Local Fashion Business Finds Ways to Adapt and Overcome Challenges

Peoria may not be the easiest place for small fashion businesses to thrive, but one business is finding how to overcome challenges and to find their footing within the industry. Vijeta Arora, founder of Silk Route Fashion, operates out of her home which is an unorthodox method of business to many, but the intimate space allows her to build lasting relationships with clients. By providing quality Indian fashion, Vijeta has increased the clothing options in the area already.

Prior to Silk Route , Vijeta had worked in electronic media covering art and culture in India for 8 years and she had seen first-hand the financial struggles artists have. Working 16 years in retail, now Vijeta is able to support some of them with their craft. When looking to set up her business, Vijeta realized that there were no ethnic stop shops in the area and seized the opportunity. Providing Indian fashion to an area lacking in interesting clothing ventures, and with a unique twist of being a home business, it was an intriguing start.

While there have definitely been positives, there have been struggles as well for Silk Route. As Vijeta stated, “It can be hard for people to take you seriously when you operate out of your home, and oftentimes people do not understand the quality.” By going for top-of-the-line Indian fashion, Vijeta admitted she made it difficult on herself and that has been a slight struggle as well.

On the flip side, when discussing what success means to her, Vijeta stated, “Success is the joy you bring to customers and when everything falls in line and you find what clothing item brings out the best in someone.” Whether it be a certain fabric, necklace, or something else, finding the right wardrobe for someone brings her happiness, and that is how she values success.

As with any business over the past year or so, COVID-19 has been at the forefront of conversation. For Silk Route, it caused some problems such as shows being canceled, connections in India being out of work, and losing the connections she generated with customers. “Clients are more like friends and extended family, and to not be able to have those interactions hurt,” Vijeta said. However, due to no overhead, she was able to still do fine financially but due to other factors such as lack of inventory, she decided to contact the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Bradley University for assistance with her website. Vijeta requested assistance from the e-commerce team which is provided through CARES Act funding the SBDC received from the State of Illinois. Vijeta states, “The SBDC has been instrumental in taking my home-based business to e-commerce and helping me understand that market. They have been key to my virtual presence and continue to guide and support me.”

Vijeta holds the SBDC in high regard. They understood her struggles and reassured her that she had a great product. They also advised her to go on Etsy, write blogs, and to not be afraid to express herself.

In terms of expanding Silk Route, Vijeta has thought about having a storefront so she can have more foot traffic. Also, she wants to have a marketing team to help brand her product as she needs help with that area.

Vijeta continues to show herself as one of the brightest fashion people in the Peoria area. Being a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Diversity & Inclusion division in the Peoria chapter, goes to show how prominent she is in the area. With a great product line and continued help from the SBDC, there is no sign of slowing down for Silk Route Fashion.

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