After a tumultuous political year that has left us all emotionally and mentally drained, to say the least, we continue to push forward in the hopes that we’ll stand better united in 2019 to tackle the issues at hand.
Negative thoughts aside (for a hot minute that is), it is the time to reflect on how far we’ve come as a team of volunteer writers who live across the world with different backgrounds and professions, joined together by passion and the desire to build upon one common goal— to grow an online platform dedicated to empowering South Asians living in the diaspora.
Since 2008, we’ve faced enormous challenges everyday—limited time, funds and resources, to name a few, but somehow we’ve made it work for a decade now The Brown Girl team has diligently published more than two captivating stories a day, empowered hundreds of thousands of readers worldwide, engaged with more than three million social media followers, partnered with more than a dozen brand partners, hosted multiple events throughout the year (shout out to all the slashies at our Slashie Summit), partnered with a handful of organization on causes they passionately believe in, produced more photo shoots than we could have ever imagined, engaged with countless thought leaders and influencers in the South Asian space, launched our first-ever podcast, Queering Desi, and our first-ever apparel line, Ladki Power, and continue to be a thriving platform for more than 150 dedicated contributors living in the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom.
With more than 900 original stories published in 2018, we’re proud to share that we’ve seen two million page views and one million readers this year from countries including, but not limited to, the United States, Canada, India, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Australia, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates. But our stats mean nothing when we realize the impact we’ve made on young brown folx who give our platform love and support 365 days of the year.
So, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for supporting our journey. And, to celebrate our growth and success, we’ve put together an amazing holiday gift basket full of goodies — courtesy of our brand partners.
To enter, please take our five-minute survey below, which ends on January 1, 2019, at 9 a.m. EST. One lucky winner will be selected at random and announced during the first week of January.
This year’s gift basket includes products from our exclusive line-up of partners: Bili Beauty, holiCHIC By Megha Rao, The Katra Box, JustNeem Skincare, artwork by Shreya Mehta, a Desi Chaat board game, LuxTea Company, and a Ladki Power t-shirt or a sweatshirt of your choice.
COLABA ($68) — Embossed mosaic bag with top flap opening. Dimension 6×6
Rooted in tradition and enviable personal style, holiCHICis the key to making a lasting impression. Urban functionality meets contemporary flair and transcends its wearer to another level of style and sophistication without sacrificing ease. No fuss, just chic.
The name, much like the collection, symbolizes a fresh perspective. The word holi is taken from the exuberant spring festival symbolizing color and love. When paired with chic it creates a new standard of modern opulence for conventional Indian fashion.
The emerging label curates ensembles in limited quantities to offer an exclusivity factor for its wearers. Designer and curator Megha Rao strives to deliver distinctiveness and individuality in each aesthetic ensuring her wearers will stand out at their next social event.
Facial Care Gift Set ($53.98) — Includes a cleansing fragrance-free soap, AcNeem Spot Treatment, ramie facial pad, Neem Clay Mask to deeply cleanse, and healing and soothing Neem Cure Oil. Apply discount code BGM15 for 15 percent off at check-out.
If your parent or grandparent has told you about Neem’s benefits, now it’s your turn to tell THEM about JustNeem. Nearly 5000 years ago, neem trees were being used in daily life in India and Pakistan for its medicinal properties in households and still do but JustNeem isn’t like your mother’s neem products — trust us.
JustNeem’s formulations are unique because of their dual and triple benefits. Neem is super potent and contains more than 100 healing properties. Every part of the tree contains some level of active compounds which have been found to be extremely effective in natural skin care. JustNeem has infused these properties of the neem oil and leaves with other natural ingredients in an extraordinary line of skincare products that will nourish, heal and beautify the skin.
‘Eyes of India’ eyeshadow palette ($54) includes ten colors — Taj Mahal, Bengal, Sona, Kobbari, Tamara, Mehndi, Rani, Mayil, Kerala, and Kajal.
Bili Beauty — a cruelty-free, vegan beauty brand made with 100 percent natural ingredients — is committed to highlighting India’s beautifully diverse cultures through the art and science of makeup.
I have been a longtime lover of all things beauty related but never found my specific shade of brown when I was growing up as the options were a bit more limited at the time. It was hurtful to not have brands cater to people like myself so I made a vow that one day I would create makeup to suit every skin tone. But as a girl from a traditional Indian household, I didn’t even think that creating my own line was possible so I studied business instead with an emphasis on the beauty industry. Best of both worlds!
As the years went on, I began to notice how my Indian people were rarely represented in the American media (movies, news, advertisements, etc). Given that I worked in the beauty industry, it was especially upsetting to not see Indian models in beauty campaigns.
After 6 years of working in marketing and public realations for the beauty industry, I quit my job to commit to my original vow. I was determined to create a makeup line that celebrated my beautiful Indian culture while creating high quality products with clean ingredients and high pigmentation that showed up on all skin tones.
The ‘Eyes of India’ eyeshadow palette features 10 pigmented shades ranging from rich neutrals to bright pops of color — all of which are all named after and inspired by India’s beautiful and diverse cultures. A list of the ingredients of the palette can be found here.
The 2018 Winter Szn Box — worth $123.50 — includes eight surprise beauty and wellness products. The Box will be released to subscribers mid-December! We were given the exclusive information to share three of the products from the Winter Katra Box with you all: JustNeem Green Tea Lotion, NCLA Holiday Cheers Toolkit, and The Katra Box Canvas Pouch.
The Katra Boxis a seasonal subscription box, which means it’s shipped out four times a year, and is carefully curated with the hybrid identity of the South Asian-American woman in mind. Every box contains an assortment of products ranging from beauty and apparel to wellness and lifestyle. They’ve made sure to find sustainable products from ethical, fair trade, and clean companies, so you know you are supporting ethical and natural-ingredient businesses with every box!
We know women in the South Asian diaspora all over the world who are on-the-go and creating big waves in many diverse industries. So, we’d like to take some of the hard work out of their hands. We’ve done the research, so you don’t have to. We work with ethical, fair trade, and clean companies so you can discover sustainable products.
Subscribers pay $49.99 (or less!*) each season for a box with products that will always total in value for more than $100!
The Katra Box offers three different subscriptions plans: the Seasonal Subscription Plan where you’re charged $49.99 each season (so 4x a year), the SemiAnnual Subscription Plan, in which you’re charged $89.99 every other season (so 2x a year), and the best-valued plan is the third one, an Annual Subscription Plan that charges $169.99 annually (so 1x a year).
Board game includes 250 Cards (1000 words), score pad, card holder, pencil, buzzer ($30).
Created by Priya Shah, Desi Chaat is the South Asian game to play with friends and family this holiday season! A desi twist on the word game Taboo — it includes 1000 words of your favorite celebrities, popular terminology, food, historical facts and figures, movies and songs, sports and so much more. Try guessing words like, “cricket,’ “ladoo,” “Deepika Padukone,” and others without the obvious words associated with them.
The purpose of the game is to bring generations of the family together from grandparents to the young ones, and it guarantees hours worth of laughter and memories to share for years to come.
Includes a chai holiday gift set. Apply discount code BGM10 for 10 percent at check-out.
Tea is quintessential to the Eastern culture. It’s the South Asian way of socializing, mending broken bonds and making life so much more beautiful. More than anything, tea is an age-old tradition and part of our heritage.
The owners of Lux Tea Company — husband and wife duo — Sandeep and Pinky Barot, have similar sentiments regarding this drink, which is also the second highest consumed beverage globally following water.
Tea can be associated with so many feelings and that was one of the factors that led us to this industry. Tea helps relieve stress, helps amp you up to push through the day, it is a romantic drink that you can enjoy whilst coffee is seen more as a rushed beverage. As for the brown community—chai is such a nostalgic beverage for many because they may have enjoyed chai with elders in their family, Pinky said.
They say matches are made in heaven. Well, this husband and wife duo couldn’t be a better example of this saying. Blending Pinky’s love for tea and Sandeep’s desire to venture off into entrepreneurship, the two decided to give birth to the Lux Tea Company two years ago.
Pyarful is a craft greeting card and paper goods company that celebrates the everyday joys of South Asian culture. We believe that life’s better with a little masala, and *lots* of mazaa, and are here to help you connect dil-to-dil with your loved ones.
As seen through the lens of a first-generation American, Pyarful’s handdrawn designs are a playful ode to our upbringings, and to the experiences that shaped our childhood, and that continue to shape us. They’re small glimpses and narratives of our shared experiences, and a tribute to food, holidays, tradition, and rituals that let us relive good times, make us chuckle, and remind us that, although a little quirky, and sometimes a bit challenging, just how much FUN it is to be a South Asian American.
Their hand-drawn designs are a playful ode to South Asian upbringing and small glimpses of experiences that so many of us share. Built on the values of celebration, connection, and craftsmanship, our brand illustrates South Asian culture at its finest.
Includes “The Padma” ($750) 8”x15” x 1/4” inch kiln formed glass (with a clearplexistand). The “lotus” is translated into Sanskrit as “padma” — the symbol of purity. While rooted in mud, its flowers blossom on long stalks as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. At night the flower closes and sinks underwater, at dawn it rises and opens again.
Shreya Mehta is an award-winning fine artist who explores, in her vibrant and varied works, the social issues of identity, gender, power and spirituality. Her art has been exhibited across the globe, from the Indian Consulate in New York to the private collection of Prime Minister NarendraModi. In fact, Mehta secured her place at the Royal Academy of Art in Belgium as the first woman of Indian origin, graduating with none other than the prestigious V.R.I.K.A Award. Born in India, raised and trained in Belgium, and now living and working in New York, Mehta brings a global perspective and a positive touch.
Includes a t-shirt ($30) or sweatshirt ($44) of your choice and size.
On Black Friday, we released our first limited edition line — designed by @ByBdal and produced by @RootsGearOfficial. The apparel reflects Brown Girl Magazine so well — it’s simple, elegant, powerful and can be styled in many ways. The line includes crew neck tees, crop tops, crop top hoodies (because who doesn’t need one of those), crewneck sweatshirts, and a toddler/youth tee for your favorite little ones.
While growing up, the only complaint I had when wearing desi clothes was that the embroidery on the fabric would always end up scratching my skin. As beautiful and intricate the details were, putting on an embellished blouse meant wearing an inner or a comfortable t-shirt underneath. Fortunately now, many South Asian brands are changing the game; focusing not only on the quality and intricacy of the embroidery, but also on comfort and wearability of the blouse itself. One such small business is Khushey.
Khushey is a one-stop shop for “buttery soft” performance blouses that don’t compromise on comfort for fashion and pair just as well with any of your mom’s saris as they do with your newest lehenga. In an interview withBrown Girl Magazine, founder Neha Seelam talks more about what inspired her to launch Khushey and what the brand has to offer.
Why did you want to start a brand that specializes in South Asian/Indo-Western blouses specifically?
I wanted to specialize in blouses because blouses are really the only part of Indo-Western clothing that I found a specific ‘problem’ with — one I thought I could solve. I absolutely love everything else about our clothing — with the variety of patterns/styles/cuts available, I feel that you can easily find the perfect piece out there.
But the part of South Asian clothing that my friends and I found to be a perpetual challenge was the blouse. They’re usually gorgeous, but by the end of the day you can’t wait to take them off. Also, it’s so hard to find a fit that looks seamless and beautiful — usually the chest, underarm or sleeve just wouldn’t fit the way you want it to with the heavy material and traditional tailoring.
I wanted to start off with basic colors but in shiny/formal-looking material that I could mix and match with all the different colors and styles of South Asian clothes that I already have in my wardrobe. The goal is that the blouses can be used multiple times with different outfits, are ideal for long nights of partying, and feel great against the skin.
What’s the story behind the brand’s name, Khushey?
The English word “cushy,” which means comfortable, actually originates from the Hindi word ‘khushi’ (happiness). I thought that the origin story was very sweet and resonated with the idea of comfort and happiness I had for my label. That’s how I chose the word Khushey — slightly adjusting the spelling so I could snag the right URL!
What is your number one priority when it comes to your blouses?
Formal wear that’s actually comfortable! I would love for women to be in the moment at their celebrations, and not feel constrained, itchy, or uncomfortable in their blouse.
South Asian women! Customers, from recent graduates all the way to stylish moms, have loved the product — especially moms since they typically value comfort and movability if they have to chase down kids at events!
How do you think Khushey allows South Asian women to embrace their love for South Asian fashion?
Over the last decade, I’ve seen women repurposing crop tops from Zara and H&M as sari blouses, and while I think that’s awesome and creative, I wanted to create an option for South Asian women where every detail was oriented around recreating the perfect sari/lehenga blouse. The shine is intended to be appropriate for formal wear, the cuts were inspired by some of my favorite blouses from when I was younger that wouldn’t have bra straps showing from underneath and were versatile for saris or lehengas, and the embroidery is intended to add a desi flair.
You’ve mentioned sustainability on your website. How are your blouses sustainable?
I plan to donate five percent of profits every year to a sustainable organization. Once I get enough interest from the public, I would like to fund new product lines that use eco-friendly materials that were prohibitively expensive for me to launch with. But I am eager to incorporate recycled spandex/nylon and metal into my pieces once I can afford to!
What sort of designs do you plan on incorporating into your label in the future?
I’ve thought of so many designs that I can build on. Starting with colors; I’d like to have all of the major colors available in my basic sleeveless blouse and then create a more modest version of that blouse with a variety of basic colors as well.
I’d also love to expand the patterns and embroidery options on the blouses. I hope to create seasonal collections that enable me to tap into the vast array of style/color inspirations that South Asian wear includes.
Khushey promises to offer comfort and style, all packaged into one performance blouse that you can reuse with a variety of desi outfits. Like Neha said, ditch your Zara crop top for a design that actually complements your desi look. Make sure to keep your eyes out for her latest designs!
January 18, 2023January 18, 2023 9min readBy Arun S.
Neha Samdaria is the founder and CEO of Aam, a new type of fashion label. Aam’s mission is to change the way womxn with the hourglass and pear-shaped body types shop for clothing. The word Aam means ordinary in Hindi. The community consists predominantly of womxn of colour with naturally curvier hips. Aam has a low return rate of 3%. The team at Aam has built sizing charts and tested them over a 10-month period. The clothing was made with sustainable materials in ethical factories. If you are struggling to find clothes that fit appropriately check out Aam today. Continue reading to learn more about Neha Samadria’s company Aam!
What were your personal struggles with shopping for clothing that fit and how did these experiences inspire you to start a company?
I have what you would call a “pear shaped” body, meaning my hips and thighs are wider than my upper half. I’m 1-2 sizes bigger on the bottom than on the top and for years, I’ve struggled to find clothes – especially pants – that fit me correctly. Too tight on the hips? Size up. Too loose on the waist? Wear a belt. My entire life, I felt alone in my struggle. Eventually, the pant shopping experience became so unpleasant that I started avoiding them entirely – choosing to opt for dresses, skirts and stretchy leggings instead.
When I arrived at Stanford Business School in 2016, I learned that I was far from alone in my experience. 1 in 4 American women – predominantly women of color – shared my struggles. And when I dug deeper to understand why, I uncovered the bias-riddled foundation of size charts in the United States. When I learned that the fit issue was systemic and rooted in bad data, I felt inspired to do something.
You’ve had a range of experiences working in consulting, marketing, as well as completing an MBA program. How have these range of experiences helped you start a company?
On a practical level, acquiring a range of skills helps with the various hats you have to wear as a CEO. On a daily basis, I am a strategist, marketer, fulfiller, accountant and designer. But the biggest thing I feel I’ve gained is an approach to tackling new problems. One of the toughest things about being a solo Founder is that the buck stops with you. You have to have faith that even if a problem is brand new and well outside your area of expertise, you’ll be able to forge a path forward. My life before Aam gave me a lot of practice in that.
Have you faced adversity as a newcomer in this space?
The biggest adversity we’ve faced is in marketing and sales. As a bootstrapped e-commerce business with no outside investment, it’s been tough to compete with large retailers with big marketing budgets. How do you get noticed as a small brand? Through trial and error we’ve found success in niche influencers who are excited by the problem we’re solving and are keen to support, in-person markets and events, and organic, word of mouth referral. We’re also beginning to partner with marketplaces and small retailers, to expand our brand reach.
Who are some mentors and leaders you look up to and what characteristics do they possess that you sought to emulate while starting your own company?
My biggest mentors are bootstrapped entrepreneurs who built up their businesses brick by brick. My father is one such example, and I have a handful of folks in my circle who have done the same. I find their grit and scrappiness inspiring; most of them don’t have a professional degree and gained their business acumen on the field.
I also admire kind and supportive leaders; team culture is one of the most difficult things to nail, and you have to be intentional from the beginning. I had a wonderful boss at my first job out of college. He knew how to nurture the strengths of his direct reports and wasn’t afraid to task them with challenging, meaningful work. Crucially, he was always there as our safety net in case we had questions or needed help along the way. I’ve tried to build the same type of ethos within Aam.
Do you see Aam as a strong contender in the fashion industry helping a wide variety of individuals?
I do! We’re one of the only brands catering to pear and hourglass shapes, perhaps because the fit issue is so fundamental and expensive to fix (see Q7). But beyond this, we’re one of the only brands that focuses on fit – period. The entire industry – from runways to fast fashion brands – is focused largely on design, when poor fit is actually the #1 driver of returns. Aam’s return rate is just 3%, vs. an e-commerce industry standard of ~30%. We can make the industry more customer-centric and less wasteful by investing in the early steps of proper sizing and fit testing.
In terms of helping a “wide variety” of individuals, Aam is a niche brand that is committed to helping the 1 in 4 women with curvy hips and thighs. I don’t plan to expand to other shapes at this time because I believe that in order to add value, you can’t be all things to all people. Our community has been underserved for almost 100 years and we’re here for them.
What made you decide to name the company Aam?
“Aam” means “ordinary” in Hindi, my native tongue. The company’s approach to design – starting with the consumer, and designing entirely for her – runs counter to the industry. My goal with this business is to make this consumer-centric approach to design more “ordinary,” giving power back to the women who wear our clothes, and elevating their voices on a global stage.
What is the process of rethinking fit standards?
Modern size charts are based largely off of a 1939 study that surveyed 15,000 women across the U.S. This study was flawed for several reasons including: 1) it relied on bust measurements, assuming women are proportional throughout and 2) it excluded women who were not Caucasian from the final results, thereby underrepresenting body shapes that are more commonly found among women of color.
At Aam, we’ve rebuilt a fresh dataset of 314 women across the U.S. who have pear and hourglass shapes, and are using this dataset to inform all of our collections. By fixing bad data, we’re addressing the root cause of poor fit and rethinking fit standards.
Where do you feel the fashion industry can improve?
There are big opportunities for improvement in supply chain, fit and inclusion.
On the supply chain side, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to ethics and sustainability. There are great auditing standards out there (SEDEX, OEKO-TEX, GOTS, for example), but only a small percentage of factories are certified. In 2021, as I was building out my supply chain in India, I visited factories that spanned the full gamut, from regularly-audited, responsible manufacturers to those who enforced 14+ hour daily shifts and refused even chairs for their workers to sit on. Brands are engaging in conversations about diversity and inclusion but it’s often on the consumer side; few are willing to be as transparent when it comes to their supply chains, where women of color are disproportionately exploited. As consumers, one easy thing we can all do is check the Ethics & Sustainability page of the brands we love. Do they talk about certified factories, third party audits and following sustainability standards? If not, we have the power to ask – why?
I’ve shared a bit above about the issues surrounding fit – it is the single biggest driver of returns, an issue that has been plaguing retailers for decades. It’s costly, harms the environment and (in the long term) hurts your brand. I believe that investing in better upstream processes – improved size charts and more rigorous fit testing – will lead to huge improvements down the line.
And finally, inclusion. One of my pet peeves is seeing brands design styles that are clearly intended for straight shapes and small sizes and then scale them up to mid and plus sizes claiming that they now design “for all bodies.” Putting ill-fitted pieces on models of different shapes and sizes doesn’t mean you understand or care about that customer. We should be asking ourselves – what does this customer really want? How is this garment going to make her feel? How can we design FOR her, first and foremost? This is being inclusive in a real way.
As a CEO of a company what is your daily routine?
My day starts the night prior, when I write down my priorities for the upcoming day. I use this great planner by Kindred Braverly that helps break down my activities into bite size segments. I’m not a morning person and part of my team is based in India (with a flipped schedule), so I usually start my date late around 9am.
First, I workout, so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something early in the day. Then, I grab breakfast, coffee and start work around 10:30. I start with the highest priority items on my list, which can range anywhere from sales and marketing to strategic planning and design. I work in 1hr increments with 10-15 mins of break in between. During these breaks, I’ll step outside, hydrate or crank up some music and just free dance. I try to get away from a screen, so I can return to my work with fresh eyes.
I then have a hard stop from 7-9pm to spend time with my husband, and then I’ll usually squeeze in an additional hour or two of work with my India team, before heading to bed.
Early in my Founder journey, I started tracking productivity patterns during my week. For example, I’m usually less productive on Mondays than I am later in the week. So I try to schedule more interesting, strategic work early in the week in order to stay motivated. I also work a half day on Sundays, to take some of the pressure off of the following week.
As there are many companies interested in fast fashion, how does your company differ in terms of sustainable materials and ethical factories?
Responsible production is one of our brand pillars, so we think about it in each step of the process. All of our suppliers must be third-party certified for ethical working conditions from one of the leading, global certification programs (more info here).
Additionally, we use sustainable fabrics in all of our collections. For example, we work with organic cotton (vs. regular cotton), which saves water and is made without toxic pesticides. We work with new fabrics, like lyocell, that can emulate the handfeel and durability of less sustainable fibers without the environmental footprint. In our most recent collection, we introduced premium deadstock wool, which is fabric that was produced in excess by brands and would have otherwise gone to waste. We also ensure that all of our dyes are free of Azo compounds (several of which are carcinogenic) via rigorous testing.
On the production side, we rely on a combination of third-party audits as well as personal, first-party checks. I’ve spent days in each of our factories, observing the working conditions and interacting with the team.
On the packaging side, we spent a great deal of time thinking about how to recycle and reuse. Each Aam pant comes inside a reusable cotton cover, inspired by the beautiful saree covers you see in southern India. This cotton cover is placed inside a fully recyclable box, with a simple packing slip and card. There’s no excess paper, bubble wrap, or cardboard.
I’m proud of where we are in terms of ethics and sustainability – and I think we can still do better!
We would love to hear some testimonials from previous customers.
“I have paid hundreds of dollars for ‘custom fit pants’ from various brands, and none of them fit quite as well as this pant did straight out of the box.” – The Flex Waist Pant, Size S
“This pant is amazing!! It is so lightweight and breathable… the material is so soft and silky, it feels like you’re wearing PJs but they look like elegant chic work/business pants.” – The Wide Leg Pant, Size M
“Never have I ever been able to easily pull a pair of pants over my thighs. I have ALWAYS had to jump to pull my pants up comfortably. These pants are amazing.” – The Crop Pant, Size L
“I can tell these are Aam pants instantly from how they taper at the waist. No other pants do that.” – The Limited Edition Wool Wide Leg Pant, Size S
Where do you see the company expanding in terms of different types of clothing offered?
I see bottoms as the biggest area of need, so we’ll first expand to other types of bottoms or clothes with bottoms: skirts, dresses, jumpsuits, potentially underwear and swim. Then, we’ll start expanding into other categories.
What is the toughest part of running your own company?
Staying motivated and showing up every day – even the bad days. As a Founder, there’s no one to answer to, no fixed schedule, and progress can sometimes feel very slow. There are weeks where I feel frustrated because I keep missing targets. Other weeks, we get a string of wins. It’s important to detach myself from both types of outcomes (wins and losses) and take neither very personally. This helps me commit instead to the process and just focus on the next small step forward.
But, easier said than done!
Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?
I’ve read Brown Girl Magazine for years and am so honored to be featured. I hope folks reading this feel inspired to tackle whatever problem – small or large – that they understand innately. Personal experience is a powerful motivator and difficult for others to replicate.
Tina Singh, formerly known as Mombossof3 online, understands how to make her presence known in the parenting space. Seven years ago, she set out to create and share content related to motherhood, and there’s been no looking back since. Singh has mastered the idea of evolving with the times and the needs of her audience while staying true to her number one role in life — mom!
As she navigated her personal and professional life through the lens of a parent, she came across a void that just wasn’t being filled. So, in typical Singh style, this mom of three put her entrepreneurial hat on and got down to creating a solution for Sikh kids who struggled to find a helmet that fits over their patkas (a small cloth head covering).
The problem was personal — all three of Singh’s sons wear patkas and just couldn’t find the right helmet for their safety — and so the solution had to be homegrown. Enter, the Bold Helmets.
Singh gave Brown Girl Magazine an exclusive interview in which she talked about the Bold Helmets, the change in her journey since she’s become a public figure, and what it was like to innovate her very first product!
Here’s how it went:
Let’s start from the beginning. How did this idea come to mind?
This idea has been in my head for many, many years — over five years. I had issues with my kids and having helmets fit them after they turned age four or five.
I worked as an Occupational Therapist, in the head injury space, so I was always the one saying, ‘Okay kids, you’re gonna have to tie your hair in the back, do braids, or something in order to put on a helmet properly because I’m not gonna let you go down these bike ramps without a helmet!’ That’s just not okay for me.
So I talked to my husband and said, ‘there’s gotta be another way this works.’ So we did all the things that parents in situations like these do — they hollow out the helmets, some people go as far as cutting holes at the top of the helmet — you do what works. But I had in my mind an idea of what I think the helmet should look like based on what a patka looks like, and what my kids look like. I then found an engineer to draw it out for me to bring [my idea] to a place where I can actually take it somewhere and say, ‘Okay, how do I make this?’
But, yes, it started mainly with my kids and facing that struggle myself.
You mention that this idea had been brewing in your mind for over five years. How long did it take you to actually bring it to life?
To this point, it’s been about two and a half to three years. I let it sit in my mind for a while. Winters come here in Canada and then we forget about it again until we have to go skiing, and then there’s another problem, right?! I did let it lay dormant for a bit for sure, but once I made the commitment to do it, I made up my mind to see it all the way through.
You recently pivoted and changed the name of the product to the Bold Helmets. Can you talk me through how you came up with the new name?
Bold Helmets became the name because they’re designed to be bold, to be different and who you are. I also think that the way the helmet is made, even though it’s made with Sikh kids in mind, there are other applications to it. I do think that taking the Bold Helmets approach embodies its [the product’s] uniqueness and really focuses on being bold and who you are.
And the Bold Helmet is multi-sport, correct?
This helmet is certified for bicycles, kick scooters, skateboards, and inline skating. It is not a ski helmet. So every helmet you use for a different sport has a different safety certification or testing that it has to go through. So, this helmet is called ‘multi-sport’ because it covers those four sports but I wouldn’t take this helmet and use it for skiing. I’d have to make sure that this helmet, or a helmet like this, gets certified for various other standards for other sports.
Makes sense! I want to change the course of the conversation here a bit and talk more about how you pivoted from Mombossof3 to innovating your very first product. How was that experience?
So what I did throughout this journey was that I went from marketing myself as ‘mombossof3’ to ‘Tina Singh’ because I was sharing more of my life’s journey as my kids were getting older and in an effort to respect my children’s space as well, and letting them decide how much — or how little — they want to be involved with what I was doing online. And part of that was about the journey of what I was doing next, and the transition came naturally to me.
I think right now, truthfully, I’m struggling in the space where I kind of have a shift in audience and so my usual, everyday self that I share on social seems like it doesn’t work. I feel like I need to find a new balance; I will always be true to who I am, and I will never present myself as something that I’m not. But, just finding a space for me to continue creating content while also taking on this new endeavor with Bold Helmets, is important right now.
Aside from this struggle of finding that new balance, what is that one challenge that really sticks out to you from this journey?
I think my biggest challenge being an entrepreneur is finding that balance between my responsibilities as a parent, which is my number one role in my life and there’s no one that can take that role for me — my husband and I are the only parents — and passions outside of that.
Do you think it helped that you were creating a helmet for Sikh children so it allowed you to pursue your passion but also work with your kids in some capacity since they inspired the whole idea?
I never thought of it that way, but yes actually, it did! So all my entrepreneurial projects have involved my kids. Even now they were involved in picking the colors, all the sample tests we did they tried the helmets on! They’re probably sick of it since they’re constantly trying on helmets, but I get their opinion on them. Even as we pivoted with the name, we involved them and got their feedback on it also. So, they were involved in very large parts of this project.
And my husband is also a huge part of this project. He’s been heavily involved in this process, too!
You have a huge online presence, and I know that you’re probably not new to trolling and bullying that comes with being on social media. More recently, Bold Helmets was subject to a lot of backlashes. Is there something that you took away from this recent experience? Was it different this time around?
The extent to which things got was different this time around and that’s not something I have faced in the past. But I have been in the online space for about seven years now, and I’m accustomed to it. I think what I learned this time around is that sometimes silence and reflection is the best thing you can do. Sometimes reflecting and not being defensive on feedback that you get — and this may be something that comes with age as well as experience — is best.
But, I’m happy with the pivots we made, the feedback we’ve gotten, and the way we’re moving forward.
You mentioned that this isn’t your first entrepreneurial venture. But each experience teaches you something different. What did you learn while working on Bold Helmets?
I learned to be okay with taking things slow. I’ve never been that person; I’ve always jumped the gun on lots of things. It’s understanding that it’s ok to slow down and recognize that things have to just run their course.
And while the interview wraps up there, there is more to come with Singh on her journey! Catch Lifestyle Editor Sandeep on Instagram LIVE this Saturday, January 28, at 10 a.m. EST, as she has a more in-depth conversation with Singh on Bold Helmets and more!
In the meantime, Bold Helmets are available for pre-order now, and as a small token of appreciation, Canadian pre-orders will get $10 off their purchase until the end of January 2023!