Jaya Iyer wanted to live the American Dream, so she moved to the US from India carrying only a backpack full of ambition. She worked hard to obtain a Ph.D. in Fashion Merchandising (Iowa State University), taught Fashion Buying, and wrote a textbook on Fashion in Emerging Markets. After Jaya was unable to find an astronaut shirt for her space-obsessed daughter and had to buy one from the boys’ section, she saw a problem in the apparel industry and wanted to fix it.
Jaya teamed up with Eva Everett, a former Molecular Biologist who got fed up with people telling her that she did not ‘look like’ a scientist. Together they created Svaha apparel to challenge the gender bias that exists in the apparel industry.
‘Gender stereotypes exists in clothing at every age and our mission is to get rid of it – one piece of apparel at a time,’ says Jaya. Svaha believes that women should not have to choose between loving Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) and being feminine. The Svaha apparel line shows that ‘brainy is beautiful.’ Hon. Pauline Truong recently had discussions with Svaha regarding their traction and growing popularity in the U.S.A.
Our goal is to be the go-to place for people who want to find clothes that defy gender norms. We started with children’s apparel, then very successfully moved into women’s clothing. We have big dreams for the expansion we are going to do next! Along with apparel, we hope to continue building our community and getting momentum behind our movement to fight for gender equality.
Where is the clothing currently manufactured and what processes do you undertake to ensure your customers are satisfied with the end result?
The clothing is currently manufactured in India. We truly believe in using organic cotton and eco-friendly dyes and paying the people who make our clothes a living wage. The quality of our products is amazing, but this comes with a higher price tag than buying clothes at places like Target and Walmart. It can be difficult to convince people to pay a little bit more for clothes. However, we know from experience that once people buy from us, they come back for more! We think there are enough consumers out there who care about what we’re doing, and care enough about making ethical purchases to support companies, like us, who are trying to make a difference.
What resistance and/or challenges have you faced with Svaha and your ideas?
With a limited marketing budget, reaching our customers has been our biggest challenge. But, now that we have so many customers who have bought our products, word of mouth has been a great one for us! We have the best customers and we want to continue making Svaha into a brand they adore!
If you started your company again, what would you do differently?
We believe that we have created a company that we always wanted to. We want to continue listening to our customers and make what would make them happy. There is nothing really we would have done differently. We will continue to make changes based on our customer demands.
What is your advice for women who want to create change in the start-up arena?
Our biggest word of advice is to keep your eyes open and let your imagination run free. There are so many completely untapped markets out there in the apparel industry just waiting for the right entrepreneur to come along and find them. If you work hard and don’t give up on your dreams, the sky’s the limit in what you can achieve!
What is your advice for GlobePreneurs who want to live the American Dream?
You are lucky to live in an environment where anything is possible if you set your heart and mind into doing it. So, find an idea, stay focused, work hard, and achieve your American Dream!