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Meraki Design House
Eman started Meraki Design House in 2018. They detail the beginnings of their company in their Starter Story interview: 
Q: How did you get started on Meraki Design House?
Basically, I’ve grown up a chubby kid for the most bit, and what that really meant was that I could never dress up like the “cool” kids did and never fit into anything that was “in” fashion. So an instinct I developed to counter this and I guess protect myself was to hunt for locally made clothes and accessories because that would automatically mean I am not gunning to follow any trends. Since I grew up in Asia, the “local” products always had an undertone of tradition and culture which elevated anything simple and basic into tasteful. In fact, my closet and my belongings have become an homage to all the places I have lived and traveled.
As I moved from the Philippines to Toronto, I did recognize that North American fashion and consumer culture is largely driven by mass-market brands that only offer basic and predominantly caucasian centric products with the assumption that all consumers would assimilate to a singular way of dressing and expressing themselves.
Furthermore, I also faced two different experiences where ordering products from Pakistan, India, and other Asian markets was a taxing (literally) process, and often brands would disappear into the abyss and when the package would eventually arrive, it would end up costing an arm and a leg more because of local regulations so my supply of interesting items was pretty much restricted and a difficult experience.
Secondly, when I spoke to non-south Asians, most were surprised I spoke English fluently or watched the same TV shows they grew up watching because the preconceived notion was that I would watch Bollywood, and clothes made in the subcontinent were limited to saris and shalwar kameez.
I have periods in the year where I would cold email e-commerce founders and ask them about things that have worked for them and things that haven’t. I think I’ve definitely been able to grow my network through doing that and would recommend it to everyone - especially because entrepreneurship is just so damn lonely.
I needed to change the experience of buying and I needed to change the perception of products that came out of South Asia. Most women, including myself, share a universal love for footwear, whether to admire, wear or collect and thus when random people would stop me on the street to ask me about my “Indian” looking shoes, I really wanted to have them know that these shoes were as good as any other shoes, except better because they were painstakingly made by hand using leather and incorporating the art of embroidery and beadwork- but most importantly, these shoes were designed for you to make them your own with their ability to mold to your feet.
When that entire realization came together, I just went for it. I knew there were many many people out there who would appreciate this as much as I did, and that’s where Meraki was born.
I had never worked retail in my life before this. I had no sales experience. No footwear or design experience. No digital marketing experience. I was right out of university and I knew nothing about anything to do with this. However, in hindsight, If I did know all the pieces, I do wonder if I would still do what I did. There is definitely some merit in embracing the unknown because you live the questions and then you live the answers. My dad helped me do a lot of the legwork like registrations, imports, costings, etc, however, it came down to me to actually sell the product.
A few years ago e-commerce was still relatively nascent and thus I just did not know how to sell online. How were people even meant to find me? So I spent almost every weekend for a few years just driving from town to town and attending pop-ups and markets. Picture a girl dragging suitcases in the snow to set up a table full of shoes. It was so hard. So hard. But had I not done that, I would have never learned how to sell, and more importantly never understood that my buyer is actually a lot different than whom I imagined it to be.
Putting in face time with customers allowed me to validate the idea and fine-tune the product, pricing, and sizing, it also helped me understand the practical FAQs to consistently improve the online shopping experience.
Contributors to this article:
- Pat Walls, Founder @ Starter Story
- Wiki Updater