When she graduated from West Virginia University (WVU) with a degree in business in 2002, Anu Madan was undecided what the next step in her life was It turned out the next step was onto a flight to Spain.
I didn’t know what to do so I traveled to Spain to study Spanish,” said Madan, the owner of Anukshah, an Indian-inspired resort and beachwear clothing wholesaler. “I love to travel and I fell in love with Spain when I spent a summer in Europe as part of a business school exchange program at WVU.
Madan said her parents ran their own small business accounting firm near her alma mater but she wasn’t decided on entering the world of small business quite then.
Though she mastered Spanish, the European adventure didn’t lead to any serendipitous revelations on a lifetime pursuit. She returned to the U.S. and moved to Palm Beach, Fla. where she had family.
“I enrolled in the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale (AIFL) because I always loved fashion. I never studied it but it was something I had a passion in.”
Little did Anu know but her education, love of travel and fashion, and family connections were all pointing her way to the successful business she has today.
“My parents had their own accounting company and my father often times gave me advice. He saw what I was studying and took me to India to meet with his relatives who ran their own clothing businesses. My parents came from there and I hadn’t visited since I was a young child. After about a week, he left and I stayed where I learned about dyeing and beading.”
When she returned from India, Anu said she began selling Indian clothes and accessories at AIFL. She’d bring in jewelry and clothing from her family connections in India and sell them to students as well as faculty at student art fairs. It was then she realized this was something she not only enjoyed but more importantly, could be a small business idea she’d enjoy pursuing.
“It was fun and I saw people were interested in the clothing and accessories I was selling. But I did not have the knowledge to sell in bulk.”
Anu decided then to learn the wholesale clothing business through experience.
“I got a job with a t-shirt manufacturer for Wal-Mart,” said Madan. “I was a project manager and took care of their sourcing for their clothing. That gave me experience and insight into the wholesale clothing business.”
Though it might seem Madan’s experiences and passions were incrementally transforming her into a small business owner, she found assistance and an ally in the U.S. Small Business Administration. Madan found sound advice from the Miami SCORE chapter and took a couple free workshops to broaden her entrepreneurial skills.
“I took a couple free workshops and talked to the instructors who were either owned or managed their own businesses. It was a great resource for me.”
But like the small business owners she met as volunteer SCORE counselors, her father was there to offer his experience and sage wisdom.
“My father is an accountant and I worked in the family business as I grew up. He advised me to set up a limited liability corporation for what I wanted to do to start my own business. He said I could change my organization as I grew but I knew this was the best way to start. ”
She named her new business “Anukshah,” which is her full Indian, first name
As many small business owners will attest, starting off is hard work and it wasn’t any different for Anu despite her education and family connections.
“I started by walking into stores and asking them if they would buy my Indian-inspired women’s clothing and accessories. I found some buyers and many who didn’t buy my clothing gave me contacts to other people and shops to talk to. I listened to their advice and found more buyers. I started using student interns from a nearby language school where I taught part time, to help me out. In 2008, I went to my first trade shows in New York and Las Vegas.”
But no sooner as Anukshah started to grow, Anu met a challenge face-to-face which she had no control over: the economic downturn that hit south Florida and the nation, hard.
“I was teaching while trying to grow my business so I had a fall back plan,” she said. “Up to this point I used my own money and personal connections but the banks weren’t lending. I couldn’t find capital.”
Thanks to a re-tooled SBA 7A Community Express loan program designed to stimulate the economy by increasing federal loan guarantees to 90% and reducing lender risk, Anu was approved for a $25,000 loan from Borrego Springs Bank in November 2009.
“The loan helped me expand my business as well as to hire three employees. They are my sales representatives who pack and ship orders as well as go to shows to help grow the business.”
Three years later, the Anukshah clothing line is carried in recognized shops at Walt Disney World resort as well as the Marriott and Hilton hotel. Anu says she isn’t done expanding her business yet and is investigating other ways to go using SBA as a springboard.
By James Brooks, U.S. Small Business Administration South Florida District Public Affairs
Become a South Florida Small Business Success Story by learning about what the U.S. Small Business Administration's South Florida District can do for you at: www.sba.gov/fl/south.