Taking Design Into Her Own Hands
Trisha Roy, Eller MBA ’08
Founder, Barn & Willow
By Eller College
After completing her undergraduate education in her native India, Trisha Roy knew she wanted to come to the U.S. for her MBA. “I was looking for a global education and wanted to experience different cultures,” she said. “I was able to receive enough scholarships from Eller to cover nearly 75 percent of my schooling.”
Roy arrived in the U.S. with exactly $560, just enough to cover her first month’s expenses. “I managed to get a job as a teaching assistant and worked shifts in labs,” she said. It was tough to balance with classwork, but she looks back at the time with affection. “Eller did a great job in bringing in students from all over the world — Korea, China, Morocco, Italy, and India, in addition to the U.S. It was exactly what I had hoped for when I was in India. My favorite courses were those that emphasized entrepreneurship and product management so it’s no wonder that’s where I ended up — a product manager turned entrepreneur.”
After graduation, Roy joined a start-up in San Francisco. “Once in San Francisco, I quickly realized that many jobs required more technical knowledge or experience than I had,” she said. “I spent nights and weekend pouring over CSS, HTML, Java books, and even took a few online tutorials to get my technical skills up to speed.”
She then spent close to five years with eBay Inc – including eBay, PayPal, and Stubhub – where as a senior product manager, she focused on product selection, product excellence, user experience, and customer service. “These are the crucial components of a successful e-commerce product,” she said.
In the meantime, she married and settled into a new home. “I wanted to buy custom curtains for a wide window in our living room,” she said. “I soon realized how difficult it was to buy anything high-quality and custom made. Any high-quality or designer-made accessories were so steeply priced that I started feeling frustrated with the entire experience. The industry operates on insanely high margins.”
She and her husband both came from textile families in India. “Because of that, my years working in e-commerce, and my entrepreneurial knowledge from school, I felt I could do something about it.”
“I had a hunch that if I could work directly with fabric manufacturers across the world to source high-quality fabrics and can offer them directly to customers instead of working with middlemen like wholesalers, distributors, and retailers, I could pass the cost savings to the customers,” she continued. “I spent the next two years researching the market before launching my company.” Roy’s firm, Barn & Willow, launched in May 2014.
“Although we are still growing, we are developing a dedicated customer base and I was able to quit my job to focus full-time on the future of Barn & Willow,” she said. “My vision is to make Barn & Willow the Apple of home decor — we design, create, and deliver high-quality luxury products at a revolutionary price.”
Top photo of Trisha Roy courtesy Trisha Roy.