I found Silk Threads, Inc. out of my personal desire (and need) for fashionable ethnic wear that reflected my Indian heritage, but also spoke to my Western sensibilities. Born in New York and raised in Austin, Texas, I started Silk Threads while still pursuing my degree at the University of Texas at Austin. I did not just want to create garments – I obsessed on taking the timeless elements of Indian culture – the vibrant colors, the opulent weaves, the regal fabrics, the graceful motifs and the exquisite styles of embroideries – and bring them to a wider audience. Decades before Hollywood discovered Indian artisanal weaves and embellishments, I had started innovating, using a mix of traditional and modern design elements to bring to my clients one of a kind pieces – each of which could tell a different story. Fast forward to today, and Silk Threads is still following the same mantra. The Brand includes custom dresses, exclusive ethnicwear, Bridal trousseaus, and Men’s custom wear, all complemented with elegant accessories, with three primary lines: Silk Threads by Ruby Bhandari, Ruby B Collections, and Silk Threads Menswear.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Quite a few hurdles, when I started I was still a student. I had to learn working with a different country - imports and exports, etc.
On my numerous later visits to India, I started working with my sister-in-law to open a fabric company and manufacturing units in India. We knew there would be a lot of trade involved, However, we underestimated the amount of effort we needed to do it. Every garment imported to the U.S. needs a label classifying the material and where it’s from. In 1991, when I sent my first shipment of clothing back to the U.S. it was halted at customs in DFW. Of the 240 garments I shipped, none of them had the required tags. My stuff was going to be stuck at the airport for 10 days. Storage fees were $50 a day. At that time, that was a lot of money. A sympathetic customs officer gave me the idea to buy my own labels and write on them with a permanent parker. My wonderful friend Gauri helped me, in 25 - degree temperature [inside the warehouse]! We had our gloves on and our needles and markers in hand. We hand-wrote 240 tags: 100% silk, made in India, dry clean only. We’d take off our gloves and stitch a few tags. We’d put our gloves back on so we could feel our fingers again, then we’d stitch some more. I’ll never forget that.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
And it all began in the trunk of a college student’s car. In 1989, as I prepared to go to the The University of Texas at Austin, my father asked what I planned to do for a living. I initially said social work. My father had other plans; he said I could study engineering, law, pre-med or business. They compromised on a degree in finance and accounting. I’ve always wanted to help other people,and I’ve always had a passion for fashion.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business sucess?
Having a passion for what I wanted to do, and working hard to make the dream come true.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
The amount of administrative and logistical issues involved.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Don't be afraid to follow your dreams! Work hard and be passionate - you will be successful!