Megha Rao of holiCHIC™ on being an “idea person”, learning to adapt and think outside of the box, and how social media helped her get the word out

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Describe your business in a few words?

A contemporary fashion label inspired by my South Asian roots and heritage.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

As the daughter of Indian immigrants, born and raised in NYC, I often found myself inspired between both of my unique dynamic worlds of East and West. While I lived in NYC, I would spend my summers in Mumbai with my grandmother. Year after year, summer after summer, I began falling in love… with the culture, the food, the people, the magic, the fashion. My grandmother would take me to the market to find fabrics, trinkets, accessories, bindis… which sparked my initial love and interest in South Asian fashion. Eventually, I began curating unique looks for myself. Pulling pieces from my western wardrobes and complimenting them with the trinkets my grandmother gave me. I couldn’t find what I wanted to wear in my own closet! I craved a fusion style that could blend both my worlds and represent who I was. Because I couldn’t find what I wanted to wear I began creating my own looks pulling from my Indian and American wardrobes. This eventually turned into my label, today known as holiCHIC.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

My background was in banking and business management, both of which helped me start and run my own business. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No, but I was always “an idea person”.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

Social media was our number #1 strategy to help get the word out. Working with influencers within the community was a key tactic for growth. While it did go as planned it took longer than expected to reach our milestone goals initially.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

The pandemic! Thinking back to March 2020, I remember speaking with my business partner Pooja. We considered shutting down the shop temporarily as we were unsure if anyone would purchase from our store behind that our designs were meant for weddings and other formal events. 

That was a mistake. 

We decided instead to test new products, such as loungewear and masks. Things that people were looking for at that time. This ended up being a pivotal moment for our brand, allowing us to scale, attract a new audience and build a stronger community. I learned to adapt, think outside the box and test new concepts.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Creating a brand identity. People know my designs when they see them. We have stayed true to our aesthetic and brand mission since day one.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I love assigning test projects during interviews. For example if im hiring someone for outreach and influencer partnerships i ask them to draft me a pitch email. I ask them to do their research on a particular person & curate  a message accordingly. Likewise if it’s a customer service position I’ll give them a challenging client scenario to work through. I find this to be a powerful and impactful technique  in the hiring process 

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic allowed us to pivot, grow & scale. It allowed me to quit my full time corporate job after 15 years and go FT with my brand. 

Having more time, working under pressure- these factors forced us to think differently! 

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We would love to see our designs in mainstream retail outlets, where we can have the opportunity to spread our love and pride for our heritage through the expression of fashion.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Don’t be afraid to try something new and pivot when faced with new challenges!

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

Your team is such a critical piece of the equation. Finding people who genuinely care about your business & want to see it grow, finding people that fill your voids to make the company stronger is so critical. I realized this more & more as I hired people, some were the right fit, some were not…I make smarter choices now when hiring. 

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Having 2 small kids at home, who in my opinion navigated change so well… Inspired me & helped keep me grounded. I was in awe of how they adapted to new routines, wearing a mask, new schedules & embraced it! 

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

100%. I balanced a FT corporate job, a business & 2 kids for 6 years! You really can “have it all” with the support of your family and a lot of communication.  My husband has been a key supporter of my business  from the very start. I’ve always been very open with him about what I need to grow my company, my end goals & what specifically I need from him, sometimes a few extra hours on the weekend to work on a project when I need him to keep the kids entertained. And this  goes both ways! Having a mutual understanding of our goals and helping each other get there has been the most essential part of finding balance

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I was a former Miss India USA runner up! 🙂 

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Jot down 2-3 key tasks you will compete for the day,  could be something big or small but stick to them!
  • Take breaks! Sometimes a quick jog outdoors or a quick catch up session with the bestie re energizes me to move to the next task. 
  • Find your most productive pockets of time. For me it’s when my kids are in school. When they get home, it becomes more challenging to give 100% attention to work. I tend to find my pockets are 10am-2pm when no one is home & from  9-11pm when my kids are asleep. 

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It’s a multi-faceted woman. Someone who wears different hats. Who proves you can do anything you set your mind to, with or without other competing responsibilities.

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