Looking Beyond the Meaning of “Fashion”

BHGAP alumna Isha Aggarwal creates her own startup that merges fashion and fabric innovation

You heard it here first! When we purchase our clothing, towels, blankets, et cetera, we typically only consider the look and feel. As consumers, we forget that these products are touching our skin 24/7. We forget that we should also be considering the fabric’s impact on our skin when making a purchase.

Well, Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Global Access Program graduate Isha Aggarwal wants you to remember that fine point. She has designed products that are not only chic, but functionable.

“My goal is to produce fabrics that benefit the body and are skin-friendly,” she states. “Clothing should be sustainable and a utility.”

Years in the making, Isha’s entrepreneurial idea of human-friendly fabrics has come to fruition. Now the Managing Director of Svante Group, Isha has developed a line of clothing and household fabrics that could revolutionize the textile industry.

Where It All Began

Before even considering starting her own business, Isha was a textile engineer student at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, India. There, she completed her bachelor’s degree and continued on to receive her master’s degree.

Her studies confirmed a love for not only the fashion world, but also the back-end of it all—fabric innovation. And so her career began.

In the summer of 2018, Isha was hired as a business developer for design firm Shivan & Narresh. She was responsible for product strategy, analyzing market trends and handling promotional events. While gaining profound work experience, Isha craved a new adventure: learning more about the entrepreneurship world.

Having already earned a master’s degree, Isha was looking for a short-term program that could really make a difference in her career. Her research brought her to learn more about our Berkeley Haas Global Access Program for entrepreneurship.

“The University of California, Berkeley, was a college that I was always drawn to,” Isha remembers. “I knew it was one of the best universities in the world and I hoped I could one day be a part of.”

After reviewing the curriculum and reading about our alumni, she thought this could be an experience of a lifetime. In the fall of 2019, she was accepted into the program and made the long journey from New Delhi, India, to our Berkeley campus.

Becoming a True “Berkeleyan”

From day one, Isha knew she made the right decision.

“I had courses with students from Europe, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and more,” she recounts. “I enjoyed hearing their different perspectives and mindsets. Everyone's views varied greatly, and the professors were open to having these discussions.”

Throughout her year-long stay, Isha hand-selected electives that most interested her, including classes that covered pricing products, new venture finance, marketing and innovation strategies. Although these areas were so different, they all were beneficial to her future career at Svante Group.

Although much of Isha’s time was happily spent in the classroom, on the weekends she was sure to explore all of what California has to offer. Day trips to the Golden Gate Bridge, Grizzly Peak and the unique Berkeley restaurants inundated her weekend calendar. She even visited San Francisco lookout point Twin Peaks more than 20 times!

Not content to just visit local destinations, Isha made sure to schedule time to explore other well-known California cities such as Napa, Lake Tahoe and Mendocino.

“I loved how California has so many unique places to visit nearby. I could drive from the beach to the mountains to the wine country all in one day!” Isha says with a laugh.

Site Visits Are Key

While each class afforded Isha with a deeper view into the entrepreneurship world, it was the various program site visits that made an even bigger impression. She had the opportunity to tour and meet employees from companies such as Airbnb, Apple and even Google. Isha loved seeing what a career at world-renowned businesses was like.

But when visiting Gore Innovation Center and Uber, she experienced a key concept of what makes Silicon Valley tick—networking.

At the Uber site visit, Isha met a chemical engineer employee, Amrit Sinha. They discussed resources to use when building a startup, including the value of Linkedin, a major social-networking tool used in Silicon Valley.

Even Isha’s BHGAP career coach, Heidi Weller says, “Use Linkedin as a tool in your career. You will have the world to answer any questions you may have. People are open to helping others in their career.”

Now friends with Amrit on Linkedin, she still asks him questions and receives great insight today!

Questioning the Status Quo

Even outside of the classroom, Isha made the effort to connect with her professors and receive their input. Professor Kurt Beyer especially took an interest in her business idea. A few hours a week, they brainstormed together about first steps in beginning her startup.

“If it wasn’t for BHGAP, I would never have had the confidence to start my own company,” Isha shares. After one academic year in BHGAP, she took her newfound knowledge back to her home country. She was ready to take the jump and start her journey in developing healthy fabrics.

Back in India, the student has become the teacher. Isha is now managing four hardworking Svante employees. She took both Heidi and Amrit's advice and found her team entirely through Linkedin!

“I truly believe in my company. I think that is what is important when leading my team,” she shares. “If I can show confidence in Svante, then they will believe in its future success, as well.”

Only a few months into launching her business, Isha has received her first funding and has made countless connections in the industry. Gaining confidence by taking part in this innovative program truly shows that you can follow your dream.

Now when you go shopping, make sure you think twice when choosing your products!