Press Release from The State Journal
May 12, 2016
At 29 years old, Nesha Sanghavi, owner and creator of University Girls, has her products in more than 400 stores in the United States.
She recently was chosen as West Virginia Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s West Virginia District Office.
Working from an idea she had in college, which was to create fashionable women’s tops to support the home team, Sanghavi developed her product and now is licensed to use the logo of 31 of the top universities in the country, including West Virginia University.
Upon receiving the award Sanghavi said, “I am really excited. Anytime I get to represent West Virginia on any type of scale, locally, nationally or globally, it is a great accomplishment for me. It makes all the hard work worth it.”
Born and raised in Charleston, Sanghavi graduated from WVU in 2008 after studying finance and economics.
“I started making my own tops when I was in college and received compliments,” she said. “Friends told me they’d never seen things like I was making.”
After graduating from WVU, Sanghavi went on to begin a career in banking.
“I soon realized that wasn’t what I really wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to be happy doing something for myself.”
The next decision led her to go back to school and learn fashion design.
“I attended Parsons (School of Design), a new school for design in New York City,” she said. “From there I earned a fashion marketing degree.”
While at Parsons, Sanghavi had the opportunity to work for Puma, a global athletic brand headquartered in Germany.
“Puma is like Adidas and Nike — it’s huge,” Sanghavi said.
After working for Puma for a year, she began starting up her own clothing line and found a manufacturer in India who manufactured her first line of tops.
Sanghavi’s parents were born in India, emigrating to the U.S. in the 1970s, and for the past eight years her father, Ashok, and mother, Kiran, have helped build University Girls.
“My father also built his own business in Charleston 30 years ago. He owned a consulting engineer firm,” Sanghavi said.
After the first line of clothing, Sanghavi established her own trademark and licensing, secured the rights to use official university logos from across the country, and was well on her way.
“My first clothing design was for my alma mater, WVU, and then Marshall University,” she said.
In 2011 she launched her first collection for both universities.
“Based on my success of the first year, I started expanding to universities outside of West Virginia,” she said. “Each year after I started adding more and more licensing.”
Sanghavi said she was able to get contracts with all the top universities based on the uniqueness of her clothing brand.
“My idea was to create fashionable women’s collegiate clothing from women’s missy to plus-size brand,” she said. “In the past, a lot of women struggled to find clothing like mine to fit. When my brand came in, it solved the problem.”
Sanghavi’s University Girls clothing can be found in more than 400 stores in the United States, such as Lids and Alumni Hall.
And until this year, Sanghavi was the lone employee of University Girls.
“This year I hired my first full-time employee,” she said. “We are now a company of two.”
Sanghavi regularly travels to India, visits each factory personally to review labor conditions and to check the quality of the products. With a great deal of attention to detail she has started choosing manufacturers for the UG apparel 2016 line.