We had the good fortune of connecting with Eman Bachani and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Eman, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
So art has never been an explicit part of my life however over time I have come to appreciate it more than ever. For me, this journey has been more about self-growth. I went to the University of Toronto for Political Science and HR, and thought I would pursue a career in HR. I had 0 experience in design, retail, or e-commerce, but I made it my mission to learn all of it bit by bit. When I look back, I realize the whole journey began because I wanted to wear a better product, and I knew it was possible to make the best version of something I dearly loved but hated to wear. Just like I actively want to work on my self-growth, I also want to constantly improve the design and product, offering the same experience to my consumers.

Most brands working on a similar product focus solely on design but being a brand based in North America, the stamp of “great” service has been crucial for us to grow the business.

In terms of how Meraki was inspired: my own story is that I’ve grown up a chubby kid for the most bit, and what that really meant was that I could never dress up like the “cool” kids did and never fit into anything that was “in” fashion. So an instinct I developed to counter this, and I guess protect myself was to hunt for locally made clothes and accessories because that would automatically mean I am not gunning to follow any trends. Since I grew up in Asia, the “local” products always had an undertone of tradition and culture, which elevated anything simple and basic into tasteful. In fact, my closet and my belongings have become an homage to all the places I have lived and travelled.

As I moved from the Philippines to Toronto, I did recognize that North American fashion and consumer culture is largely driven by mass-market brands that only offer basic and predominantly caucasian centric products with the assumption that all consumers would assimilate to a singular way of dressing and expressing themselves. Furthermore, I also faced two different experiences where ordering products from Pakistan, India, and other Asian markets was a taxing (literally) process and often brands would disappear into the abyss and when the package would eventually arrive, it would end up costing an arm and a leg more because of local regulations.

I needed to change the experience of buying and I needed to change the perception of products that came out of South Asia. Most women, including myself, share a universal love for footwear, whether to admire, wear or collect and thus when random people would stop me on the street to ask me about my “Indian” looking shoes, I really wanted to have them know that these shoes were as good as any other shoes, except better because they were painstakingly made by hand using leather and incorporating the art of embroidery and beadwork- but most importantly, these shoes were designed for you to make them your own with their ability to mold to your feet. When that entire realization came together, I just went for it. I knew many people out there would appreciate this as much as I did, and that’s where Meraki was born.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Q, RE: Lessons learned along the way

One of the bigger mistakes I’ve made that’s cost me quite a bit is hiring someone who intuitively didn’t feel like a brand fit. I was not once, but twice in this situation where a candidate had more skills & experience than I did (way more) but wasn’t organically a brand fit. I thought perhaps the experience would make up the gaps but it was a bad decision each time! In fact, it also made me realize that a lot of times people sell a skill they may not even necessarily possess, or are able to apply effectively.

I also am officially averse to hiring “consultants” because any time I’ve worked with a contractor who wants to be referred to as a consultant, I’ve basically paid them to research something I thought they already knew. These experiences have allowed me to understand that I should not be intimidated by qualifications and instead lean into my intuition. At the end of the day, attitude will always win and skills can always be taught.

Lots of people have been really helpful on this journey but I’ve actively sought more help from strangers than friends because I found that to give me the most objective feedback and insights about the brand and the products. In fact, I have periods in the year where I would cold email e-commerce founders and ask them about things that have worked for them and things that haven’t. I think I’ve definitely been able to grow my network through doing that and would recommend it to everyone – especially because entrepreneurship is just so damn lonely.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am currently living in Madrid, Spain and can officially say that it’s one of the best cities to be, although hugely underrated. A week in Madrid might be extremely bad for one’s liver but 48 hours are good enough to enjoy the energy of the city.

With a friend we’d start our day with breakfast at Casa Dani and have the best Tortilla (Spanish omelette) in the country, and follow that up with the best flat white I’ve had in Madrid at Osom Cafe in the charming neighbourhood of Chueca. While there’s a ton to eat and drink, Madrillenas space out their tapas and drinks with long walks so add some 30 odd minutes between each stop.

An ideal afternoon would be to stick around in Chueca and explore concept stores and cool retail experiences. Chueca can easily flow into the hip neighbourhood of Malasana which is bustling in all its squares and plazas with locals enjoying a cold cerveza or my favourite “tinto de verano”. If we’re in the mood to see bigger shops and enjoy a busier pace, we’d head to Gran Via which is the most popular street in Madrid. However, a more chilled day would be better suited to spend the rest of the afternoon lazing around Retiro Park, preferably enjoying a slice of chocolate cake from a “La Tarta Mejor de la mondo” right next door.

Madrid is home to a lot of famous works of art and all art museums have free entry in the early hours of the evening so it’s always great to check out a temporary exhibit at the Reina Sofia and then head to Quispe for an incredible Peruvian dinner.
A post-dinner walk around the city’s finest, Serrano would be the perfect end to a quintessential Madrid sunday!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My dad is my hero and thus he deserves all the credit in my story

Website: www.merakidesignhouse.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/merakidesignhouse

Image Credits

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