Interview with B.Vika

AmbiKa Sanjana, originally from Mumbai, India, has been passionate about her creativity since she was a child. From music to dance to theater, AmbiKa is no stranger to the stage. At the tender age of 4, she began to explore her love for performance through ballet and piano and has continued her passion through film, theatre and print. AmbiKa has worked and studied in all aspects of entertainment, including, but not limited to, anchoring, production, acting and choreography. A student of Stanislavski method acting, AmbiKa graduated from California State University, Northridge with honors in theater and dance.

During her life-long affiliation with the arts, AmbiKa developed a powerful zeal for fashion. She moved to India three years ago to pursue her career in acting and landed a job for lead Bollywood designer, Neeta Lulla. Learning the fundamentals of the fashion business under her guidance, AmbiKa soon began to collaborate with her now business partner and lifelong friend Valerie Mamane.

Valerie Yael Mamane was born in Los Angeles August 21, 1979 to parents Raphael and Ninette Mamane. Both of her parents are native to Morocco, and traveled to Los Angeles in 1970, where they aspired a new beginning. Growing up, Valerie always defined her identity as a mix of Moroccan traditions, with an American perspective. This perspective traveled with her through time and life’s experiences. Valerie specifically felt her cultural mix rise to surface during her early childhood years, and continued through school, fashion, music, dance, and other forms of art and self-expression.

Valerie grew to develop a deep-rooted interest in fashion, so much so that upon the completion of graduate school in Educational Psychology in 2008, she immediately began to collaborate with her now business partner and life long friend Ambika Sanjana.

B.Vika, founded by Valerie Mamane and AmbiKa Sanjana, fuses the rich cultural backgrounds of its founders along with urban style of LA to introduce a new genre of clothing to women’s fashion.

How did you become an entrepreneur? When did you get started?

A&V: In 2008, we decided that it was time to collaborate our creative aspirations of a new clothing line that incorporated our cultures with an urban twist. The inspiration of our label stemmed from our own frustration with Western clothing that seldom incorporated any cultural influences, particularly of our own Indian/Moroccan descents

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

A: My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is having the freedom to build a company utilizing my past experience and knowledge. In addition, I love the accountability of creating a brand that I can stand by in its entirety.

V: Being an entrepreneur has allowed me to really tap into my self-discipline, drive, and motivation. I particularly take in each day as if it is a teaching lesson and I am the student in a classroom! I enjoy learning from everyone I work with and meet, as it takes me to the next step forward towards success.

What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

A: Many people dream of the glamorous aspect of running their own business. While it is extremely rewarding, it definitely takes motivation, persistence and immeasurable amounts of hard work. I personally have had to sacrifice time with every aspect of my life – from my family, to my friends, to myself. The business becomes the entrepreneur’s child and in order to ensure its growth, one needs to be ready to nurture and love it unconditionally.

V: There are many sacrifices in being an entrepreneur, first being sleep, second is time, third is money! Without self-motivation, I would not have been able to even make it this far. This business has started from a mere thought and conversation on a late weeknight. It has then become a seed that we have constantly watered and nurtured as it slowly grows and blooms. Owning your own business takes every day attentiveness, and attention to each detail of business growth, with great partnership and communication.

What do you think is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

A: I believe the biggest difference is accountability. Each individual chooses their own destiny but entrepreneurs definitely need to control that destiny just a little more. While working for someone else definitely has its benefits, entrepreneurship puts all success and failures on the company’s founders. It puts me in a position where failure is a luxury I cannot afford.

V: The most significant difference about not having to work for anyone else is structure and guidelines. We have had to set our own goals, deadlines, and business structure, with direction from ourselves. This business is not about getting up every morning and going to work. We live, breathe, eat, and sleep our company all hours of the day and night. We never clock out, for our shifts never end!

What was the most crucial thing you have done to grow your business?

A: Personally, I have become a nomad. In order to ensure the quality and standards of B.Vika are consistently met, I have subjected myself to living in two different countries (India and US) in order to adequately oversee all functional aspects of our organization.

V: The most crucial thing in business growth for me has been following up with all the professionals we encounter and work with on a daily basis. Making sure that our vision stays strong and that we do not veer from what our goals are. If something does not meet our standards, we need to address the issue, fix it, and follow up. This is what professional growth means to me.

How do you define success?

A: I define my own personal success as doing what I was meant to do and what I am truly passionate about. Furthermore, I can only be successful if I learn and grow from my mistakes. Ultimately, my success is tied into producing something to my highest potential and being proud of what has been output.

V: To me success means doing the right things for the right reasons, but most importantly, growth…that is what makes me feel good at the end of the day. Money is not in my definition because to me money is only one of the products of living a successful life, not the measure or sole definition.

How important have “good people” (partners and employees) been to the success of the company?

A: I would be nothing today without the support I have from the good people I have been blessed with in my life. The foundation of B. Vika is a perfect example of a long standing friendship turning into a successful venture. It is through the pillars of support Valerie and I have around us that we have been able to get through any obstacles that have come our way thus far.

V: Having amazing people in our close network of friends and family has led us to where we are in our business today. It would have been absolutely impossible for us to have grown at the rate we have within a year and a half of beginning this venture. So to fully answer your question, it is crucially important! Ambika and I have always been friends, but only recently business partners, and it is very important that communication and collaboration are constant in a healthy business relationship.

Fashion is a competitive industry, what makes your company unique?

A&V: B. Vika and our Maroc Mor line, represent a quintessential blend of chic, contemporary & urban, coupled with classic heritage. We are set apart due to this exotic blend of styles and culture. The fact that we have taken ethnic elements of clothing and embedded them within a Western perspective is something we have never seen before. This type of juxtaposition is what we feel today’s woman absolutely needs.

What is the most important piece of information you want to convey to your audience?

A&V: We want our audience to embrace their diversity and to love the differences within each other. We want the B.Vika consumer to be proud of where they come from and who they are. We want our clientele to be strong and love their individuality.

In marketing the clothing company, what has worked best for you?

A&V: Establishing an online presence was extremely important to us. We have attempted to saturate the Internet by utilizing marketing efforts, social networking sites and ad campaigns to get our name in the market. We have also called upon our support systems, i.e. the good people we keep around us, to assist us through word-of-mouth marketing.

Jeff Bezos once said that "If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful." What are your thoughts on that quote?

A&V: We could not agree more. The current success B. Vika has established has been primarily through our word-of-mouth advertising. We have established rapports with quite a few consumers who avidly market our line to their extended networks even better than we possibly could. Our consumer’s satisfaction and excitement assist us in establishing credibility to new potential clients’ right from the start. We have been fortunate enough to create a buzz on our line through this method of marketing.

Donald Trump once said “Confidence can get you where you want to go, and getting there is a daily process. It’s so much easier when you feel good about yourself, your abilities and talents.” What are your thoughts on that quote?

A&V: Without confidence, it is impossible for an entrepreneur to succeed. One must stand by what they do and be proud of what they have produced in order to even think about moving forward. Confidence in a vision is what allowed the establishment of B. Vika and will hopefully allow for our continued success in the future.

Charles Schwab once said that "The man who does not work for the love of work but only for money is not likely to make money nor find much fun in life." What are your thoughts on that quote?

A&V: While money is definitely important, it is the satisfaction of what one does that enables success. It is through this success that allows for fun and fuels the love for work.

Excluding yours, what business or company do you admire?

A&V: Louis Vuitton: they have created a brand that is timeless.

What advice would you give an entrepreneur, in your field, who is just starting out?

A&V: Hard work DOES pay off! Each step takes you closer to your goal and don’t give up when obstacles come! Furthermore, being organized and paying attention to details always pay off in the long run!

Company Description:

B.Vika is a combination of the names of both founders, AmbiKa Sanjana and Valerie Mamane, coupled with Swahili and Latin meaning. Furthermore, the name of B. Vika’s first collection, Maroc Mor, is a permutation of both of their native languages. Maroc, meaning Morocco in French, and Mor, peacock in Hindi.

The driving inspiration behind the line is all women of culture, a diverse representation of what women can identify with in today's society. They are both first generation US residents and have used this line to blend their international heritages.

B.Vika’s F/W 2010 Maroc Mor Collection is inspired by the peacock and its considerable symbolism as the two peacocks facing each other stand for unity and amity, both representing the longevity of AmbiKa and Valerie’s friendship. The essence of the peacock’s symbolism, along with the work of art represented in each garment, is intended to make every woman feel confident and proud of her femininity and individuality.



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