Last night while playing dress up at Sundar Imports, I was lucky enough to take it one step further. I actually got to sit down and have a long conversation with Becky, one of the founders of Sundar Imports, about their business. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet with both founders, as Stefani was home with kidlets of her own.
Normally, I am not an interview person, but thankfully, Becky isn’t used to sitting down for interviews and we had wine. During our actual interview, we covered a myriad of topics, whispered ominously into my cell phone while it recorded, created a SJ&YP radio ad, and generally got distracted by anything shiny in our line of sight. Somehow, I managed to wrangle our conversation into a format in which you will possibly be able to follow. I was amazed by their story and hope you will be too.
SJ&YP: How did you get started with doing Sundar Imports?
SI: We found the frill pants, and we fell in love with them. They were fair trade and that was kind of cool. Over a bottle of wine, we thought “How cool would it be to sell these pants. Would anyone buy them?” We originally thought it would be trunk shows. Then we started searching information about becoming a vendor for these pants from Nepal. We had our launch party on Leap Day with only pants at Becky’s house. Our friends would ask, “Do you have any tops?” And we would say, “No, sorry, just pants.” Friends were so supportive and telling us they would have a trunk show. It just spiraled from there.
SJ&YP: How does your current business align with your original vision?
SI: When we started it was all fair trade. But then we would find a cool product that was from Texas, for example, that was fairly made. Then we became a fair trade/fairly made boutique. We loved the made in the USA products. Then we expanded to supporting local products. So now we are a fair trade-fairly made ecoconcious boutique. We don’t see it expanding beyond that. The name Sundar Imports comes from the pants being made in Nepal. We started searching Nepali names. Sundar means “beautiful” in Nepali and we liked the idea of “beautiful imports” and that will not change.
SJ&YP: What has surprised you the most?
SI: Probably the support. From two girls who had forty of our best friends from one house to the next house, our budget was low and now we have a line out the door by our sixth sale. It is overwhelming to know people make plans to wait outside! And people are so understanding that sometimes the lines are long, we might make mistakes, there could be craziness, but people are still supporting that and supporting us. It is also cool to build the relationships with the vendors knowing who is making the scarf or seeing a hand written card stating what made this possible for that woman to produce product. There are stories behind it all and you are supporting women all over the world. It is very powerful to support those women as well.
SJ&YP: So where are you girls going in the future?
SI: Million dollar question! If you were to ask us a year ago, we would have said we would be in your living room with a trunk of pants. We just kind of roll with it, taking it sale by sale. We would love to have a traveling trunk show, having friends all over Wisconsin who are requesting it. We get requests for a website, and that has been a fleeting thought too. It is hard because we are two completely different personalities and this isn’t our fulltime job. We say our vision was and is two girls with a brighter vision for making the world a little bit better.
SI: It might have been over a salad or a glass of wine that we thought “wouldn’t it be cool to have a sale and then donate things?” We started question how do we give back. We love to highlight local non-profits that people might not know about. We research organizations the same way we research new product lines. Our first donation was Turning Point and that was found by researching local non-profits. We will never forget the woman with Turning Point who said we might have people in the room who acted like they had never heard of them but had already been touched by Turning Point. It was so powerful. When we donated to the Hudson Food Shelf last December, they had no idea they were coming and couldn’t believe we were dropping the check off for them. We don’t donate for the publicity so when we get it, it feels odd. We are just happy to be giving money that is from not just us, but from everybody.
SJ&YP: Everyday of your life, what gets you excited, motivates you, makes you happy?
SI: Brown paper packages tied up with string (small town touches, like a note from the post office in my hometown), a sign from my daughter’s kindergarten class on birthday along with eighteen hugs, my niece sitting in my lap while I blew out my birthday candles. I think as you get older, it changes. I just want to be with my family. I am very corny. I love my husband. Does he drive me bananas? Yes, but he is a good guy! (SJ&YP note: According to Tyann, Becky’s bestie and a Sundar Imports staple, Becky is also born to bring joy to everyone everyday. Even the Starbucks lady in town knows her order and she is amazed at how Becky spreads joy.)
So if you haven’t already, take some time to check out Sundar Imports.
I know you will be glad you did.