Saskatoon·CBC Future 40

From IBM to a clothing startup: Sneha Chakraborty has vision of cutting fabric waste

Sneha Chakraborty went from working for IBM to running two successful Saskatoon businesses — all thanks to a little spark.

Saskatoon business owner and instructor brought Indian fashion and dance to her new home in Canada

Sneha Chakraborty's Saskatoon store, Colors of India, imports all of its items and packaging from India. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

There's a spark that drives Sneha Chakraborty in everything she does.

That's what the Saskatoon entrepreneur and mother says has helped her create two successful businesses in the five years since she came to Canada.

Chakraborty said she grew up in the IT hub of India. She had an engineering degree in computer science, and worked with a software company before moving on to IBM.

But then, she wanted to do something different.

"Somehow, I wanted to be an entrepreneur and then started working in little startups."

She spent the next two and a half years doing so, until her parents told her it was time to get married.

Building a new life

Chakraborty had an arranged marriage, and the man she was marrying had gone to school in Canada and was still living here.

As she was busy working with her startups, Chakraborty said she didn't have a lot of time to research the place that would be her new home — Saskatoon.

Dancing gives you a lot of happiness.- Sneha Chakraborty

After they were officially married, Chakraborty made the move to Saskatoon with her husband.

His job meant he travelled a lot, Chakraborty said. With no family and friends around, she said she was often left alone.

But Chakraborty had also been a dancer in India and soon found herself on stage in her new home. She specializes in two ancient dance forms, Mohiniattam and Kathakali.

"Dancing gives you a lot of happiness … it's just like meditation or practising your religion. It's as good as that."

While Chakraborty said she never thought she'd end up dancing professionally, she was encouraged once she arrived in Canada to start giving lessons.

Sneha Chakraborty specializes in two ancient Indian dance forms, Mohiniattam and Kathakali. (Mundra School of Performing Arts/Facebook)

With the support of her husband, Chakraborty set up a studio. Together, they fixed up a space in which she could give dance lessons — setting a foundation for the Mudra School of Performing Arts and her relationship with her husband.

They would continue working together as Chakraborty started saving the money she earned from her dance lessons to open a clothing store to sell fashions from India.

"These two things actually played a very good role in putting us together on the same path. So I consider this as a building block of our relationship, because we worked together."

Sneha Chakraborty said she never thought she'd end up dancing professionally. Now, she runs the Mudra School of Performing Arts. (Submitted by Sneha Chakraborty)

A vision of fashion

It took some time for Chakraborty to build up a base of students at her dance school. She would seek them out on social media but sometimes, Chakraborty said, no one would show up.

But she said nothing stopped her from trying.

"Even if there was one kid … I never cancelled any class."

Slowly, the money Chakraborty was putting away in an envelope started adding up, and she had enough to open her store, Colors of India.

Clothing is for everybody. Fashion is for everyone.- Sneha Chakraborty

The little investment, Chakraborty said, has turned into a big store.

Now Chakraborty has a new vision — to help people cut fabric waste and use more biodegradable fabrics.

Chakraborty said she hopes to bring more of that to her own store with Indo-Western fashion. It may not be easy though, she said. First, she has to create awareness, which includes encouraging people to wear more colours.

"Clothing is for everybody. Fashion is for everyone. That's my vision."

Sneha Chakraborty opened her first clothing store on Avenue B before moving to a bigger location on Second Avenue N. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

Motivated by Future 40

Along with her store and dance studio, Chakraborty is now a mother too. Her daughter was just 20 days old when she learned she was a CBC Future 40 recipient.

She said hearing the news motivated her to get back to work.

"Once I heard about it, I was like, you know what? People know I have it in me."

Nominations are now open for a new round of CBC Future 40, which will recognize 40 people in Saskatchewan under the age of 40 who are doing extraordinary work. Chakraborty said it's important to recognize people who have a vision, to make sure others know about it.

"You just start thinking differently when you get this kind of encouragement. For people like us, you guys are just a spark."

Sneha Chakraborty, second from left, was recognized in 2016 at the Newcomer Entrepreneur of the Year Awards under the startup category. (Submitted by Sneha Chakraborty)

About the Author

After spending five years in radio, Courtney Markewich joined CBC Saskatoon in 2016. She is currently a Social Media News Editor/Presenter for @CBCSask and @CBCSaskatoon.