The Fabric of Her Life
Timbrel Chyatee always knew she wanted to live a life that helped others, “and I always thought it would be with children,” she said.
But her dreams changed after spending some time in India, where she was born.
“Seeing how much influence a mother has on her children and, in a broader view, her community, I realized I had to help women,” said Chyatee.
Today, Chyatee is doing just that as the founder and designer of Lush Bazaar, defined on her website as an “ethically made couture fashion line that focuses on empowering and inspiring individuals through fashion.”
Chyatee moved to the United States when she was only 3 months old. The eldest of four children, she graduated from Conestoga Valley High School and then went on to Millersville University. Because she loves being around children, her original goal was to become a pediatrician.
“But I also couldn’t stomach the surgery part of being a doctor, so after college I did not pursue a medical degree,” she said.
Instead, she moved to India after college, and that is where she found her passion for helping the women in the country of her birth.
“I worked as an English teacher, a house mother for 13 beautiful orphan children, and in a leprosy colony providing them food,” she said. “I found my strength in America, and I found my calling in India.”
So what led to a career in fashion? It seems it was inevitable, as she looks back on her doodles and drawings from high school and college — they all feature dress designs. Chyatee fondly recalls going clothing shopping with her “Amma” (mother’s grandmother).
“She was the principal of a school, but her side hustle was picking saris for women, and she was the best at it,” Chyatee said. “I think her love for fashion rubbed off on me.”
After spending time in India, Chyatee realized she particularly wanted to help single mothers, mothers facing abuse, and widows. It soon became clear, however, that working with them in a way that would help them become financially stable was not going to be easy.
When thinking about starting her fashion business, she had much to learn because she had no personal business experience, but she also had to learn how to encourage the women she might employ.
“I not only had to work with the women to teach them how to produce each product, but I also had to work with them on their emotional state … I failed many times, but I picked myself up and kept trying. I knew I had something worth fighting for and kept fighting for it,” she said.
Chyatee has worked hard to develop a strong and trusting relationship with the Indian community that she works with and said she “found a niche where people know what I do and how I want to help.”
Both men and women contact her, wanting to be a part of Lush Bazaar, and she often travels to India to meet with them to assess their need and work ethic.
“I have had many artisans contact me that want to work with me, and I feel blessed that they trust me and what I do,” she said.
Today Chyatee’s team consists of seven employees in India who run the production side of the company, three seamstresses in Lancaster, and a manager of social media and the boutique.
“I couldn’t do what I do without each and every one of them,” she said. “They always support my vision, my design, and find a way to give me exactly what I need and want.”
There have been challenges along the way.
“Being a woman entrepreneur hasn’t been the easiest path,” she said. “I have faced a lot of negativity because I am a woman who chose my career over starting a family, and many people find that questionable.”
Yet she has great confidence in what she is doing and that it is, for her, the right thing to do.
“Many people start a business to make money,” Chyatee said. “My goal as an entrepreneur is to help others make a life as well as I make a life for myself.”
There are logistical challenges with running a business that is partly based so far away.
“India has a 12-hour difference from Lancaster, so my day starts at 12 a.m. and then I take a sleep break till 6 a.m., and then start again,” she said.
What she especially loves about her work is “creating beautiful pieces of fashion that represent empowerment, art, and life,” Chyatee said. “A good day is having a customer-order appointment pickup and a design appointment all in one day.”
It is important to Chyatee to be a vital part of not only the community in India where her business began, but also here at home. She is on the board of directors for Tabor, “an amazing organization that provides individuals facing homelessness a chance to find hope and a home again,” she said.
Because her parents have always given back as well, it is natural for her to follow their example.
“Every year my parents host a week celebration in my born-town that feeds over 5,000 people a day, three meals a day,” she said. “This tradition was started by my grandfather and my parents took over … I am proud to be a part of it after 78 years.”
Chyatee is a mentor for local youth and also works with ASSETS, a women’s business center where she “loves being a voice for entrepreneurs in the Lancaster area.”
She was also honored to give “a TedX talk about my business and the importance of exploring our world (near or far) to connect you with yourself and others,” she said. “I am pretty proud of that.”
The future looks bright for Lush Bazaar with Chyatee at the helm — she has big dreams and intends to work hard to make them a reality.
“I hope to start an ethical bridal line that provides ethical bridal gowns to brides looking for a dress with a love story written with each thread and bead,” she said. “I also hope to write a book that empowers women to never give up and persevere through the darkness and uncertainty, to keep shining on.”
For her, one of the most important lessons she hopes to share with other women is to believe in themselves and never give up on a dream.
“When you want something bad enough, you will figure out a way to make it happen,” she said. “I have accepted who I am and how to share myself with this world.”