When Deepali Kalia first moved from her home country of India to the United States, she was fascinated by the amount of Indian textiles being used in the design industry and stores where she worked. Having her own skills and background in textiles and design, she decided to begin creating her own line of home goods and clothing with her own signature style. She partnered with her sister, Nanu Khanna, and began her own shop — Filling Spaces.
While Deepali manages the business stateside in Portland, OR, her sister Nanu oversees the production and manufacturing process from their studio in Delhi. Today we not only get to take a peek inside their studio, but Deepali is sharing her journey as a small business owner with some tips for growing a happy and successful shop. —Caitlin
Image above: Deepali Kalia (right) with her sister and business partner, Nanu Khanna (left)
Where do you live and work?
Portland, Oregon and then a few months in Delhi, India with my sister and business partner, Nanu Khanna.
Can you remember the first time you learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was and how did you know it was what you ultimately wanted to do?
Working as a merchandiser for a design house in India, I was responsible for creating samples for western buyers. Developing their exclusive samples using Indian fabrics and resources was very intriguing and paved [the] path for my own product line.
Image above: Wooden blocks that create the design atop the fabric used for Filling Spaces’ pieces.
What was the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting your business?
“Keep it fresh” was the best advice I got from peers! That has really helped me through difficult times as the passion and desire to create new products keeps me going!
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Funds, marketing ideas and finding customers.
Image above: The master printer in Deepali and Nanu’s Dehli studio.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in starting your business?
Trends come and go, so just stay true to what you love most, what makes you happy and it’s not a competition. We are all in this to enjoy our moments.
Image above: Nanu reviews print samples with her production team.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned running your small business?
Trying to run a retail store and do wholesale business and raise a family — doing it all, while keeping control of every aspect, was a big challenge. Learning the art of delegation to keep the peace of mind and learning how to move away from micro management has really helped.
How do you approach marketing your shop?
Social media, various shows, pop-ups and above all, wonderful clients that share and spread the word!
Image above: A Filling Spaces team member reviews finished textiles that will be used in Deepali’s product designs.
Your shop is filled with beautiful textiles fashioned into pieces for the home. How do you decide what to produce?
Watching what sells best and inclination of the customers towards certain products helps us with our stocking, and my sister and business partner Nanu runs the production side of Filling Spaces in India, ensuring our products are high-quality.
Image above: Pillows and scarf from Filling Spaces.
Thinking of your business as a whole, what is the most rewarding part of it for you personally?
Working for yourself! Dream come true.
Image above: Pillows from the Aspen and Kodota collections
Are there any business books or inspiring books you’d recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
I love reading about other entrepreneurs — their life stories and struggles. I am into podcasts lately: HOW I BUILT IT is my favorite!
What are your two favorite pieces in your shop right now?
Our new collection of Kapas pillows and our Aprons.
Image above: Filling Spaces’ Raga Apron
If you were magically given three more hours each day, how would you spend them?
Spend [time] with my kids playing in the park (sunshine is commanded in those three hours — we live in Portland)!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
If you have a business idea brewing in your head, go for it! Everything will fall into place and failing is yet another step to moving forward.