Small Business Profile: Arati Rao, Founder of Tantuvi - New York City
Hi Arati! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I a am born and partially raised New Yorker.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I went to F.I.T. for Fashion Design and then to graduate school at Edinburgh College of Art in Edinburgh, Scotland. After returning to NY I was a designer for several years before starting Tantuvi.
What led you to begin Tantuvi?
I began Tantuvi after feeling very uninspired at my corporate job in the fashion industry and the lack of connectivity to the process. I also felt a need to be more involved in the whole process, not just sitting at a computer communicating with people is Asia. I was extremely conflicted with some business practices and the lack of value for peoples lives in Asia. What they expected of people that were out of sight would never be ethical here in the US. After taking a break from the fashion industry for two years (working in the art world) I was able to re-focus and think about how I could do things on my terms, so I quit my job and went to India to begin visiting Artisans and educating myself.
Before traveling to India, were you interested in textiles or starting your own textile business?
I actually never thought I would be working so closely with textiles and having a textile business. Since I was a fashion designer I assumed I'd either find the right company with like minded people or I would consult for brands.
How did you meet and build relationships with the weavers that you work with?
The first group I began working with was closest to my Father's ancestral region which just felt right. I was familiar with the artisans of this region before my initial research trip in 2010 and after that trip I began learning about the weaving and designing process. We worked together for two years before launching in 2012.
The co-operative in South India that we work with, trains women in this male dominated industry and by training women to weave they provide a higher income for the whole family which provides a better overall quality of life, education for children, and upward mobility.
Where do you find inspiration?
Well I think everywhere, there's no one thing that inspires me. It could be a place I visit, a conversation with a friend, or seeing some new art.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Knowing we are supporting an industry and style of manufacturing that is at risk of being lost, being able to provide work for these weavers is motivating and especially seeing the work they do, it's incredible.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with Tantuvi?
We have daily set backs, as exciting as it is to work with weavers and co-operatives there are challenges. As weather is a big part of our calendar for example monsoon season is soon approaching which means there may be lots of unforeseen delays. At the moment it is 112 degrees where our rug weavers are in the desert so they work at a much slower pace which is crazy as I doubt any of us would be able to work in that heat. So I am constantly amazed at the work they do with the drastic summers.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Well I think it's important to support each other because how is it helpful or productive to not support others, seems like that's the only way forward to be supportive. I think sometimes a lot of us get competitive or worried about what others are doing but that's not going to get you anywhere, you just have to be secure and confident in your work and try to have your support system. I feel very lucky to have a big group of women designers and artist I am close with, so I always have someone I can all or meet with to go over things or ask for advice.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
There are so many creative women I find inspiring, there are too many to list and I wouldn't want to exclude anyone that I admire. But to generalize, I am constantly amazed by the community of women designers and creatives that juggle so many things in their lives to produce authentic personal work.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Working hard and working until it's done - I have a sense of discipline and work ethic I honestly never had before having my business.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
Yes! The Self Journal, it's an amazing journal that is for 13 weeks and you set small goals and things you would like to work towards. It helps me stay on track and it's a place where I can keep track of multiple things and projects. Also I find that physically writing about my day and current projects is very helpful in keeping things in order. I learned about it from my friend and fellow designer Virginia Sin. I also really love sensory deprivation salt water tank therapy, there's a very low key place in Chelsea that is great and my preferred place. There are a few salt water pods for flotation but i prefer the tank as it feels very open and my mind completely shuts off and I feel so relaxed for days, it gives my great relief and calmness.
How do you manage your time?
Self journal, it really helps me keep me accountable for my time.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
I think it's really hard to spend too much time doubting something, I usually just have to put it out there and learn from the outcome. I try not to let my doubt overwhelm me when it comes to a new design and if there is a doubt with anything else I always go with my gut, there's not enough time to doubt things.
What are you trying to learn right now?
Trying to learn about shipping via sea container, whether that could be feasible with our timeline. And Spanish!
What are some of your favorite places in Brooklyn?
Favorite places, I love prospect park , brunch in Red Hook, Sat night summer dinners at Brighton Beach, and my studio.