keep my vision moving.
There were some challenges I could face head-on. For example, with no prior technical design or production skills, I tapped into a Los-Angeles based consultant specializing in handbags to aid me on my journey. Through this, I was able to view my design in a technical manner to understand production wins and challenges.
Interesting fact: I started anEK with a single handbag design but ended up not producing it for my launch collection. And the reason why is the lack of technical experience I mentioned. The design I envisioned could only be constructed with an additional highly visible seam line. That single seam changed the design for me and took me away from the original vision. It was a hard lesson to take in, but an important one.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about anEK?
I would love to share more about the brand and the name “anEK” as its meaning is deeply rooted in the heartbeat of the brand:
~~ Be YOU among the crowd ~~
This mantra is the foundation for anEK. At some point in our life, we’ve hidden our true selves to fit in and avoid being different than those around us. Whether it was at school, social setting, or at your workplace. While blending into the crowd, you begin to change or lose your identity on who you really are.
This was the case for me as an American-born Indian growing up trying to find my space as an “American” while struggling to balance the deep connection I had to my Indian heritage. anEK is focused on empowering you to be yourself. In fact, inside each handbag, you will find a powerful quote discreetly stamped to remind you of this!
One of the elements that differentiate us from other brands is the combination of Indian and American fabric used to create a design bridge between two cultures. These bags are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. anEK bags allow women to experience the craftsmanship from both Indian artisans and American artisans.
We are proudly made in Los Angeles by a women-owned factory Tapping into local artisans was important to me as this is the city and country that has shaped me.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
I’m always happy to share my experiences with someone starting off on their own journey.
Whether you are a full-time entrepreneur or managing a full-time job while building your empire or a mompreneur, my advice is to learn time blocking to ensure you are progressing along on your journey. No doubt entrepreneurs are highly motivated and are hard workers, but the vital and non-vital tasks can become overwhelming if you don’t set a strategy on how you will accomplish it all. I’m a full-time Marketing Director + have two elementary age kids + building my brand + being present for friends and family + more….and I feel the pressure building when I don’t allocate time to each task. It honestly feels like a category five hurricane in my head with “to do” items from every part of my life swirling around. You don’t want that feeling!
The other advice I would give is when you are in the moment building your product, designing your website and developing content and so on, don’t forget to do blue-sky thinking. Let yourself imagine, brainstorm and even plan your next step. Because when you get there, you want to have a path already laid out.
Thank you for sharing you story to our readers.