This month we spoke to Bhavana Jain, who is the founder and lead designer of Chicago based contemporary clothing brand, BHAV. By day Bhavana is a practicing clinical pharmacist at a hospital in Chicago. We caught up with Bhavana to find out how she manages her day job alongside her clothing brand and she shares some tips on creating your own brand!
What made you decide to set up your own clothing brand?
To introduce myself, my name is Bhavana Jain, CEO and lead designer of BHAV. I’m a clinical pharmacist by profession and am still currently working part-time at a local hospital outside of Chicago. I come from a family of healthcare workers, so it was natural that I too wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father who is a physician. Growing up in a South Asian family, it was stressed upon us to choose a career path that was a stable profession.
On the flip side, however, I had a love of art and design growing up and this passion was always a part of me. I loved drawing, crafts, painting, and anything related to art. When it came to choosing a career, I entered college majoring in biology. I was eventually admitted into pharmacy school and after graduating from the program, I was all set to start my career. It wasn’t until a few years into my pharmacy career that I felt like something was missing in life. I was looking for a creative outlet, something that was always with me as a child. I decided to enroll in the fashion design program at a local college. I started out exploring it as a hobby and didn’t really know at that time if it would turn into something more. As I continued on into the program, I found myself fascinated learning about the fundamentals of fashion design. I started to realize that my skills were becoming stronger and a few years into the program I decided to prepare the launch of my own womenswear line.
It was finally in March 2018 (three years after I started the process of putting my business together) that I launched my debut line of BhavyJ Designs. I released two lines under that label and the design aesthetic was versatile and transitional workwear. Last year when it came time to decide what changes I wanted to make to the brand I decided that I wanted to incorporate more of my South Asian heritage into my design aesthetic. I felt this would represent more of my identity in the designs. I had also not seen many South Asian designers creating fusion-like pieces (incorporating South Asian elements with western silhouettes) that would appeal to all women and not just South Asian women. It was at that time that Bhavy-J Designs transitioned into BHAV. We will be launching our second collection and have debuted a new housewares line as well!
How do you manage your time between designing for ShopBhav and your job as a Pharmacist?
Juggling the two careers is definitely challenging at times. I work part-time in pharmacy now and 24/7 on my business. I feel so blessed to be part of the healthcare industry, especially in the time of COVID because I was able to do my part in helping those in need that were affected by the sickness. And when I was away from my pharmacy job, I focus my time on growing my business as that needs time and effort as well.
The thing that helps me the most is having a daily planner to keep me on track. I can look at my weeks and plan them out accordingly. If I need to sass up my planner, I write motivational quotes in it so I can use them as daily reminders to keep on going! It’s always important to also take time out for self-care because it is very easy to get burned out mentally and physically with two careers. That gets budgeted in as “me” time.
What has been key to growing your clothing brand?
The key to growing BHAV has really been creating connections and networking with all people in the fashion and entrepreneurial space. Reaching out to people who have platforms to share the journey of BHAV has been so helpful because I can introduce my brand to a new audience. In addition, we work with local stylists in Chicago to help us capture a customer base that I otherwise would not be able to reach. Many of these stylists love working and supporting small independent designers. Finally, the power of social media has really propelled BHAV in terms of sales and marketing the brand. We have been able to make so many meaningful connections with influencers and brand owners which has led us to wonderful collaborations. All of these combined have and will help BHAV grow even larger in the future.
What top tips would you give to those looking to set up their own clothing brand?
I truly believe it’s a wonderful time to grow or launch an idea that may be brewing within you. We live in a world where you can turn any idea into a business, or an organization. The age of social media has allowed us to see so many possibilities and connect with a countless number of people in the same space. With all that being said, it can be a daunting and overwhelming situation. I think there are certain things that one should consider before entering into a career in entrepreneurship or setting up their own clothing brand for that matter.
First, it’s important to not overlook the financial aspect of starting a business. It is crucial to have some sort of business plan in place. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated but it should address what your estimated startup costs will be and where those funds will come from. Without a realistic approach to starting a business, you may run into problems later.
Secondly, think about if there is a deficiency in the fashion market. Is there something you are not seeing that you or the audience you are designing for wants? In many cases, you will be more successful if you can find that niche that you can provide for.
Lastly, you should go into entrepreneurship knowing how to embrace failure instead of looking at it as a negative thing. Go into it knowing that you will fail many times and it’s ok. It may sound a little harsh, but if you don’t learn from the challenges you won’t grow as a person or a brand.
Overall, it is always important to be true and authentic to yourself no matter what you do in life. I truly believe we all have different paths in life and we may start out with one thing and end up doing something else we never even imagined. But I think that stems back to the many experiences in life we will go through and relationships we cultivate along the way. Personally, for me, I always had a true gift in art but also had a desire to help others through a career in healthcare. But as time went on, as I was working in Pharmacy, I on my own realized what my true calling was, and that was expressing a part of me through the art of fashion design. I think it’s important to not ignore what your true passion is in life. I believe that you will always be successful in the things that you are truly good at because you don’t look at it as a job, but something that brings happiness.
How do you stay motivated to keep doing what you do?
As an entrepreneur, it is common to always be on a roller coaster of emotions. There are times where you are so productive and you feel so good about yourself, and other times where you feel dejected and a failure. You have to stay positive and know that there will be success if you put your time and effort into it.
To keep myself motivated I think about all the wonderful people that I have met along the way and who have supported me through this journey. Whether they are customers, family, and friends, other brand owners, they believe in the BHAV mission and have made BHAV grow in ways I could never imagine. It brings me such joy when I can share my journey with someone or inspire them to pursue whatever dream they may have.
What is your sassy life saying?
My sassy life saying is… “World…bring it on because I’m ready to show everyone who I am!!”
Bhavana Jain is the Founder/Lead Designer of BHAV and a practicing clinical pharmacist at a hospital in Chicago.
BHAV has contemporary pieces that fit the daily lives of real, modern women – whether you’re headed to the office, brunch, date night, or just hanging with your girlfriends. Jain’s inspiration for the brand comes from everyday women who have found their own unique ways to incorporate their multicultural identities into their lives!