Meet Booth second year, Nisha Saboo! She is a female entrepreneur who is taking the fashion tech world by storm and one to watch. Learn more about Nisha and her journey below.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and what brought you to Booth?
Absolutely! I started my career as a CPA at Deloitte working as a Tax Consultant in their Corporate Tax division. I learned a lot of my professional soft skills from here, but realized that this was not where my passion lay. I wanted to be in fashion.
I’ve always loved clothing, trends, and designing—but didn’t know how I could make an impact in this space. That’s when I landed a job in NYC at Macy’s as a Buyer in their Men’s Active clothing division. I got to work with some of the best brands in the world, including Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and Puma. In that role, I managed $150M of annual business and was responsible for the product assortment for all 520 Macy’s locations and the ecommerce business, pricing cadences, financial modeling, marketing, digital strategies, and overall account relationship. I wore many hats. This was my first taste of what it was like to be an entrepreneur, but under a corporate umbrella…and I loved it!
That’s when I realized I wanted to start something of my own and really immerse myself in the startup ecosystem. This is why I chose Booth. The New Venture Challenge (NVC) was a bucket list opportunity when I first came to Booth and dreamed about starting my own company. Also, Booth’s flexible curriculum was essential to allowing me to take some key entrepreneurship classes in my first year and expand my understanding of the space. The mentorship from professors and insights I got from all the other Boothies here have been pivotal to shaping my company Aina—and I’m forever grateful.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? Has that always been your goal?
Macy’s really inspired me to not only want to be an entrepreneur, but I also saw firsthand a lot of the inefficiencies in retail. I then got another taste of entrepreneurship when I started my ecommerce clothing line, NS2, in 2020 with my brother Nikhil. We hand-dyed clothing and donated a portion of the proceeds to small businesses, and COVID and BLM efforts. Each item was unique—the colors we used for each item were inspired by pictures of our own memories of times, people, or places that were meaningful to us. We wanted to share a part of our story during a time when many people felt very isolated and unconnected. NS2 showed me how something like clothing can create community, and how I could use retail to impact those around me. Because of these experiences, Aina came to life.
What was the inspiration behind the name and concept of Aina?
Aina is an application that helps shoppers find their right size when shopping for clothing. We have 2 parts to our technology: (1) we are a size recommendation tool, and (2) we have a live virtual fitting room. Using Aina, shoppers can virtually try on product using Augmented Reality technology and see how it will fit their bodies, down to a size-level accuracy. Clothing retailers, just like Macy’s and NS2, can integrate our technology directly on their websites to host our sizing solution.
We started Aina from seeing the struggles of sizing on not only the shopper, but also the retailer. Sizing is not standard across the industry—you can be a certain size in one brand, and a completely different size in another. This leaves shoppers in a constant state of guessing, and retailers left with high return costs and missed sales opportunities. I saw this impact while working at a large retailer like Macy’s, but also on my small e-commerce line of NS2, where shoppers of all types were asking the same question: What size should I buy? So, we created Aina to answer just that.
For the name—Aina means mirror, view, and sight in Hindi, Arabic, and Latvian respectively. Aina also starts with “AI”, referring to Artificial Intelligence, which is core to our technology. The combination just felt right.
You placed Top 5 in NVC last year, congratulations! How did it feel being a female founder making it that far in the competition?
A couple feelings come to mind: appreciative, proud, and energized for the future! I was also honored to have been supported by other women leaders on my team (Tess Glassman-Kaufman) and surrounded by many other women bosses in the Top 5, including Maya Shaposhnik and Ashley Brooks of Vetted, and Whitney McElwain and Veena Krishnan of Daybird (formerly Resette). NVC was a great experience and really helped me truly understand where Aina could go and the impact that we were having in the retail space.
Do you have advice for any women competing in NVC this year?
Be confident and talk yourself up—it’s such an accomplishment to already have made it this far, own it!
Also, on advice…don’t take every advice you are given, sometimes it’s best to follow your own gut. Most times than not, it’s right.
How have the women mentors in your life helped shape you to who you are today and what you’ve accomplished?
The women mentors in my life have given me the courage and confidence to be authentically me and pursue what it is I love doing.
My Career Mentor: Karen McKelvie, my former boss at Macy’s. She is the definition of a #bosslady. She started the Activewear division at Macy’s 25 years ago and has consistently made the Activewear businesses one of the most profitable divisions at Macy’s. I came to Macy’s not having had any prior experience in retail and was thrown into a role where the buck stopped at me. Karen taught me everything I know about retail, but most importantly, she gave me a chance. There were many late nights where I learned from her stories and experiences, but she also gave me the courage and space to be creatively my own. Her mentorship has shaped the leader I am today and the foundations of Aina.
My Life Mentor: My grandmother, Ama. She turned 89 a couple weeks ago. She was a single mom raising 6 kids in Burma and brought them all to the US by being a seamstress. She loves sewing and beautiful clothing—she taught all her children and grandchildren how to sew and mend clothing. She helped raise me, and growing up, her and my mom designed every birthday outfit I would wear—I still have about 50 baby dresses that they hand-designed for me. She continued working everyday as a seamstress in the US, because it was what she loved. She suffered a stroke 5 years ago and is no longer able to sew, but every day she still has the brightest smile I have ever seen. She reminds me to find what makes you happy and always do what you love.
What would your advice be to women looking to enter the entrepreneurship world?
Just start (and don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back). It’s always hard to take that first leap, especially when you get those first exploratory interviews. But every entrepreneur started somewhere, and just getting going is important. It is also key to stay positive and focused even when things don’t go as planned—because they won’t.
As a side note, here are some podcasts that I love to stay engaged—check them out: Second Life, The BossBabe Podcast, Pretty Smart, How I Built This, and StartUp.
Tell us what’s next for Aina! Where can we find you online?
We are working on our beta prototype, which will allow you, as the shopper, to take a quick video of yourself and it will tell you your body measurements. You’ll never have to measure yourself again! From here, you can use it when you shop online, or get things tailored, or even for fitness goals! We are planning to work with retailers to build out the next part of our technology: our fit algorithm. Here, we will be able to recommend sizing for you when you shop for clothing.
And feel free to reach out to me via email@example.com if you’re interested in being a part of Aina, talk fashion tech, or want to complain about how annoying sizing is—I’m all ears!