I’ve been running Collectivitea for a little over a year now, and if there’s been one big lesson I’ve learned, it’s that running a business quickly becomes a way of life. It’s like adding a new member to your family- you love and worry about it passionately and you work to create a bright future for it. You also want the business to be about more than the products you offer- about storytelling and building a community. Even before I started a business, I’ve alway thought that one of these days I’d like to have a physical space that celebrates arts and crafts from around the world, and has a little tea café where we have book signings, poetry readings and talk about all that is beautiful and creative. Which brings us to today’s story of Khazana, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based store that offers arts, crafts, jewelry and textiles from around the world. They also host events, talks (Tea & Textiles, anyone?) and recently started leading travel tours. Founder and owner Anju Kataria tells us how she started Khazana.
CTEA: What is Khazana about? What kind of products do you offer and why those specifically?
AK: “Khazana is about beauty. Beauty is not only found in the objects themselves, but also the stories that each object holds. Everything you see in the shop has a story, a personal connection – the story of our travels, the artists we connect with, and the friendships we make along the way. Khazana is also about me. I have loved textiles since I was a child. I would gather beautiful things and think to myself, “Someday.” Khazana is my “someday.” It began from my personal collection and grew from there. And as the shop grew, I grew both in knowledge and in experience.”
“Khazana is also about community, connection, and education. We have cultivated what really is a platform for people and organizations that share the same values to come together. Whether it is working with Ragamala Dance company and other local organizations, overseas partners, hosting trunk shows that feature independent artisans, sharing almost daily conversations over tea, or the connection we make with every guest that walks through our doors, we couldn’t be what we are without connection to our community.
Khazana sells handmade objects, art, jewelry, textiles, and home goods primarily from India and Southeast Asia, but really from wherever our travels take us. We have Shipibo pieces from the Ucayali region of the Amazon; handwoven baskets from Oaxaca, Mexico; and Dreamweaver’s ikat from the T’boli tribe of the Philippines. Every piece in Khazana has a story. The story of the where it was made, the hands that made it, the minds that conceived it, the passion and history that inspired it, and how it came to Minneapolis. We work directly with the artisans and choose our pieces with them in mind. We prioritize fair and supportive partnerships with the craftspeople and want to see them grow with us.
In addition to offering beautiful objects, art, jewelery, and textiles, just this year, 2016, we brought our first group of adventurous travellers to India. This group had a chance to experience India as we see it – as a country full of diverse cultures, deep and meaningful traditions, and a vast world of art. So, now we offer beautiful experiences as well.”
CTEA: As entrepreneurs, what are some of the triumphs and challenges that you have faced in running your business? What is one piece of advice that you would give someone who is starting out?
AK: “Khazana is a story of entrepreneurship, tenacity, passion, and love. I opened Khazana in 1982 with my personal collection and brought to where it is today. It has supported my family for decades, put my sons through graduate school, and has grown into a fun and much-loved business that not only helps support my little Khazana family in Minneapolis, but also artisans overseas. Khazana also has given my children a connection to their culture and a deep insight into their heritage. The kids were fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading musicians, artisans, and scholars who have walked through Khazana’s doors. Throughout the years, we have seen both ups and downs. We have been forced out of numerous locations as bigger corporations came to Downtown Minneapolis. We have experienced theft, armed robbery, and health crises.
I used every downturn to create new opportunities for Khazana and its ever increasing artisan community. We adjusted what we were carrying in the shop in response to the changing times, started having classes and artist trunk shows to reach a wider audience, and even added artisan tours to India with a “travel with family’ emphasis. The advice I would give to someone who is starting out is to be true to yourself, be strong, believe in your cause, and keep going. Do what you love. I walk into Khazana everyday and say to myself, “I love my shop.” I want everyone to have that feeling everyday they wake up. You will never want to quit and you will keep fighting to achieve your dreams.”
CTEA: What is your long term vision for Khazana? Where do you see it going and what do you want to accomplish?
AK: “I try to shine a light on, and build awareness among our customers and partner organizations about the hard work of the artisans we work with. I love providing a space for international artists to come and conduct lectures while selling their work, while also facilitating connections between them and the art institutions. Khazana is always growing. Right now, we are focusing on building better community collaboration through educational events and our trips to India. We have loved the expansion of our lecture series and have already learned so much from the participating artists and the community members who come ready to engage.”
“Khazana is a gallery and a shop, but, above all it is a place for connections, grounding, expanding our worldviews, and building community. I want artists, travelers, and our neighbors to use our space to grow their dreams and visions and use the network we have created as a springboard. We are better when we support each other. In order to foster these values, we have remained flexible, always open to new ideas and have started holding more classes in the store and working with organizations like the American Swedish Institute, Northern Clay Center, and the Textile Center to reach broader arts audiences in the Twin Cities.”- Anju Kataria
There is so much more to running a business than the products you offer, and I hope that sharing stories such as that of Khazana will inspire us all to build and connect. You can find Khazana on the web here to learn more about them, and if you are traveling to Minneapolis, definitely stop by! I know I am going to! – Priya
All images are courtesy of Khazana.
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