Tell us who you are.
Hi there! We’re Vaibhav and Maya - a husband-wife pair from Texas, recently relocated to New York City. We grew up just minutes down the road from each other in a suburb of Dallas called Plano, but didn’t meet each other until after college. We’ve been together for 6 years, but recently got married this past December in a quick at-home ceremony (with hopes to do a real bash once it’s safe and possible to do so!)
While we both have day jobs that keep us busy, we’ve bonded over our shared entrepreneurial spark and decided to make the most of the extra time we’ve been spending at home to work together to create a business and platform that we can be proud of.
What does home mean to you?
This is such an interesting question for us because we were in a long distance relationship for almost 5 years. Maya lived and worked in Texas while Vaibhav moved around from New York to Boston, so for the longest time, home was an ephemeral concept that consisted of weekend trips and cramming into small apartments in the Northeast.
We spent the first several months of the pandemic back home with our parents in Plano, and so we very abruptly transitioned from living independent lives surrounded by friends, to living in close quarters with our family. That experience has changed what home means to us - we’ve become so appreciative of the idea of having a permanent, enduring home that can serve as a gathering place for family.
More recently, we moved into our first official apartment together in New York. With pandemic shutdowns still looming, we were very particular about finding a place where we could happily spend most of our time. Something we love to do together is host, and so it was non-negotiable for us to have two things: space for a dining room table and a second bedroom for visitors to stay in. We’ve been lucky to already have had many friends and family members (safely) visit us, and have loved having the opportunity to decorate and create a space that is true to us.
You recently moved - what are some of your favorite home items that will always stay with you?
Something that we both love are two small statuettes of Ganeshji - a prominent Hindu deity - that were gifted to us by both of our mothers before we moved. It’s customary in Hindu households to place small Ganeshjis at the entrance of your home or in your car, as a symbol of good luck and auspicious beginnings. We’ve placed them near the entrance of our apartment and they remind us of home, our roots, and our families.
For Vaibhav - this is going to sound nerdy, but one of my favorite items is my file cabinet. Growing up my dad had a file cabinet in his office and it was where he kept all of the most important documents and things for our family. Having one just makes me feel like an adult - it makes me feel organized. The truth is we are all just trying to hold things together - having color coded folders in a large metal box at least makes us feel like we’re doing an okay job!
For Maya - it’s definitely some of our artwork. Maya grew up in a house with a ton of artwork from across the world that her parents collected. Having our own space has given us an opportunity to make some small investments in our own pieces as well as display pieces made by friends, which has been a really fun way to add our personalities to our space.
How do you rest, restore, and reenergize?
Well the obvious answer here would be by opening up a box of sunnies, but here are a couple things we try to do in addition to that.
Morning routine - we could be better about this, but in general we find that when we are stressed out or feel like we don’t have enough time, waking up early always makes us feel better. Having unstructured time where you don’t feel rushed early in the day is very calming and energizing.
Sleep and exercise - early in the pandemic we were really bad about exercise, but nowadays we prioritize getting on our stationary bike or doing a couple Yoga stretches every day. It makes us feel better and helps us get more sleep, which is also something we’ve decided to prioritize after reading “Why We Sleep” late last year.
Boba - this is our guilty pleasure. Any time we feel like we need to get out or do something, especially nowadays when there isn’t much to do, we try out a new bubble tea spot.
Tell us a little about Sunnies.
Sunnies is a brand of self-heating eye masks. Self-heating eye masks are a pretty popular product in Asia - particularly Japan and China - but they’ve never really broken through in the United States because no one has ever really been able to position a brand in a way that speaks to the American consumer.
They’re truly a wonderful product - zero hassle, you simply open up a package and the masks react with oxygen in the air to warm up to a comfortable but warm 100 degrees (it’s similar technology to hand warmers). The idea is that warming your eyes - during the day or before bed - is great for relieving eye strain, dry eyes, and also easing migraines, headaches, or just relaxing.
We’ve gotten almost exclusively positive feedback from customers so far. And we use them ourselves pretty often - at least a few times a week - and they are a really great way to wind down (and avoid a screen for 30 minutes!)
What inspired you to create Sunnies?
There were really 3 things that inspired us to create sunnies.
First of all, the past year has really shown us how much time we spend on devices - laptops, cell phones, and others. The shutdowns over the past year really exacerbated that for us, and we felt like we were spending literally all of our time on Zoom meetings, on Instagram/TikTok, and scrolling through the news. The combination of COVID updates, the election, and just general inability to do much else made it obvious to us that people needed a break. And it’s part of the larger dialogue nowadays too - we’re seeing an increased focus in society on the use of tech, social media (Social Dilemma on Netflix), and the need for mindfulness. We really felt like sunnies were a great way to focus people on taking time for themselves.
Second, we were getting a little overwhelmed with the hyper specification and “premium-ization” of the beauty industry. There’s a ton of innovation, but a lot of it feels couched in pseudo-science and magical new ingredients that claim to cure various things. There’s CBD, adaptogens, and all sorts of acid and mineral infused serums. It’s great, but I don’t think we’re alone in feeling (1) overwhelmed by the sheer number of claims out there and (2) skeptical that they actually work. We feel like customers really want something simple that works. Sunnies does that - like you can feel it working when it warms up. We felt that that simplicity and tangible benefit would resonate with customers.
And thirdly, our launch was born out of personal circumstances. Vaibhav had just graduated business school, and given the job market, was still trying to figure out a full-time role. So while we had the time, we decided to put our heads together and just launch something. We both work now in addition to running sunnies, but having the time to invest upfront has been really helpful as we’ve scaled over the past couple of months.
What advice can you give inspiring entrepreneurs?
Just do it! It’s so easy to overthink things - waiting for the perfect time, a bulletproof idea, or the perfect partner - that rarely works.
If you have an idea, just get it out there. Yes, in today’s economy it’s hard to get attention as everyone is vying for eyeballs, but there are also so many tools out there to start a brand, to start an online presence, to reach people, etc. It has become more accessible than ever, and you can started with even a few hundred bucks.
Secondly, we would say to focus on community. We have had the pleasure to get to know Repose Home through an earlier entrepreneurial venture and it’s really inspiring to meet like-minded individuals who are also trying to create and cultivate something. You can use connections like that to make a better product, meet new people and customers, and really change the game!