Yosha Gupta’s life came full circle when she founded Meraki, her luxury handbag company. Gupta, 35, grew up watching her mother create art using lumps of charcoal, as charcoal drawing pencils weren’t available in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, where they lived. Her mother’s talent inspired a lifelong love of art in Gupta, though her own career path led her to found LafaLafa, an online cashback and coupon business based in India. But she became a patron of Indian folk artists, collecting their work and helping bring Indian performers abroad after she moved to Hong Kong. Gupta even commissioned Indian artists to embellish her personal stash of designer handbags with folk paintings, unwittingly planting the seeds of her next business.
One Gucci handbag drew attention from Gupta’s peers in Hong Kong, some of whom thought it was a limited-edition release from the world-renowned fashion house. Seeing an opportunity, she released a test line of 40 hand-painted bags, which sold out in weeks. For the initial line, Gupta commissioned artists to paint existing leather bags so she could test which styles and types of leather looked best with the artwork and which designs customers preferred.
After that initial success, Meraki launched in late 2016 with Gupta at the helm. Her mother joined to assist with designing the brand’s collections and coordinating the more-than-50 artists with whom Meraki now works, giving her a later-in-life opportunity to build a career around her love of art. The average bag costs $250 to $350, wallets $150. Gupta estimates that the company has sold 100 to 120 bags since it became operational, earning revenue of $35,000 to $40,000 in its first six months.