International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. Marked annually on 8th March, on this day the world celebrates women’s achievements, raises awareness on women’s equality, and helps raise money for female-focused charities. It aims to impact positive change for women, gain worldwide awareness, and combat gender bias and discrimination. It’s no secret that the exceptional talent and hard work of women all over the country help shape the wedding sector into a successful and thriving industry.
With this year’s IWD campaign theme #CHOOSETOCHALLENGE, I stand with my fellow female entrepreneurs in the UK Asian Wedding industry, breaking barriers, challenging gender stereotypes, and proving that our talent, hard work, and determination continue to push the boundaries for Asian weddings all over the world.
Let’s Take A Look At Some Talented And Inspiring Women In The UK Asian Wedding Industry-
1. Deepa Shukle, Deepa Shukle Photography
With generations of creativity in the blood and a background in fashion and commercial photography, Deepa challenged the industry stereotype and set up as one of the only UK female Asian wedding photographers of her time. Graduating with a degree in Graphic Design, Deepa pursued a successful career as a fashion and commercial photographer for several years before photographing her first wedding in 2012. She shares, “Having worked tirelessly for other companies whilst balancing the rapid growth of the wedding photography business, after 6 years I knew it was time to take Deepa Shukle Photography to the next level. Leaving full-time work gave me the time and energy to scale the business and focus on every one of my amazing clients. “
The industry was heavily male-dominated, and being a female in this space brought a unique edge to what Deepa had to offer. The emotion, eye for detail, and the ability to see the day through the brides’ eyes have meant that Deepa can capture weddings in a way that is unique and special for her couples.
“It was definitely intimidating entering the industry as a young female. It took me a few years to embrace being a woman in this space but eventually, I had brides who would come to me specifically for my feminine touch. They were looking for someone who could relate to them emotionally and understand the importance of, not only what they were going through, but also of all the details they have obsessed over for months or years ahead of their wedding day. My brides tend to become good friends of mine, and so being able to relate and connect with them is extremely important to me, and I find this is what sets me apart from the sea of other photographers in the Asian wedding industry.”
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “There is a lot I could say here, I have made many mistakes over the years but I’ve definitely learned from every single one of them. Don’t be afraid to fail, the fear of failure is what holds most of us back from being or creating something truly special. Write down your goals and become obsessed with them. Don’t compete or compare, but learn from those who are successful in the space you want to dominate. Be relentless in the pursuit of your dreams and make sure those dreams are big enough to scare you!”
2. Ambreen Ahmed, Ambreen Make-up Artist
Starting her journey in make-up at the tender age of 19 whilst still studying, Ambreen grew her brand to become a household name in the UK wedding industry, with her work being featured on the covers of various publications and working with some of the most iconic designers in the world of fashion.
“I was very fond of makeup from a very young age, watching my elder sisters doing their makeup and also applying makeup on their friends for their weddings. I then decided to pursue a makeup course on the side at a college in the evenings to teach me the basics for TV, film, and for clients.”
Following this, Ambreen pursued her career at MAC Cosmetics as a retail make-up artist and decided it was time to put a pause on studying to embrace make-up artistry full time. This is where her real journey began. As the business expanded and the weddings became bigger and more elaborate, Ambreen built a team of artists to cover the demand which then led to the launch of her make-up courses.
Having had huge success in the wedding industry for over 15 years, Ambreen was approached by MAC to run a masterclass in various locations across the UK. This included venues such as Selfridges and Mac Pro, which then led to the collection collaboration ‘The Asian Bride by Ambreen’ at the iconic Harrods in London for MAC cosmetics.
“This has to be the biggest highlight so far. My journey started with them and to have this incredible collaboration with them will always be a huge milestone in my career. The collection was launched in over 20-30 stores across the UK along with a video tutorial of how I created the look for the campaign. It was definitely a ‘pinch me’ moment because it was something I had only dreamt of as an artist.
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: I’ve always had unconditional support from my parents and family, I feel you need to have a strong backbone and support system to guide you when establishing yourself, having unbiased real advice always comes from your loved ones. Being a female entrepreneur, I started at a very young age, you could say I was naive but everything you experience makes you stronger, focused, and determined to succeed. The more time, the attention you give your business the more you will see the rewards. Keep a positive mind and approach always.”
3. Saheli Mirpuri, Saheli Events
Founder and director of luxury wedding planning company Saheli Events, Saheli Mirpuri launched her business in 2017 as a young and ambitious 23-year-old with big dreams. Having launched and run her own society in university whilst working in the nightlife industry, Saheli began her career shortly afterward in events at one of North London’s most sought-after wedding venues.
“It was the summer of 2015 and the wedding season was in full swing. I had applied for a role at Meridian Grand and upon being accepted for the position, I was in the deep end of the season, meeting all the wonderful suppliers, and gaining first-hand experience of planning and coordination of weddings at the venue.”
After launching in 2017, Saheli Events grew exponentially in a short space of time, with the team growing and the weddings becoming more and more creative and elaborate. Taking the effect of Covid19 in her stride, Saheli has continued to flourish with planning intimate weddings during difficult times, with her most recent concept for a ‘drive-thru’ socially distanced Asian wedding going viral and being featured heavily on mainstream media.
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “My biggest piece of advice for anyone starting up a business is to be the biggest cheerleader for yourself. Starting a business, especially in an industry that has such a community feel, can be quite lonely. I’m a huge believer in networking and supporting other people’s businesses, so whilst being a cheerleader for yourself, support the other businesses around you. Believe in yourself, celebrate the small wins, and never stop trying to improve.”
4. Roshni Patel, Shagun Weddings
Roshni Patel, one of the founders and creatives at family-owned luxury décor company Shagun Weddings, left city life in London to pursue a creative path alongside her mother. “My creative flair comes from my Mum, Geeta, who is the founder of Shagun Weddings – and only came to light when we started the company in 2016. The company was born after my wedding which took place in 2015. I was on my honeymoon in the Maldives when my mum called and she says to me, ‘Rosh, I have an idea – what do you think about us getting into the wedding business – wedding décor?’ I told her to hold her horses and we would discuss when we were back! And here we are today!”
Her background in intense corporate life meant that Roshni was easily accustomed to high-pressure environments that came with Asian weddings. Partnered with her mum, they make an unstoppable female duo. Shagun Weddings specializes in bespoke décor and theming for luxury Asian weddings and events nationwide. The business has grown over the last 5 years to be a well-respected and highly sought-after supplier in the wedding industry.
“Shagun Weddings is driven by 6 family members – Prakash (my dad), Geeta (my mum),
Kiran (my cousin’s brother), Ratna (my sister-in-law), Jitesh (my husband), and me! We all work in the business and have pushed to where it is today. As mentioned above it was born out of my own wedding which we organized as a family. We started the business in my mum and dad’s garage, which then moved to storage units and finally to our offices and warehouse. Our business has grown quite rapidly and we have loved seeing the changes!” Our philosophy and motto is simple: “Every wedding is our daughter’s wedding”.
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “Female entrepreneurial spirit! Over the years, and since I have been in the industry, it has been nice to see several females joining what has been quite a male-dominated industry in the past. I have always been a firm believer that if you want to achieve something so badly, it is simply yours to get! To any female entrepreneurs who are looking to join the industry, I would like to say it is a beautiful industry packed with creative minds and ideas – it requires hard work and sometimes long hours – but the sense of accomplishment you achieve from your work in this industry is second to none. My encouraging words – Look ahead, plan, and always remember you can do it!”
5. Nishma Mistry, Asian Bride Sorority/ Doves & Peacocks
With a background in design and advertising, Nishma Mistry found a distinct lack of creativity in the wedding stationery market. Looking to give more personality, and a bespoke flair to events, Doves & Peacocks was born.
“10 years ago the industry was a very different place and I wanted to inject some character and personality into the many weddings and receptions I was attending. Over 8 years Doves & Peacocks grew to be known as one the most creative and exclusive brands in the Asian Wedding Industry. That was a very proud moment for me.”
Having personally helped plan the weddings of her sisters and close family, and being a part of the planning process for so many couples all over the country, Nishma really felt for brides when the pandemic hit the industry hard in 2020.
“Coming from a family of 3 sisters and having a sister-in-law I really know what it takes to plan a wedding. So when the pandemic hit in March 2020 all that kept going through my mind was what would my sister have done if she was in this situation, and where are brides going to seek help with something we all had never experienced before? That is how the ‘Asian Bride Sorority’ was created.” ABS is an online community for UK brides to support and help each other navigate wedding planning through the pandemic. Nishma supports brides by providing useful resources, bringing in experts for advice, and letting them know what their choices are every step of the way.
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “Some call it that gut feeling or intuition. Whatever you call it, really believe in it and go with it. Don’t let anyone tell you that the service or product you are providing should be done a certain way. Like any industry, you will meet all sorts of people and if I was talking to my younger self I would say use your intuition and surround yourself with loving and supporting people. The industry can be a tough place and knowing who to trust is very important. Be friendly, be open, but don’t feel like you have to work with everyone.”
6. Neha Agarwal, The Wedding Touch
With only having been in business for 18 months when the global pandemic hit the country hard, Neha Agarwal continued to scale her business, pivot and adapt, and continued to create stunning bespoke décor for her clients through tough times.
“COVID hit the industry hard at a time when the business was relatively new, but I was ready to scale up. In that time, however, I’ve adapted the business to a changing climate, particularly with intimate and small-scale weddings. With the light now at the end of the tunnel and with the experience of creating beautiful spaces for both intimate and large-scale events, I’m excited to create some unique and bespoke designs for our couples this year.”
Neha was always encouraged to take a more traditional path in life, which lead her to study economics and work as a trade bonder for 6 years. Realizing her passion was more creative, Neha decided it was time to start her journey as an entrepreneur.
“Feeling a sense of dissatisfaction from my job, I strongly felt it was a ‘now or never moment, and decided to take the leap from a stable job and give entrepreneurial life ago! I completed an Interior Design diploma on the side and in 2018 launched The Wedding Touch.” Turning an idea into a luxury décor company in such a short space of time, Neha prides herself on her ability to tune into her client’s vision and bring it to life. She is constantly bringing fresh ideas to the industry, innovating and pushing the boundaries of wedding décor.
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “As an entrepreneur, you can really feel a rollercoaster of emotions. So many times fear and self-doubt creep in, but remember that so many others around you have those days too. Work hard, network with other business owners and keep reminding yourself of your goals. Most importantly, value yourself and your work and others will too!”
7. Krishma Maya Mandalia, Maya Dahlia Cakes
Cake artist and founder of luxury cake company Maya Dahlia Cakes, Krishma Maya Mandalia built her business from the ground up, designing cakes at some of London’s most prestigious and iconic venues. Leaving the corporate world behind to pursue her passion for baking, Krishma took the leap and made Maya Dahlia Cakes her full-time career in 2018 and never looked back.
“Strangely enough, my background is actually not baking-related at all. As is the case in many Asian households, when I was growing up my parents were very keen on academics and encouraged me to study as much as possible. After getting my BSC in Psychology and a Masters at LSE, I then worked in the City for 6 years as a Reward Consultant.”
Krishma worked every spare hour outside of her 9-5 job to build a strong brand, a great reputation, and a loyal client base. Now speaking as a career woman and mother, Karishma has consistently pushed the business to new heights, creating stunning cakes for the most beautiful events.
“I have had so many wonderful experiences and met so many wonderful people doing this job, not to mention seeing so many amazing venues and events! Working with great people at some of the UK’s most iconic venues like Natural History Museum, Grosvenor House, Althorpe House, and Blenheim Palace, has been such a joy. I have made friends for life through this job and I think I am more proud of that than the cakes themselves. I am also proud to have been able to build something from scratch, and to be able to show this to my daughter when she is older and teach her that anything is possible.”
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “Just to work hard and stay focused on what you are doing. There is no easy route to becoming successful, and make sure you know from the outset what your idea of success actually is – is it achieving work/life balance, is it the status, is it money? Because everyone’s definition of success is different. In this industry, it is very easy to look around at what others are doing and make comparisons, but always remember what you are aiming to achieve and what will make you happy. Also, having a daughter, and having worked in a very corporate male-dominated environment, has made me see that as women we unfortunately still live in a world where we are not fully equal to men. We bring just as much value in every situation, but it is not always seen. If women can support one another we will all be in a better position for it in the future, and hopefully, our daughters will never know what it is like to feel inferior or scared to be themselves.”
8. Karisha Pithwa, Crème De La Cakes
Founded in 2012 by Karisha Pithwa, luxury cake company Crème De La Cakes has become a reputable name in the UK Asian wedding world with its original concepts, opulent cake designs, and incredible attention to detail. Being completely self-taught, Karisha started by baking simple birthday cakes, but soon found she wanted to be creating designs that were bigger and better. After signing up for her first wedding exhibition, the business began to snowball and the fire in her belly pushed her to keep going.
“My business moved super quickly, I then moved into my commercial unit which was the most exciting experience because that was MY creative space – and even now when I think about some of the designs that have left those doors, it does make me feel a little proud.”
Karisha was then approached by Channel 4 to appear on the series ‘Extreme Cake Makers’, a surreal experience and a dream come true. This then leads to being flown all over the world to create bespoke cake designs and working in some of London’s most iconic venues such as The Ritz, The Dorchester, and The Landmark hotel.
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “GO FOR IT!! Believe in yourself and be original.”
9. Ekta Solanki, Bridal Wear Designer
Graduating from the prestigious London College of Fashion, Ekta Solanki opened the doors to her bespoke design studio in 2004, specializing in luxury Asian bridal wear and accessories. Born in Zambia, Ekta inherited her creative genes from her grandmother whose passion for making clothes rubbed off on her from a young age.
Whilst managing the Personal Shopping department at Selfridges in London, Ekta found a huge gap in the UK market for stylish and luxurious Asian wear. Fed up herself of wearing poor quality and uncomfortable Indian clothes, she found her niche and set out to create the brand that would become a staple in the UK wedding industry today.
“I quit my position and booked a flight to Delhi, embarking on a journey to create my collection. I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to achieve it, but I left determined to make a start on my label. I started by sourcing my fabrics, pattern cutters, fabric dyers, tailors, and embroiderers. It was hard work, I faced a lot of challenges from being in a different country, adapting to a different culture but also being a woman and that too a foreign woman. It wasn’t easy, to say the least, but I was tenacious to the point of being relentless. I made a lot of mistakes but learned from each of them. It took me years to find my feet, to understand the business, to understand the way things work in India, and to be able to make it work for me.”
After numerous setbacks over quality control and delivery times, Ekta eventually set up her atelier. She then trained her team who have proven their talent and loyalty, and have been with her for the past 12 years.
“My first collection was luxury ready-to-wear pieces but I soon found my niche in bridal wear. This is the core of my brand, bespoke bridal wear. I have since expanded the collection to menswear and kids’ wear, accessories, and jewelry. Waking up every morning, doing what I love is an absolute dream. I get to make dreams come true and I get to make beautiful clothes every day.”
Ekta has been featured in many notable publications including GQ Magazine, Khush Magazine, and Asiana Magazine. She has also won 3 international fashion awards and been featured in numerous fashion blogs including Wed Me Good, Style Me Pretty, and Bridal Musings.
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “Be tenacious, focused, and know what your goals are. Learn from a mentor and absorb as much information and knowledge as you can. Breakthrough glass ceilings. Being a woman gives us an advantage, we can multitask!”
10. Deep Bajwa, Opulence Events/The Well-Heeled Coach
Whilst working in the pharmaceutical sales world and planning her own wedding in 2009, Deep fell in love with the process and found her passion in planning and coordination. Following her wedding in August of that year, she launched her own luxury wedding planning business, Opulence Events one month later.
As an entrepreneur starting a business from scratch, Deep worked tirelessly over the years and has since been featured in several publications and mainstream media including The Sunday Times, BBC News, Hello Magazine, and The Daily Mail.
“Building a business is no mean feat, but consistency, determination and tenacity will get you through. I’ve been in business for almost 12 years now and the journey has not always been smooth, I find this is the case with most entrepreneurs I know. It took years of watching how things work, building relationships, investing in myself as well as the business, and of course, as with most successes, many setbacks to become a well-known name within the industry.”
Marking 10 years in the industry in 2019, Deep decided it was time to do something big, and this lead to the launch of her Facebook group ‘The Luxury Wedding Lounge’. It’s a free space for female wedding suppliers to network, support each other and learn how to scale their businesses into the luxury end of the market. The group grew rapidly over a short space of time and as the country headed into a national lockdown in 2020, Deep launched her first sales course for the wedding industry, which was followed by the launch of her membership program.
“It’s been a whirlwind with some fast growth that saw me hit £100,000 within 11 months and continuing with upward growth into 2021. I am so grateful for this moment, for my clients, and for all that I am yet to work towards achieving, it would not be possible without the support of the wonderful women in my groups. We can absolutely rise together!”
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “Build relationships that mean something, networking is great and essential to business, but it’s not a matter of just taking someone’s card. True networking happens with intent to the end result, how do you want to be known to this person? What can you do for them as well as them for you? Build relationships that are made to last and genuinely help you both to achieve more. THIS is by far the one thing that has grown my business the most – genuine friendships with purpose. The two are not mutually exclusive.”
11. Bharathi Sanghani, Bharathi Sanghani Mehndi
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Bharathi Sanghani brought with her, her passion for Bharatanatyam, Rangoli design, and henna when she settled in the UK 20 years ago.
“My background was in the sciences and I was working in IT, but my heart was always in the arts. I found working for a big firm very impersonal and felt I wanted to connect more with people directly.”
Starting out by creating henna designs on friends as a hobby, it wasn’t too long before Bharathi was asked to adorn her first bride. Things quickly grew from there and a few years later she left her role in IT to embark on her business venture full time. The last 16 years have seen tremendous success for the henna artist, with travel overseas, multiple media appearances, and teaching at conferences across the globe. Alongside creating the most stunning henna designs, Bharathi is also passionate about providing natural henna powder and has also turned this into a business by supplying other artists with her handmade henna and henna products.
“Many of my customers are professional artists in the UK and overseas and through this I have made great lifelong friends.”
Asking her advice for female entrepreneurs new to the industry: “My only advice is to always have an intense desire to learn, no matter how much you know or have achieved. Keep that desire burning and success is sure to follow.”
These inspiring women in the UK Asian Wedding Industry are changing the game in their own way, and we’re so proud and happy for them.
Stay tuned with ShaadiWish for more and don’t miss out on ShaadiWish approved wedding vendors.