Name: Linda Singh
Business: Sitara Collections, handmade jewelry and gifts from India
Location: Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.
Reason for starting: In 2007, I created Sitara Collections as a resource for people seeking exceptional, artisan-produced gifts. Through Sitara, customers not only receive access to these products, but the satisfaction of supporting traditional craftsmanship. But more importantly, myself and my Indian-born husband, Vinay, purchased land in India and built a school for children in Vinay’s ancestral village. Proceeds from the business go to the Sitara Foundation, a non-profit organization whose sole support is the SVV School, located in Chanchali, India.
The company has made steady progress in the past seven years, but I believes there’s more to be accomplished. We have loyal customers who love sifting through the site looking for new gemstone jewelry or home accents, but the fair-trade mission behind the company is too important to allow Sitara to remain only semi-successful.
How do you define success? In the case of Sitara Collections, we are measured not only by the success of the Indian artisans and their community, but also the success of the SVV school. We have not received any outside funding to build the school, so the mission of selling beautiful handmade products that will enrich the lives of both the artisans and school children will be the yardstick by which we are defining and measuring, success.
Biggest Success: Our biggest success was finally making the decision to devote myself full time to this business. For several years this was a “passion project” that I did in my spare time during my career in corporate America. Having realized the potential that this business could have on the lives of the artisans we employ in addition to the impact we could have on the lives of children through supporting and funding educational opportunities through our foundation was the reason why I left the comfort of working for someone else and dived into the world of entrepreneurism.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? The top challenge is raising capital to buy inventory and boost marketing to grow the business, so that we can purchase more inventory from more artisans, and ensure the livelihood of the school continues long after we are gone.
Yes, I worked in a highly results driven organization that sold women’s products, yet men made the majority of the decisions, and this always hit a nerve with me. I have also traveled to India many times and have seen the poverty first-hand, and while one person cannot change things overnight, if everyone does a little bit, or takes one courageous step towards helping, maybe over time we can bring more opportunities to the disadvantaged.
Who is your most important role model? Halle Berry, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with on her fragrance launch. She is one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood, yet even with that success, she is humble, down to earth, respectful of others, and just a real person. I have been most impressed with her ability to relate to everyday people, including myself. The day before her fragrance launched, she asked me if it would be a success. It went on to become the #1 mass fragrance launch of the year, and the FIFI reward ceremony, she personally thanked me for my contribution to the success of her fragrance. No other celebrity has ever done that before! She is also an intelligent, strong and determined woman
Edited by The Story Exchange