We had the good fortune of connecting with Nihaar Sinha and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nihaar, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’ve always felt entrepreneurial and that I have a “builder” personality. I wanted to create something that did not previously exist, and that mental wiring laid the foundation upon which my entrepreneurial journey followed. As for Maiya itself, I had watched the surging popularity of premium wellness as the fashion-forward athleisure trend really took off. I also saw yoga become incredibly popular during this time. As an Indian American, I was happy to see my heritage break into mainstream American culture, but was disappointed at the lack of representation. Indian faces were conspicuously absent from the large yoga brands, and in many ways the practice felt disconnected from its roots. The idea of designer yoga mats featuring authentic Indian prints addressed two opportunities: 1) the commercial opportunity in premium wellness, and 2) the social opportunity in re-connecting yoga to its cultural heritage with an authenticity that was often missing from the industry.
The journey since then has been incredibly challenging and rewarding. We’ve been featured in The New York Times’ Wirecutter Guide to the Best Yoga Mats of 2021, in the ‘Clean Living’ issue of SHAPE magazine, and can count Mindy Kaling among the cultural leaders in our growing family of Maiya mat owners. Of course our journey is really just beginning, and the most important achievement always remains that next sale. But I think our success thus far has definitely validated the two opportunities, both commercial and social / cultural, that we set out to address. That’s important because it gives us confidence that we’re headed in the right direction.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
At Maiya, we’re proud to sell designer yoga mats featuring award-winning prints from renowned Mumbai artist Shweta Malhotra. These are the most beautiful mats you’ve ever seen, guaranteed! The designs feature authentic, spiritually significant symbols combined with our chic Indo-SoCal aesthetic, and are sustainably manufactured with the highest quality in Germany. What I’m most proud of is innovating and creating something new that didn’t exist before. Most people have never heard of a “designer yoga mat” before, but when they see our mats, it clicks that these aren’t just pieces of equipment: they’re canvases to express yourself and works of art honoring the millennia-old tradition of mindfulness that you practice while standing on them.
As with creating anything new, this process was anything but east. I had never created a product before much less found designers, manufacturers, incorporated a legal entity, set up a supply chain, crafted a marketing strategy… you get the point. There are so many facets to starting a small business, and it felt like every time we took a step forward, we realized how much farther we had left to go.
The biggest lesson I learned is that progress happens on its own timeline, not your timeline. In entrepreneurship, as in life, the best you can do is focus on what’s under your control and try to move forward as best you can. As I tell myself when I’m hiking up a particularly steep trail, “You don’t have to go fast, but you have to keep going”.
What I want the world to know about Maiya is that we are unique, authentic and quality. Whenever you create something new, it takes time for people to understand who you are and what you’re doing. That’s just fine with us. We’re here for the long-haul and very proud of who we are and what we stand for. The water’s warm, so come on in. 🙂
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I think this city has so much to offer, the prototypical week involves so many neighborhoods and activities. I’d definitely go hiking in Malibu, drop by Gourmando in Beverly Hills for dinner, enjoy one of the great rooftops like EP/LP in WeHo, Mama Shelter in Hollywood or Perch downtown, take in some of the live music and have a drink at the Culver Hotel in downtown Culver, grab some boba and stroll through Sawtelle, and of course enjoy downtown Santa Monica. Even that feels like I’m leaving out so much! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people to thank for helping me on this journey. Foremost, my family has been along for the ride since Maiya was but a kernel of an idea in my mind. I’d also like to thank Jenna Gulick of Eye Catcher Social for being such a big part of our efforts to tell our story, and who invested in us because she believed in our mission. Finally, I’d like to thank Nikki Menon of Ladies’ Car Productions, who has been our biggest cheerleader since before we launched and has helped us in countless ways throughout this journey.
Nicole Nordstrom, Alison Ashe