Interview by Carol Wright | Photos Courtesy of Beverly Bond PR & Creative Agency
We got to chat with Sonali Karmarkar, founder of Soieli, about why she created the brand and how her business background has helped her.
Creativity runs in your blood as your great grandfather, V. P. Karmarkar was a renowned sculptor. Growing up did you always see art as a way to express yourself?
Absolutely! I was encouraged from a young age to explore different artistic mediums as a way to express myself and harness my creativity. From as young as pre-school days, you could always find me with a collection of crayons and colored pencils, and I could entertain myself for hours by just sitting and drawing. I suppose I’ve always been a sort of perfectionist about both my work and my supplies, so the running family joke is that when I was little and friends would come over to do art projects with me, I would direct them how to best use my art supplies and I would still be working on my project hours after they’ve finished. Some would call me slow, I would say I’m methodical! As I grew up, I experimented with pretty much every artistic medium from drawing to printmaking to painting, finally settling upon painting as my favorite, loving how I could play with color and textures through brushstrokes. My 5-year-old self would say I wanted to be an artist when I grew up, so I hope I made her proud!
What was the initial motivation behind creating Soieli?
Soieli was actually born out of a personal inconvenience and a brainstorming session on the couch with my boyfriend. I love to dress up and accessorize, but after scrolling through photos, I noticed a bothersome trend. Besides the ever-changing assortment of jewelry pieces was one constant – the little black band. This band is the generic hair tie that I found many women like myself wear as a safety net regardless of the occasion – our armor to make us feel confident to go into the world and face any obstacle, in the event we had to tie up our hair. I realized so many women like myself turn to this little black band not because they love it, but due to lack of options. This generic hair tie caused me severe hair breakage, so I knew that I wanted to create an accessory to promote better hair health from the start. I thought – what if I could create a product that looks beautiful on one’s wrist alongside jewelry and is nourishing for one’s hair.
Tell our readers a bit about the name Soieli and its meaning.
Soieli comes from a swirl of the French words soie (meaning silk) and soleil (meaning sun), which reflects our mission to bring light into people’s lives through one-of-a-kind silk pieces.
Hair accessories can tend to be on the more boring side but Soieli focuses on being wearable art. What inspires the unique designs for Soieli products?
I’ve always seen art as a way to absorb the beauty in the world and with wearable art, I hope to design pieces that each customer can integrate into their life, build their own unique story around, and infuse beauty into their everyday. As far as what inspires me, I feel that creativity can spark at any moment. I find inspiration by going to museums, going on a walk through downtown New York, checking out art galleries, reading books, watching films. Stylistically, Soieli is mainly inspired by the impressionist art era mixed with modern street art. I love the brushstrokes of impressionism and the stark colors and fluidity of graffiti art, which I hope to translate into all our Soieli accessories.
Your background is in business and marketing. As someone who is creating a company from the ground up how has your background helped you get the Soieli name out there?
Having a business background has helped me figure out the frameworks necessary to turn my idea into a brand and then really scale it. From the start, I was really specific in creating a clear brand identity and mission so that we had a solid foundation and north star that has helped us define how to best grow while staying true to our heritage. As a marketer at heart, I always get excited about how we can communicate and engage with our customers in new, innovative ways. With that said, I think it’s important to not be afraid to try new things and then have a clear way to evaluate how to measure success so that you can scale out those successful activities and sunset those that don’t work. Focusing on new ways to reach new customers has helped get Soieli’s name into the market by experimenting with new social media channels like Clubhouse, turning to brand partnerships and influencer partnerships to reach new audiences, and then looking at the data to identify which strategies were the most successful that we can replicate.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice would be, just go for it! I find that so many times we overthink things and our internal monologue is the primary blocker preventing us from turning those amazing ideas into businesses. Being very detail-oriented myself, it has been a journey to tell myself that it’s okay to not know everything and to learn as I go. You will never have all the knowledge necessary to launch a business and every aspect of your business will never be perfect, so don’t be afraid to just go for it!