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A Business is Born

I had a seedling of an original idea a couple years ago when I started quilting in earnest during the pandemic. Whereas previously I had only quilted a few for my children, I started making more as gifts for friends and family around the globe. As part of all that new burst of creativity I found inspiration from the saris and fabrics of India, my birthplace.


The iconic sari

I grew up in the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a religious sect based loosely on the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism. I remember clearly one of the earliest times I wore a sari was when I was 5 years old and I getting out of the hospital after a tragic accident. I remember all the nurses and doctors clapping for me. I was self conscious and shy but understood the significance of it.


I wore saris throughout my childhood and then, as part of a public speaking class informative speech assignment in my first year of college I chose to give a how-to and draping a sari. Later, throughout adulthood I didn't wear them much, opting instead for gagra gopi skirts or salwar kameez outfits at religious gatherings.


Fast forward to the quilting designs I started doing and one of the ideas I had was creating a pattern that captured the full drape of a sari, spread in splendor as a bedspread. I had a few old cotton saris in a bin that I started to experiment with, but the idea didn't really get legs until I started making trips to India for a tech job at the time. There I was fascinated by how to bring elements of the sari offline shopping experience into the online world, silently nurturing my seed of an idea.


That original sari quilt idea never left me though and I started to think of it as a meaningful spark as well - taking inspiration from the legend of Draupadi in the great epic tale of the Mahabharata (I'll detail that in another post). I wanted it to signify the endless sari that protected her when she was so dishonored in the court. Her friend, the great god Krishna, supplied her with endless cloth so that she was never disrobed.


I thought of the grace and practicality of the sari being something protective also. What if the cloth used to make my designs could be part of this concept of an eternal sari today? So longer term I thought of proceeds going to a new cause I would start for women survivors, which I would call The Forever Sari Project.


My last push came a few months ago when I left my tech job but still had a trip to India planned, which would also serve as my honeymoon for my marriage last year. I decided I would spend the time leading up to the trip and the 3 weeks there to build a business plan and supply chain.


That's how Soul Sari Designs was born.


The Business Plan

Once I took the decision to start Soul Sari, the plan just flowed easily and soon I had 500 pages of research that I condensed into a solid 40-page business plan.



Here are some highlights from the plan, aptly captioned with the subtitle: "Inspired by the legend of Draupadi and all women who live their power and grace through the sari."


Executive Summary

Soul Sari is a home decor and textiles company that specializes in creating unique and exquisite products using traditional Indian saris. Our primary product range includes bedspreads, quilts, curtains, wall hangings, and table runners. All our materials are sourced from fair trade artisans in India, ensuring a commitment to ethical production practices and quality craftsmanship. We aim to bring the vibrant colors and rich cultural heritage of India into homes across the globe.

Our vision is to to bring joy, color, and cultural beauty into homes, all while supporting traditional artisans and their communities through ethical sourcing and fair trade practices.

With Soul Sari, we want to create a thriving ecosystem that celebrates Indian artistry, promotes ethical sourcing, supports artisans and their communities, and empowers survivors of injustice through our work with The Forever Sari Project (a future goal).  We will do this by providing high-quality, handcrafted home decor products while supporting fair trade for artisans in India. We strive to create a harmonious blend of tradition and modern aesthetics in every product.


I of course wanted a strong mission that has longevity and translates to distinctive values.


Mission

At Soul Sari, we are on a mission to provide beautiful, high-quality home decor that celebrates Indian culture, while supporting a cause that empowers survivors and promotes social justice.


Values
  • Empowerment of women

  • Fair Trade

  • Quality Craftsmanship

  • Cultural Appreciation


I also made sure to go into detail about brand strategy, including more about my Draupadi inspiration, how I came up with the name, our core attributes, and the overall impression I want to give. It even touches briefly on online presence, symbolism, and logo ideas but those I'll build out more later (I am currently in collaboration with a designer for the logo itself).


The rest of the plan covers:

  1. Market Research

  2. Products and Services (with the original sari design as our signature - the Panchaali quilt - along with 21 others, each named...kind of like Ikea does)

  3. Marketing and Sales

  4. Operation Plan

  5. Management and Organization

  6. Financial Projections

  7. Social Responsibility and Community Engagement (including our future vision for the Forever Sari Project)

  8. Various Appendix sections with competitive analysis, resources, and so on


Startup Logistics

Next up was to set up my supply chain and do in-depth, on-the-ground research on my trip, plus source partners and product materials. I went armed with what I was calling my "business in a bag", including some miniature prototypes, patterns, and stitching samples.



I could have used photos and traveled lighter but quilting is a tactile medium and I knew that I'd have much more success communicating across language barriers when I could talk to artisans through the language of the craft right there on my lap in front of me. More about the prototypes in a later post, but as predicted, the homemade stitching samples book I brought (created out of an old manila folder and some silk blend fabric quilted together with embellished binding) were absolutely crucial in the eventual conversations I had at the many artisan operations I visited.


Future Vision

To keep myself honest, I made sure to put on paper a future description of what I plan to call The Forever Sari Project:


The Forever Sari Project is a noble cause dedicated to empowering Indian women and girls who are survivors of sexual abuse or trafficking. This project provides them with a safe space for healing, education, and vocational training, enabling them to rebuild their lives with dignity and hope.

By contributing 5% of our proceeds to The Forever Sari Project, Soul Sari aims to make a tangible difference in the lives of these survivors. We believe in the resilience and strength of these women and are committed to supporting their journey towards a better future.

Our partnership with The Forever Sari Project not only reflects our values of social responsibility but also underscores our deep connection to the heart of India and its people. As we prosper, we ensure that the survivors of heinous crimes have an opportunity for a brighter, more promising future.

By choosing Soul Sari for your home decor needs, you are not just enhancing your living space with vibrant, handcrafted textiles but also contributing to a cause that stands for empowerment and resilience.

Thank you for supporting Soul Sari and The Forever Sari Project. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.


Now, I'm ready to get started and watch that my sprouted seedling grow. I hope you'll join me on this wondrous journey.

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