Chandani S. Radia
Managing Director, Spectrum Uniforms
Industry: Medical apparel and medical diagnostic equipment
Instagram handles: @csradia and @spectrumuniforms
How has being a WPO member helped your business?
I cannot think of a way that my WPO membership has not impacted my business. I joined less than a year after taking the helm of my father’s business. I had returned from ten years working across Europe, without a network, community or even the knowledge of local business norms. WPO has given me a community to stress test ideas, learn from others’ experiences, and most importantly a group that I can be vulnerable with during challenging times.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
As a young woman of color, it has been hard at times to be taken seriously. Globally, we have not seen enough young people – much less young women in roles of leadership. This lack of representation and preconceived notions makes it challenging for some to reconcile your position and accomplishments with how you look. It does not help that I am a few inches over five feet tall and inherited youthful skin from my grandmother (it’s more of a blessing than a curse, but you can understand how it might not help my case!). Once someone pulled me aside after giving a presentation to a large audience, and said ‘Wow, what a great presentation for someone of your age!! Surely you must be about the age of just getting your driver’s license?’. Gracefully responding in those situations is a challenge. I also feel this sense of obligation to represent all of my minority checkboxes well, so that the next person that looks like me is not dismissed. In this instance I replied ‘Yes, I actually have a license to drive in two countries, and can drive a stick. What about you?’. If some cannot see you capable of driving a car, it takes them a while to wrap their head around your record of driving top and bottom line growth for organizations, and a stick-shift.
What inspired you to start your business?
My father started the business thirty years ago as an immigrant and a critical care nurse, his goal was to innovate uniformity, comfort and style for those who served others. Not all heroes wear capes, and we believe that if you cannot wear a cape, then scrubs are the next best option! I joined the business in 2018, after my father discovered theft of company assets by several employees. Feeling helpless from far away, I quit my corporate job in London, and returned to Houston to support the litigation and lead the rebuild. My decision was not just based on my family but my belief that small businesses have the privilege and ability to create positive ripple effects through their micro and macro environment. I could not stand by to wait and see what would happen to the community my father built of employees, clients and suppliers. I cannot say I felt fit for the job or even capable a lot of the time but I also knew things could not get much worse so that relieved some of the pressure!
What’s your favorite WPO event you’ve attended? Why?
My second chapter meeting was a retreat in Napa valley. This is my favorite WPO event for obvious reasons. Looking back, it also gave me the opportunity to drink, travel, laugh, cry and even share toothpaste (not necessarily in that order!) with some of the ladies in my chapter. These intimate moments helped to build a strong foundation for some dear friendships.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
GSD: Get s___ done. This was a mantra in a previous organization I worked for. My manager at the time made sure we used this in every element of the way we operated. This sentiment has always stuck with me and transformed the way I think about productivity and accomplishments. In leading a business it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by a multitude of opinions or information to make decisions. The idea of getting s___ done drives progress over perfection. This simple, and crass mantra allows me to prioritize, let go of some things, and gauge our impact.
What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
Think about the most judgmental and/or harsh thing you have ever said to someone, or about someone. Now compare it to what you have said to yourself. How often do you say those things to yourself? Most of us will find that it’s on a daily basis, and it’s much harsher than we would say to or about others. That means that your most challenging opponent is not across the arena, it’s yourself in the locker room. This revelation does not come overnight, you do not wake up the next morning singing Beyoncé lyrics into the mirror. However, the awareness helps you stop beating yourself up so much, so that when it is time to rumble with your opponent (investors, competitors or the patriarchy) you are not worn down by self-inflicted injuries. You enter into the arena (in the words of my dad) ‘prepped and ready to kick some a__’.