Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Jose Padgett.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
ZINDAGI started after love took me to India for the first time in 2014. I was truly captivated by everything, its people, its culture, and its fashion. My ex-boyfriend’s mom is a former Indian supermodel and now a fashion designer, and she took me to my very first fashion week (it was Bridal Fashion Week and it was AMAZING) where I fell in love with the intricacies of Indian fashion and everything it represents. A couple of days later, I went to a market in Delhi and bought my very first pair of jhumkis (a traditional earring style). I truly can’t explain how excited I was to see those earrings, I had never seen anything like it in my native country, Honduras or here in the US. These jhumkis were all handcrafted, with hand-painted details, that to me, was the most valuable part of it all. I was encouraged to bring some pieces back to the US and Honduras and try to sell them to make some extra money while I was in college. I really liked the idea, yet knew I didn’t just want to sell pretty, exotic pieces, I wanted to create a brand. I’d be lying if I said that where I am now is exactly how I envisioned the brand to evolve to because I really never thought about, I just knew I was enjoying and loving what I was creating. It’s all been very organic. The word Zindagi means “life,” and I first heard it from the Bollywood movie title Zindagi na Milegi Dobara which means “life doesn’t repeat itself.” It was so perfect, because it’s the motto I live by, and all the pieces are one of a kind – there are no repeats. Over time, I immersed myself in the rich history, designs, and production process of Indian jewelry, and last year, I launched my first jewelry collection, as well as my first apparel line.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Oh gosh, no. It has not been a smooth road, but it hasn’t been a rough one either. I would say it’s been an adventurous one.
Thinking back on what my struggles have been, one of them has been triggered by my creative side. There were and are SO many things I want to create, and I really have to train my brain to focus and say “no, not right now, let’s keep working on what you’ve designed and perfected it.” I remember changing my branding so many times because I wanted to incorporate many aspects of my life into it, but it was such a challenge because my life has been, I would say a crazy ride. Until February of this year, I got the branding how I wanted it (mind you I started ZINDAGI in August 2014). One other struggle has been managing the brand and marketing it in two countries and cultures (Honduras and the US) and expanding to other countries in Latin America and Europe. Being born and raised in Honduras, obviously takes me back home where I want to educate people about the beautiful Indian culture and its craftsmanship, but I am also in the US, which is a whole other game, and well, I don’t want to stop in those two countries. 🙂
I would advise other women to not be scared to try new things or visit new places. Many people are surprised that I travel to India by myself, and, don’t get me wrong, I am aware of the risks, but I am confident that I am where I am supposed to be, and if God has wanted me here, what could happen? It’s also very important not just to land somewhere exotic, but actually immerse yourself in the culture, and get to really know the people. Traveling teaches us so many things (good and bad) about ourselves, and it helps us define our style, our likes, and dislikes, our goals, and it also opens many many doors. The other advice is to not let people get to you. I think it is very important to expect competition, copycats and those who will not be supportive, but use that as an encouragement to move forward. I have been told many times that when people are talking, it means you are doing something right.
What should we know about ZINDAGI? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am in fashion, I source and design jewelry, as well as apparel in India. Everything is handmade by talented artisans of this exotic country (I’m currently in India). I believe I am most known for my jewelry, but I am starting to be known for my apparel, which I am really excited about.
I am most proud of the vibe that our brand and products portray. It’s been so incredible to receive random messages from followers who thank me for being positive and being a light, which to me is huge! Knowing my brand inspires people is something I am truly proud of. Another thing I am also proud of, which I think sets me apart as well, is the relationships I have built throughout this journey. That truly is what makes ZINDAGI have Zindagi (life). Customers come in and spend an average of 2 hours with us, we start talking about jewelry and we end up, sometimes, in tears of joy sharing life stories, and I think that is what being a brand is about, being human and raw and sharing. Education is another thing that sets me apart from others. Fashion may be perceived by some to be vain and empty, but it’s an industry with a lot of power and I have taken upon me to educate people about India and it’s culture, as well as Honduran culture, through me as its ambassador, to whoever I meet. It’s been so amazing talking to people about how a certain piece is made, what it involves, and that, I believe, teaches and sparks appreciation for culture and craft. I believe sharing knowledge is one of the most beautiful things anyone could do.
Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
I am just going to spill out what I tell myself:
KEEP GOING! Nowadays, we hear about so many people who want to start their own business, some do and succeed, some do and fail. I think the key to not fail is to keep going. It is so cliche, but once you’ve started, you realize you cannot stop even though everything feels like it’s going wrong. Another point, many times things will go wrong and get tough and they won’t be as smooth as you’d hope, but you hustle and work hard to get over it. Be aware that being an entrepreneur does have its benefits, but it is a lot of hard work and sometimes sleepless nights and sacrifices. Lastly, I think the most important thing I tell to myself is Proverbs 16: 3: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
- Website: shopzindagi.com
- Phone: +1214-326-4056
- Email: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: officialzindagi
Paolo Linares @pao_film, Jarin Dominguez @jarindominguez, Val Schnack @missvalschnack