A recent news article profiles Neetu Sidhu and Allie Taylor, founders of REVIVAL Style, a social enterprise that supports rural Indian women in developing or enhancing apparel that is ultimately sold in New York. REVIVAL Style relies on e-commerce channels to sell its clothing. The business model is based on fabric that is sourced from India where it has been embellished by female artisans, and subsequently sent to the US, where local manufacturers construct the final garments. Both of the company’s founders have some business, fashion, and development experience and are seeking to bring these different passions together in setting up REVIVAL Style. The duo aim to create a social impact across their value chain.
REVIVAL Style, founded by Neetu Sidhu and Allie Taylor, is empowering women from the villages of rural India to the streets of NYC. REVIVAL Style is a social enterprise that fuses female Indian artisan craftwork with modern design to produce apparel that meets the needs of stylish and socially-conscious North American women.
Harmeet Neetu Sidhu is an NYU Gallatin Graduate student pursuing an interdisciplinary Masters program in Social Entrepreneurship within the fashion industry, which entails a heavy focus on entrepreneurship, marketing, anthropology and design.
Neetu has helped launch two NYC-based start-ups including Haden, a women’s wear clothing line, and InvenTours, a design-driven executive education program. Neetu also has marketing, communications, business development and project management expertise from her years working with SMART Technologies and Karo Design.
Allison Q. Taylor is an MBA candidate at NYU Stern, focused on Social Innovation and Impact, Global Business, and Luxury Marketing. Allison was a Social Impact Internship Fund Fellow, and spent her summer building retail partnerships for Indego Africa, which is a Social Enterprise working with Rwanda artisans and US based fashion designers and retailers. She has experience working in product development and merchandising in the fashion retail industry with both The Limited and Target. She also has expertise in fundraising and strategic partnership development from her time working with the national nonprofit organization, KaBOOM!.
We spoke to Neetu and Allie about their IndieGoGo fundraising success; the satisfaction of running a social enterprise; and what’s next for their business.
TNW: What was the inspired moment that led you to launch REVIVAL Style?
NS: Since I was a little girl, I wanted to start my own clothing line and after studying social enterprise briefly in Denmark, I knew I wanted to do it as a social venture. When I met Allie, we started talking about our individual passions and realized there was significant overlap in us both wanting to utilize the power of fashion to create social change for women. I always trace the beginning of REVIVAL Style to an early-morning call Allie and I had last Spring where we started vocalizing our business model and by the end of the call, both of us were so energized and just knew that we had to do this!
AT: It became very real for me when my friends and family began donating to our pilot fundraising campaign. The fact that they believed in what we were doing made me feel even more confident about the potential success of REVIVAL Style.
TNW: How does REVIVAL Style distinguish itself from the competition?
NS & AT: Look Good. Feel Good. Do Good. is REVIVAL Style’s mantra.
We create value for our customers by helping them look good by providing beautiful apparel; we help them feel good by promoting a healthy body image with our innovative sizing system; and we help them do good by connecting them to the social mission of the organization. REVIVAL Style customers know their apparel purchases are one-of-a-kind, hand embellished by a female artisan in India, and through their purchase, they are helping to provide a better livelihood for artisans and their families.
TNW: How important is technology to the success of your company?
NS & AT: Technology is definitely important to the success of REVIVAL Style. We will sell through two retail channels – www.shoprevivalstyle.com and shopping parties/trunk shows. ShopREVIVALStyle.com is currently in development and we hope to launch it in the very near future. As we grow, it will be our primary sales channel, hosting our apparel collection in a traditional e-commerce platform, and it will also feature emerging socially-conscious accessory designers in a fully integrated flash-sale component of the website. We are also connecting with our customer through social networks such as twitter (@REVIVALStyle) and facebook (http://www.facebook.com/REVIVALStyle).
TNW: Tell our community a little about how you met; decided to launch a business together, and how you find working together.
NS & AT: We met during a course offered at NYU Stern, Social Problem-Based Entrepreneurship. Throughout the course, our friendship and working relationship developed as we analyzed issues facing the garment sector in India and consumer markets here in North America. We decided to dedicate our summer to developing the micro-collection for REVIVAL Style.
That brings us to today, well after all of the fundraising, design, going to India, sourcing materials, working with artisans, production, retail channel development, and two fashion shows. We are now ready to fully launch the micro-collection and begin selling with our first shopping party in NYC on March 30th and the website to launch shortly after.
TNW: We understand that you recieved funding from IndieGoGo. Tell us about this experience. Did you learn any lessons during this process which might benefit other founders seeking funding?
NS & AT: We created a video to raise funds to produce our micro-collection through IndieGoGo and were overwhelmed by the amazing support we received from friends and family, and anonymous supporters who believed in our project. We made a big push via Facebook and Twitter to help promote our fundraising efforts and it came down to the wire, but we ended up exceeding our funding goal! Everyone wanted to help spread the word and we were so thankful for the support.
We definitely recommend crowd-funding platforms such as IndieGoGo to aspiring entrepreneurs. Through IndieGoGo’s easy-to-use platform, they can broadcast their passion and story and get support.
TNW: What is next for REVIVAL Style? How do you see technology as a key growth driver?
NS & AT: We are beginning to make sales, and we’ll reinvest profits to grow the line. We are also involved in multiple business plan competitions (Dell Social Innovation Challenge is one of them – please take a moment to “like” our project!) to win seed money for our first full collection to debut in Spring 2013. Technology will be a key driver in the growth of REVIVAL Style as we continue to develop www.shoprevivalstyle.com as a sales channel, and also as we develop our communication strategy leveraging social media platforms. Our customer spends the majority of her time online, and we need to reach her in a way that is convenient to her busy lifestyle.
TNW: Neetu, what lessons did you learn from helping to launch Haden and Inventours which you went on to apply to the launch of REVIVAL Style?
NS: During my time with Haden, I gained exposure to the NYC garment district and learned about the skills and capacity of NY manufacturers who are eager to support local designers with smaller production volumes. The knowledge and connections I built through that experience definitely helped when Allie and I were ready to start producing our own collection for REVIVAL Style, here in NYC. InvenTours helped me understand how to build strategic partnerships and become comfortable selling and marketing a business idea regardless of how big and intimidating the audience is. In so many ways, working so closely every day with the CEO of InvenTours helped me learn how to be an entrepreneur and a major aspect of that is learning to pivot and iterate quickly.
TNW: Allison, what was the most useful lesson that you learned during your MBA and how have you gone on to apply it to Revival Style?
AT: My entire experience at NYU Stern School of Business has been incredible, and there are elements from every class that are applicable to REVIVAL Style. My Strategy course was particularly helpful in understanding value creation and value capture, specifically for the customer, but also for all of the players within our supply network. I’m currently in Italy taking a week long intensive course through NYU Stern in partnership with Bocconi University in Milan, and my key take away thus far is that the designers in the luxury space (and in almost any industry) must be completely obsessed with the product – as an entrepreneur, you have to get the product right.
TNW: What do you find most rewarding about running a social enterprise? How is your enterprise changing the lives of your artisan partners in India?
NS & AT: It is an amazing experience – we are getting to do work that we love and know that we’re helping to empower women all over the world at the same time! Social impact is integrated into every point within our value chain. So, we feel confident in saying that we’re making a “global and local social impact”.
The artisans are at the heart of what we do – we are helping to provide a more sustainable living for our artisan partners and we’re interested in setting up an education fund to provide scholarships for the artisans’ children in the future.
We are also committed to sustaining local US manufacturing because we’re currently constructing our garments (after the fabric has been embellished by the artisans) in the NYC Garment District. And finally, for our consumer, we are helping her Look Good. Feel Good. and Do Good. She will be dazzling when she wears REVIVAL Style and our innovative sizing system will help her feel more confident, and finally, she will love the fact that she is supporting other women simply by purchasing a beautiful piece of apparel.
TNW: How has Dell or the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network enabled you to grow your business? What do you see as the benefits of all-women networks such as DWEN?
NS & AT:Everyone we have met through DWEN has been incredibly helpful and supportive!
It is amazing to have a network of women cheering you on and helping to make thoughtful introductions that lead to exactly the right opportunities.
Stephanie Goodell in particular, has been tremendously helpful in thinking about how the DWEN network can help bolster us as we work on launching. She’s absolutely fabulous! We are thrilled to be connected to DWEN and hope to increase our participation in the network.
TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our readers?
NS & AT: We absolutely LOVE what we are doing with REVIVAL Style! It is the realization of both of our dreams and we are so thankful to have the opportunity to do what we love and make a positive impact for everyone involved. Please check out www.shoprevivalstyle.comto sign up for our mailing list, like us on facebook at http://www.dellchallenge.org/projects/revival-style, and follow us on twitter @REVIVALStyle. We hope to inspire others to discover their passion and go out there and pursue their dreams!