In the summer of 2021 Farah Ahmad’s family was devastated by COVID-19. She tested positive, as did her mother and brother who both eventually passed away from complications of the virus. One day as she was sifting through her mother and brother’s old clothes, she had the idea to turn them into quilts, that would memorialize her recently passed family members. She found comfort in having physical reminders of them around and knew other’s might feel the same way. She started her company, Sweet Root and began making ‘memorial quilts’ out of donated clothing from customers commissioning her work. While Ahmad is passionate about making valuable keepsakes for families, she has also worked to expand her product line to children’s clothing and blankets for babies. Today the Bangalore, India-based entrepreneur is happy to be running a business with heart, soul and a purpose.
Ahamd’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
For the rest of my life, the summer of 2021 will be a memory I will never forget. Yes, my life came to a screeching halt during the peak of the second wave. I tested positive for COVID-19 at a moment when my family needed me the most. My mother and younger brother both died as a result of post-COVID-19 problems, and my life was turned upside down.
Dealing with loss is difficult, and moving on is maybe even more difficult. I’ve had an entrepreneurial mindset for over a decade. As I sifted through my mother and brother’s clothes one afternoon, I discovered that these preloved garments were very dear to me and offered me peace. I realized I wasn’t the only one who took comfort in the attire of the deceased. Many individuals have lost loved ones, and I hoped that curling up in these quilts will provide them with comfort as well, and so I started making memorial quilts.
How do you define success?
Success is a happy customer!
Tell us about your biggest success to date
Being a serial entrepreneur and creating businesses that have a heart, soul, a purpose and solve a problem. A memorial quilt, on a deeper level, acknowledges the life of someone who has died while also providing a physical medium for those who have been left behind to reconnect. Looking at a specific shirt fragment in the quilt, for example, can bring back vivid memories of a shared experience with a departed loved one. Our real-time link with someone we love is severed by death and loss, but memorial quilts reconstruct the pathway through a beautiful, tactile, very personal object. We transform important fabric from someone’s clothing or other belongings into gorgeous memorial quilts.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Scaling up was the top challenge and it was addressed in multiple ways. Firstly I worked to improve the turn around time it takes to make each individual quilt. Second, I worked to improve my marketing strategies. Thirdly, I decided to become more open to accepting challenges and risk. And lastly, I worked to diversify my product range so that we had more offerings, from memorial quilts to quilts for children.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
The very decision to create Soul Quilts was prompted by the death of a loved one.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Success does not come quickly; it takes time. Nurture your business like a plant, and it will eventually bear fruit. Be steadfast and courageous.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
Reading motivational books and, of course, introspection to clarify my thoughts.
Who is your most important role model?
My mum is my role model. Though she is no longer with me, I respect her for her courage and determination to face and overcome problems. ◼