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NEWS > Emerging Talent Award recipient > Priya Velusami (LEH 1990-1997)

Priya Velusami (LEH 1990-1997)

Clothes designer Priya Velusami used her Award to develop a website and expand her product range for her new business selling colourful accessories and kids wear made from upcycled saris.

Entrepreneurship is a relatively new world to me, after working in retail for the last 20 years. However, earlier this year I made the big decision to leave employment and devote full time attention to my side hustle, Pri Pri. 

My business concept started many years ago, before LEH even, and comes from a love of textiles and dressmaking. One of my first sewing memories is from when I was 10 years old and Patti, my Indian grandma, taught me how to use a sewing machine. She started off my love of fabrics and sewing, and we would make up scrunchies and little baby aprons from her offcuts. She also is the one who instilled the zero waste values in me, ensuring we used up everything and made the most of existing resources. Mrs Angliss and Mrs Parkin were two teachers who helped develop this interest through school, with one of my GCSE Textiles projects all about upcycling ‘Rags to Riches’!

When my niece was born a few years ago, I decided to make her some partywear using my mum’s old saris. It seemed like the ideal way to give my niece comfortable but beautiful colourful unique partywear using a sustainable source. She received compliments and so I thought I would list a few dresses on the marketplace Etsy, and that has since evolved into my business.  

I now no longer do the dressmaking myself but have found a wonderful charity in India that makes up my designs. They help underprivileged women gain training in tailoring so they can be empowered to earn their own income after the training.

After years of the same challenges and goals in my previous job, I’ve been incredibly motivated this last year. I thoroughly enjoy building my purpose led business, learning new skills and also learning more about the impact of the fashion and textile industry on people and the planet. Having always worked for a large retailer, I’m aware how difficult it can be for bigger organisations to truly know every step of their supply chain. As much as they need and may want to act sustainably and ethically, it isn’t always easy. Being a small business, you can have the advantage that you can often be closer to the origin and story of every purchase.

Receiving the Emerging Talent award has helped me to create my own website and expand my product range to include bags, bunting and baby muslins. This gave me confidence to think about the business as a real brand, one that was no longer just a hobby. I have since gained press coverage in national newspapers, radio interviews, podcasts and have climbed a steep learning curve in digital marketing. I have also been selected one of 100 small businesses from across the UK to mark the official count down to this year’s Small Business Saturday UK on 4 December, creating a Gift Guide to some of Wimbledon’s best small and sustainable businesses as a result!

I feel very lucky to be able to pursue a childhood passion, but also help reduce waste and help to empower women. Thanks to LEH for helping me on this journey!

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