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Conversations with the Inspiring Neha Kumar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Neha Kumar.

Neha, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
While working towards a graduate degree in Decision Science, I decompressed from my draining, quantitative research by designing garments. I found design to be a great fit for my skills since it required a blend of aesthetic sensibility and geometric precision. Thanks to this growing passion, and the encouragement of my family, I spent the semester before my Ph.D. graduation in New York City, attending the Parsons School of Design.

There, I found myself waking up at 5 am every day, feeling more exhilarated than I’d ever been. I was living and breathing design and working harder than I had in years, yet I’d never been so content. I decided that I would take a break from my research to try my hand at creating a fashion line. Since I had spent so many years working towards a career in academia, it was a tough decision, but I knew I would regret not taking the opportunity to pursue this passion.

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?
Being an entrepreneur in a creative field is extremely difficult. To build a business you need to be willing to sacrifice a lot, such as time with loved ones, career stability, and a consistent salary. It also comes with pressure, since success and results are all on you. Also, there are always people who question why you’re not following the status quo.

In addition, I’ve faced a lot of logistical challenges creating the fashion line, such as finding reliable suppliers and high-quality manufacturers while trying to maintain a tight budget and engage in ethical business practices. Connecting to consumers is also difficult, since the fashion industry is very saturated, and more established brands have marketing budgets that we can’t compete with. It’s been challenging, yet exciting, to find ways to differentiate our brand from others.

There are also a ton of positives that come with being an entrepreneur. You get to control your own destiny and have creative control over all business decisions. I’ve definitely realized that procrastination is an entrepreneur’s worst enemy, while consistency is key. It’s also important to know that failure is often inevitable, and it’s best to keep building tirelessly and refining strategies until you succeed.

What should we know about NEHA SAMIRA? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our NEHA SAMIRA brand is intended for women who believe in storytelling with their clothes. Each of our collections is inspired by a different classic novel and all of our garments are manufactured in Los Angeles. Our current collection is based on Alexandre Dumas’, The Count of Monte Cristo. We believe the beloved stories that guide our design process help give a deeper connection and meaning to our pieces. We founded this brand as a means to fuse the bridge between our two favorite activities: design and reading.

Also, I love experimenting with different forms of media, and one of my favorite parts of running NEHA SAMIRA is creating campaign videos that tell a compelling, visually arresting story, while beautifully showcasing our garments. Through producing these videos, our team has begun creating short films for other businesses. It’s a direction that I would never have dreamed of going, but the filmmaking experiences have been exhilarating, and I can’t wait to grow this portion of the business further.

For good reason, society often focuses more on the problems rather than the opportunities that exist, because the problems need to be solved. However, we’d probably also benefit from looking for and recognizing the opportunities that women are better positioned to capitalize on. Have you discovered such opportunities?
Recently, there has been a lot of media coverage focused on the challenges facing women in the workforce today. In order to overcome these challenges, I’ve found it useful to foster relationships with a variety of powerful and talented women who have navigated negative experiences to find great personal and career success. In fact, I believe finding female mentors who have qualities I’d like to emulate has been the key to many of my achievements.

I’ve made a conscious effort to connect to female mentors in all aspects of my life. My Ph.D. committee was comprised of four exceptional women who taught me how to juggle roles as professors, innovators, and dedicated mothers. And through joining co-working spaces and attending conferences, I’ve connected with some incredible female designers and entrepreneurs who have walked me through the steps it took to bring their ideas to reality. I’ve also found great mentors simply through cold emails and invitations for coffee. I’ve also surrounded myself with positive, like-minded friends who constantly inspire me to be better. And of course, my mom has been my role model and mentor since day one. As a former United Nations ambassador, she has instilled in me that every person you interact with can teach you something valuable that could guide your path to growth.

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