July 30th, 2020
The Business of Joy
Being in the Business of Joy
This past weekend I went to my first wedding in 18 months. It was much more than “just” a wedding in part because it was the wedding of two people I love dearly. But the year and a half we had waited in COVID-isolation made me acutely aware of the experience of a wedding: meeting family from all over the country in person, feeling connected to my culture through the food, music, and traditions, and dressing up in clothing that makes us feel royal.
The experience made me feel all the more proud that Riya is in the business of weddings. We get to enter our customer’s lives in one of the most joyous and memorable occasions of their year. I like to imagine that on December 31st as they reflect back on the year behind them, their experience of wearing one of our outfits to dance all night at a wedding will be one of their most cherished. What this means is that our customers come to us full of positive energy and anticipation and when we do our job right, they leave us even happier and more grateful than they came to us.
I used to take that for granted, but now I don’t.
There were 5 people at the wedding who rented from Riya which is always both a nerve wracking and exciting experience for me as the founder. But as it always ends up being...it was unbelievably gratifying to look around and see our customers enjoying their dresses right before my eyes. When they come up to me and say they’ve never felt like this in a dress before, or I made their evening, it’s just so clear that I’ve started a company that touches a deep nerve. One of the women who wore Riya this weekend was the best friend of the bride. She isn’t Indian herself but had basically grown up with the bride’s family and was so keen to wear the clothing respectfully and be part of the celebration. She looked gorgeous and as she gave her speech in our orange and gold lehenga I felt so proud.
Another couple hadn’t seen their outfits until the night before they wore them and they were amazed at how well they fit. I smiled knowingly, this is part of the beauty of Indian clothing! Sharing my culture with them in this small but intimate way gives a voice to the pride I feel in my culture.
Being a venture-backed business for Indian weddings, we are acutely aware of how different we are from most/all other venture-backed businesses. We aren’t B2B SAAS or blockchain/crypto and being Silicon Valley bred, that has at times made Arian and I uncomfortable. Is what we are doing somehow frivolous or less important? This weekend was a fantastic reminder that no, it’s not. Riya Collective is in the business of joy and connection, and what higher calling can we have than that.