stylish living room with abstract artwork above the fireplace

Today’s vendor interview is with Charu Swaminathan, the CEO of Mishkalo, an online wedding registry for original art! Enjoy:

Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.

Imagine a company that was born out of  a combination of amusement and frustration. A perfect example is Mishkalo – a company I started earlier this year. Mishkalo is a wedding registry that combines art  and weddings to provide very unique gifts for guests to give to wedding couples. My company aims to redefine a wedding gift as something memorable, unique, meaningful and long lasting.  We carry original paintings, furniture and glass art by artists from all over the world.

Read the full interview after the cut!

beautiful abstract painting in shades of blue, purple and peach

How did you get into the business?

About 8 months back, I received a thank you note from a newly-wed couple. The note thanked me and my husband profusely for the thoughtful blender we had given them for their wedding gift. We chuckled and forgot all about it. A few days later, I found the gift receipt as I was digging through my handbag. The receipt said – in black and white – that I had bought them a set of wine glasses, not a blender. See the irony? Not only did I not remember what I had bought them, neither did they. I did not spare a moment to think what would be a good gift for them and just clicked on the next item in their wishlist that had not been bought yet. And the couple did not care who got them what, so long someone – anyone – got them the stuff they wanted. So, essentially the gift was an impersonal financial transaction, nothing more. Somehow it didn’t feel right.

This made me think. What is a gift, particularly a wedding gift? After pondering a lot, I came to the conclusion that a gift is a symbol of two people sharing and celebrating a memorable moment, the gift giver’s statement of a personal connection with the recipient (“I know you and you’ll love and cherish this”), and an object or event that’s not commonplace – which is what makes it special and memorable. More succinctly, it must be unique, personal and memorable.  That misdirected ‘ Thank You’ note inspired me to start my company Mishkalo.

moody abstract painting in muted tones of turquoise and copper with gray drips

What’s your favorite part of the job?

Almost every artist that I talk to, tell me that they have just sold a piece of art to a young couple who are either getting married, just married or buying a new home. This inspires me a great deal that there is a growing trend and need for  meaningful gifts and Mishkalo’s ability to let a group of people to pool their money together to buy an upscale piece of art makes it easy. Often times at a wedding, the guests don’t know many people and the wedding is an event that is forgotten. But by being a part of a broader set of people helping to buy a unique and meaningful gift for the couple to have all their lives, a bond is created among the guests and the couple. I am happy to be able to facilitate this.

If you could pick one unique product or service offering, which would be your favorite, and why?

The unique service we provide to wedding couples is the ability to crowd-fund an artwork that they like by their friends and family so that they can receive a memorable and timeless gift to cherish all their lives.

stylish living room with a painting of a gondola in Venice above the sofa

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned, and would pass along to others just getting started in your field?

A wedding is a complex event and involves many different vendors trying to coordinate and stage the event. It is important to remember the couple and keep the focus on them. Anyone working in the wedding industry should keep the couple in mind as the central focus and work on resolving issues and conflicts  so that the wedding couple can have a their best day.

What are your hobbies or non-work-related activities?

I have  been an artist all my life. I am a professional musician and have been performing and teaching for many years.

Any great stories from working with a client?

I have a couple who has joined Mishkalo Registry recently and are in the midst of planning their wedding. They have never bought art but were fascinated by this new registry for art. We helped them through the entire process by  finding out what their preference was for color, shapes and interests and helped them select 5 pieces of art to create a wishlist, that would be suited to their taste  and from which they can select 1 piece that they like once enough funds have been collected in their registry. We also had them send us pictures of their home so that we could help match the art with the decor. They have expressed a lot of joy and are looking forward to having their guests buy them an artwork that they love.

vibrant abstract painting in bright shades of yellow, red, teal and cobalt

What makes you different from others in your field?

Many people think of a wedding as an event but my focus is on the Marriage. Let me start by asking you a question: Can you recall your home when you were 10 years old. You probably don’t remember the pots and pans or spoons and towels but you may recall vividly a piece of furniture or certain colors or an artwork hanging on your wall. A married couple is starting a new  journey which may have happy times, trials and tribulations, children, grandchildren and  through all this,  the art hanging in your living room will be a story told to every kid, a piece of conversation for your friends and family and will be remembered.  It  will remind you of your wedding day all your life and  will become a cherished Heirloom.

Are there any trends that you absolutely love or would love to see brides leave behind?

Millennials want to personalize everything from how their computer screen looks to matching phone covers and want to put their unique stamp on things that are a part of their lives. The wedding industry has been trying to sell commoditized products and making most weddings out of a cookie cutter but now the trend is more towards couples discovering their own style and designing every part of their wedding. The wedding gifts have been the same traditional pots and pans which many couples don’t need anymore. They want more meaningful and memorable gifts.

What tips or advice can you give to couples who are in the midst of planning their big day?

Plan well and organize yourself so that you are not stressed out on your wedding day.

Charu Swaminathan, the CEO of Mishkalo, an online wedding registry for original art

Thanks, Charu! For more information about Mishkalo, please visit their WeddingLovely Vendor Guide profile.

Do you have any questions or comments for Charu? Add them to the comments below