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Community Highlights: Meet Roma Ilkiw of BoutiqueByMariam

Today we’d like to introduce you to Roma Ilkiw.

Hi Roma, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
When India closed its borders due to COVID 19, the tourism industry disappeared overnight and, with it, the handicraft industry. I had some prior connections to a third generation embroidery house that makes exquisite hand embroidered handbags, keepsake boxes, tapestries in the zardozi tradition.. Zardozi is a multidimensional embroidery art form that uses primarily glittery metallic threads to create an opulent, dazzling 3D effect. It flourished in India at the time of the building of the Taj Mahal, 400 years ago, under royal patronage.

When I heard that these incredibly talented embroiderers, most with over 20 years of embroidery experience, were having to work in shoe factories or sell vegetables in the street to survive, when I heard that this historic embroidery house might close, I had to do something. For if you lose one generation of artisans, you risk losing the entire art form. For who is there to teach the next generation?

The embroiderers said Send us work. So I sent them work. I was happy that they were back at the work they so love and that they could support their families. . But what was I to do with all these purses?????

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
If the world could not go to India, then India must go to the world. I created a website for the embroidery house which provides them market diversification and financial stability. www.BoutiqueByMariam.com I became a wholesaler, attending wholesale markets in Dallas, Atlanta, Las Vegas. So proud that our handbags and boxes are featured in the gift shop of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, in the gift shops of many estate homes and museums and in fine boutiques across the US.

I don’t have a business background. I am a retired physician. I knew nothing about websites, taking photos, social media, ecommerce advertising, SEO….in fact, I didn’t even have a Facebook page until a few years ago! I watched a lot of you tube videos, attended endless webinars, listened to podcasts while out walking.

However, one needs a mentor in order to grow in a sustained and linear way, to create a sustainable short and long term plan for growth, to encourage you when you get stuck. Where to find one? At the University of Houston Small Business development Center UH SBDC – University of Houston http://www.sbdc.uh.edu They have been an incredible source of support and information.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Running an e-commerce site means sitting for hours in front of a computer. I was not used to this. I like personal interaction and feedback, so the markets offer me a pleasant respite from the computer.

In medicine, we do not recommend anything until it is 100% vetted, studied, has verified and published long term results. Ecommerce is different in that it is a rapidly evolving field, new websites, new services pop up all the time, there are many ways of doing the same thing, and most of it is made up as you go along. Even experts do not give you the same answer to a question. And no one knows the Google algorithm. This made me very uncomfortable at first, but I got used to it.

Also, in e-commerce, you must try 10 things, of which 5 won’t work, 3 will work so so, and 2 will work great. This took getting used to. In medicine, there is no room for trying or failing.

But I also love the creative aspect of new design development.

Any big plans?
BoutiqueByMariam has been compared to Maison Lesage, the most prestigious of the Parisian Haute Couture embroidery ateliers.

Our handbags are a masterpiece of artistry and craftsmanship. Our products are exquisite. We have the talent. Our dreams and goals are big.

And it all started very simply….. with my mantra “If I sell one handbag, then they will make one more handbag, and the artisans and their families will not go hungry.”

All proceeds from the sale of the handbags and boxes go to the artisans. We are meeting their needs. With your help, we can ensure that their children all go to school. And you will receive their blessings and thanks.

Contact Info:

  • Email: roma@boutiquebymariam.com
  • Website: www.BoutiqueByMariam.com
  • Instagram: @boutiquebymariam_
  • Facebook: BoutiqueByMariam


Image Credits

Roma Ilkiw

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