Piya Sandhu is nothing short of a go-getter. She is the creative scout, marketer, and owner of The Handpicked Home – an adorable novelty shop in White Rock. Starting a business has always been the dream for Piya, but receiving an education and obtaining hands-on experience came first. Before making her dream a reality, she completed the sales and marketing program at BCIT, a marketing degree at TRU, and worked for five years at Kost Klip Manufacturing. When the time was right, she merged her knowledge, experience and love for locally made products to start The Handpicked Home. Within a year of creating her business plan – and not to mention with the help and love from her supportive husband, Pav – Piya proudly opened up her shop.
MTI: How did you get the idea for The Handpicked Home, and what was the process leading up to the shop’s opening?
P: It started with finding local designers and makers for our own place after Pav and I got married. I would have people come over asking me, “Where are you finding all this cool stuff and who are these people?” I had a knack for putting rooms together. Interior design was a fun passion of mine. So it grew from what I was finding for my own home to realizing that I can translate this to my own business. It was a year and a half of talking to local makers and saying, “I’m thinking of opening my own shop, what do you think?” They were all so excited – giving me their cards and asking me to call them, because it all starts with them. They supply me with the cool things, and if I didn’t have that than I wouldn’t have anything. I started with this small network and I got involved in this lovely community of makers, local markets, and support. Soon after, social media became my secret weapon and people came to me. Then it was about finding the right location, the business plan, and talking to the banks. It’s worked out and I’ve been very grateful.
MTI: How would you distinguish your business apart from others?
P: I focus so much on locally made goods, which sets me apart from many others. I think it’s also about the way you merchandise and set up the shop. When I was creating The Handpicked Home, I wanted people to walk in and feel like this was a true and unique shopping experience. I wanted the store to draw them in from the outside. There are so many [of these stores] in Vancouver, and I wanted to bring that to the suburbs.
MTI: What is one of the biggest challenges you faced in setting up your shop?
P: Figuring out funding. I’m lucky that I had savings and a wonderful family that supported me, but there was so much more that I had to acquire. I had to create a business plan and prove myself to people who didn’t know me. I mean, you establish a relationship as you get older and grow with a bank, but I’m still young and they didn’t really know who I was. So I just had to show it to them on paper. It was overwhelming but the outcome was amazing. And I couldn’t have done it without my school background – we had to do this for companies and industries.
MTI: What has been one of the greatest rewards so far?
P: It’s all been a dream. Every time somebody comes in and says, “Wow, this is beautiful! It’s like Pinterest! It’s like Etsy!” That blows me away when I hear it and will never get old. Actually, Etsy Wholesale contacted me within my first month. They told me about their [North American] road trip and that there was more information to come. They offered me to apply to be a wholesaler, so now I can buy on Etsy as the business.
MTI: What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
P: I recommend that you have it on paper and make a business plan. That’s how you’re able to create goals and accomplish them. You’ll be taken seriously by people who will support you and help you grow, and this is how doors will open. This is how you become a professional – lay it out and have a plan for yourself. It’ll help you get through it quickly.
MTI: What inspires you?
P: My husband – which is probably cheesy. I have a husband and family that supports me in succeeding. One day, in the future, kids will be in the picture and it’s those things that drive me. I want to be a role model and I want to be a person that can leave a legacy for my family. Even for my parents, I just want to make them proud.
MTI: What are some of your favourite items in The Handpicked Home?
P: I have been so lucky that I have been able to partner with Edible Canada – which brings in all sorts of goodies from Granville Island. So the food stares me in the face all day, and I’m by myself most days, so there’s nobody stopping me! But my will power is amazing. All the food, I would say is one of my favourite things. I’m also really big on stationary, prints and cards. The stationary is a dream and I love all of it. I’m so grateful that I get to gift it from my own shop to other people, because it makes me proud. But my shop is a reflection of my home and who I am – my jewellery, all the baby things – everything! So the whole shop!
MTI: What is the style of your home and is it handpicked?
P: My aunt came into the shop for the first time and she looked around and said, “Oh, this is all Piya. It has Piya written all over it,” because it is like my home. I love random photo walls, and I throw a lot of different concepts together. It’s a little bit rustic and a little bit modern. It’s really run, whimsical and colorful. It’s absolutely a reflection of my shop.
MTI: And does your husband get any say in this?
P: Nope! But he’s cool because he doesn’t mind. He says, “You do you!” But over the years, he’s learned that even if he can’t envision it, it always comes together. If I have an idea he’ll help me put it together. He’s great and very supportive.