Experienced entrepreneurs Sam and Preeti Sharma have navigated upending crises before.
Their upscale Indian restaurant, Indian Summer, in Monterey, was humming on the back of Silicon Valley’s boom when the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks halted travel. When the financial markets crashed in 2008, the Sharmas were unsure whether their first fabric and decor business, Divine Designs, would survive. In both cases, the Sharmas switched gears and the businesses exited the calamity better than they entered.
“We learned and adapted and that’s what we’re having to do now,” Sam says.
This time, the married couple is taking on a new challenge: starting a business mid-crisis. After selling Divine Designs in 2018 and attempting a semi-retired life, the Sharmas are back in the interior design world with California Shadez, a Marina-based fabric company focused on drapes, pillows and bedding. They have an offering for any budget, from simple cottons to hand-woven silks, all produced or sourced from their family factory in India. Sam and Preeti spoke to the Weekly about the business.
Weekly: It sounds like you both attempted to retire but craved another challenge.
Sam Sharma: We tried but once you’re a busybody, you can’t just sit around. Our minds are always working like entrepreneurs. “What’s next? What to do next?”
Preeti, you learned the power of drapes through your mother, right?
Preeti Sharma: My father is a retired Brigadier General from the Indian Army. We used to move around a lot. Every few years, we would get a new house, and my mom knew quickly how to make a house feel like a home just by virtue of having a few pillows here, carpet, rugs and drapes there.
I was always interested in that. When we bought a home, I wanted to get some really nice drapes so I called my mom in India, gave her colors and measurements. We had a neighbor over for dinner who saw the drapes and asked if we could do his and I said, “I think I can.” I sat down with Sam and was like, “You know what, I think there is a need.”
Do you have a personal design philosophy for your own home and office?
Preeti: I’ve studied feng shui for 25 years. It’s all about energies and getting Mother Nature into your home. Offices, homes, restaurants, businesses can all benefit.
The first thing I tell everybody is to be mindful of clutter. Clutter is the number-one thing that really brings down energies. If laundry or dishes are piling up, or you bring home groceries, put them away immediately. Clutter will not let you take care of things and you won’t be able to achieve anything.
What led you to start a new business while the world and economy were on their heads?
Preeti: When we saw there was so much suffering happening, we were like, we’ve got to do something more than just do a job. We started thinking, “What do we do the best?”
We started seeing so many new homes built in Marina and Seaside, but the store options for decor were the same as 10 years ago. We realized homeowners didn’t have too many options. Maybe, being part of the community, it would be a great idea for us to offer this. We need to help each other out. We know the [business]. We’ve traveled the world, we know what works, so let’s bring that knowledge. Let’s bring that love. Let’s bring that design philosophy at an affordable price. We’ll help them and that will help us. It’ll keep me going creatively, it will keep Sam out of trouble and keep our people in India working.
Why drapes and fabrics? What is their importance in a home?
Preeti: It’s like the jewelry to your room. I believe it’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways to change your decor – paint, pillows and drapes.
People are going to understand this now more than ever before: Homes need to look beautiful. What are we working for? We are working for a beautiful space, for a beautiful family. A drape frames the windows, it adds some color or feeling. It’s expensive to break down walls to change your home or get new furniture, but drapes, pillows and bedding are easy ways to uplift the energies.