Ritika Shamdasani: From the Wilson College of Textiles to Nordstrom and Beyond
Founded at NC State
Ritika Shamdasani and her sister, Niki Shamdasani, launched Sani, a clothing brand inspired by South Asian fashion, after the sisters noticed a lack of local options for attractive, high-quality garments for traditional Indian weddings. Sani started by selling their culturally inspired pieces online and through pop-ups and since then the sisters have rocketed to success with partnerships with Rent the Runway and Nordstrom.
The success was hard-earned. Ritika built the Sani brand while attending school full-time. She balanced trips to India to source fabric with economics, design and science courses. Ritika said that the people at NC State supported her throughout.
I never could have predicted that my professors would become my confidantes, my friends would wake up at the crack of dawn to pack orders with me, or my classmates would send me any notes while I was away on a trip.
A Winning Combination
In the Wilson College of Textiles, Ritika learned to apply textiles thinking to the grand challenges facing the world. She also took advantage of the entrepreneurial ecosystem at NC State by participating in programs from NC State Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In 2020, Sani won first place at the startup competition, eGames, taking home first place in the arts category and $5,000 in cash. Ritika and Niki participated in the Andrews Launch Accelerator, a program of the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic that helps founders focus on the fundamentals of their business and emerge as high-growth individuals ready to carry their business forward.
Ritika, a newly-announced Miller Fellow, will continue growing Sani at NC State, now as an alumni. Miller Fellows receive a monthly stipend and new venture support to help bridge the gap directly following graduation when students are often faced with the choice of taking a job or focusing on their startup venture full-time.
This is Ritika’s first chance to treat Sani as her full-time job without the pressure of being a student. Ritika will use her time as a Miller Fellow to develop HR policies that support employees and fosters a culture of inclusion as well as secure larger warehouse space.
As an alumna, Ritika plans to stay connected to the NC State community. Ritika said that as a student, “witnessing the dedication of the alumni in paying it forward has been truly inspiring.” She hopes to serve as a mentor in the future, so she can share the knowledge and wisdom that comes from earning a bachelor’s degree at NC State and participating in numerous valuable experiences.
Ritika also took the NC State Founders’ Pledge to confirm her commitment to paying it forward. The Founders’ Pledge is a personal and nonbinding commitment to make a gift back to NC State at some point in the future: when a founder’s company has an exit, IPO or stream of steady revenue. The pledge can be made for any amount, can be paid at any time, and can be applied to any designation at the university. Completing a Founders’ Pledge is an exciting and happy time for founders, because at that point their company has reached a level of success that they can comfortably participate in philanthropy.
Ritika is boldly imagining a future for Sani that includes a movie premiere where everyone is wearing Sani and celebrating South Asian culture. Her advice for other entrepreneurs about embracing their bold dreams and making it happen:
Fear overestimates the threat and underestimates your ability to deal with it, so take that first step and don’t let fear hold you back. Remember that although it may seem daunting, it’s often the first step that is the scariest, and once you take it, you’ll be on your way.
Sani is quickly gaining traction in the fashion market but Ritika and Niki’s dreams for Sani have grown beyond clothing. The sisters will continue to build strategic partnerships with retailers while launching new sectors like menswear, home decor and entertainment.
Follow Ritika, Niki and Sani on TikTok @sanisisters.
This post was originally published in Entrepreneurship News.