Deepika Pillai, Dallas based founder of Kula Village, a small business for small business.
Small businesses make incredible impact on the economy. The more you shop small businesses, the more job opportunities you can potentially help them provide to the area. And in turn, we help a family. If there is one thing we have learned especially during the pandemic, is to shop and support small businesses and that even a small purchase can help them keep their doors open. And when it comes to mom owned small businesses, there is more it takes that we don't see on the surface. On our weekly mom owned small business series, Dallas based mom and founder, Deepika Pillai talks all about her journey in building an ecommerce business from scratch amidst the pandemic.
Kula Village was founded by Deepika, with a goal to bring cultures together and create a one stop shop where customers can find products from various categories under one roof. Kula Village, as she describes, is an online marketplace that curates multi cultural experiences from around the world; you can visit here: www.kulavillage.com. Kula Village started with a vision of launching with 2- 3 sellers and 10- 20 products to test the market. But they launched with a much higher number and now support over 30 small businesses across North America with over 300 products.
Deepika was raised in India and like any other immigrant mom, she wanted to introduce her kids to the culturally rich heritage from the country. She also wanted to use the opportunity to teach her kids about the various cultures from across the world that Dallas and overall this country embraces. Afterall, Dallas is a perfect city for anyone who wants to experience different cultures and traditions.
She found several small businesses right here in North America who were creating relevant products that suit our modern sensibilities. This is how the idea of Kula village took shape. "I want to bring a glocal shopping experience by curating unique products, services and educational content that satisfies the global citizen of today," Deepika told Newsbreak.
Image of personalized wooden tray sold by Bhaasha Basics on Kula Village.
When the pandemic hit, almost all businesses in Dallas area and many across the country had to pivot their processes and change the way they operated. The end- users went focused mainly on survival and cut out all “luxuries” as the world went on hibernating mode. Everything went online, including grocery shopping. With the sense of current events in the country and a hold on traveling for unforeseable future, people were pushed to learn about other cultures virtually instead of experiencing them. Deepika adds, "We still have a long way to go, and we are hopeful that Kula Village will pave a way for immigrant voices to be heard & seen."
Image of lotus candle stands sold by All Things Artistic on Kula Village.
When the pandemic hit, small businesses still had to survive. Investing in creating an online presence takes a lot of time & effort - much more than one would think. In the cluttered social media space, it is hard to be consistently putting out the right messages when you are a maker or small business owner. Deepika told Newsbreak, "This is where we come in. We work as a platform that not only helps customers with interesting finds, but also help local small businesses in marketing themselves and reaching a wider audience." Kula Village has several Dallas based small businesses that sell on their e-commerce website.
There is definitely an upside to the online businesses in the pandemic. Deepika told Newsbreak, "While I launched the business during Covid, I must say all the resources that are available made it super easy to do everything online. I had to step out only to collect my PO Box Keys - everything else is easily available online making it very convenient for a small business like mine."
Deepika further added, " It has been an enriching experience to understand and support small businesses in and around Dallas. I build personal relationships with all my vendors and I’m easily accessible at all times, giving us the added human advantage over automated services like other big e-commerce platforms. So we pride ourselves as a small business for small businesses."
Image of hand poured candles sold by Scents of Wanderlust on Kula Village
She also said that Dallas definitely is a better place to own an e-commerce business. "Dallas is truly a Melting Pot of various cultures. The central location makes it easily accessible and makes shipping across the country quick and affordable. I definitely have a vision to create physical storefronts, pop-ups and events across the country when the time is right. Audiences are very curious to learn about various cultures and local events like the Plano International Festival brings us various flavours of world cultures together."
"Dallas has a great business community that welcomes and supports everyone. From the local Chambers of Commerce to networking groups and events; there is enough support and resources available for anyone who would like to showcase their skill in any form."
"While it is extremely challenging to build a 2 sided marketplace, we have been able to curate progressive sellers who all share a similar vision to us. We aim to reach 100 sellers in the next 6 months across the length and breadth of the continent," Deepika told Newsbreak.
Here are a few sellers from Dallas that sell on Kula Village:
- Artbeat (Frisco)
- Classy and Sassy (Frisco)
- Bhaasha Basics (Irving)
- Turquoiz Touch (Allen)
- Sui Dhaaga (Frisco)
Pictured here, Deepika with her daughter Anya
Deepika's message for aspiring mompreneurs is; "If you truly feel the passion for it, do it and do it now. There is no ideal time and there is no perfect situation that should make you wait. The main difference between a hobby and a business is to be just intuitive VS setting goals for long term. If you wish to convert your passion into a business, commit for the next 5 years and make life revolve around it."