Meet Argyros Alumna, Payal Vitha ’16! Payal was a Business Administration major with an Entrepreneurship emphasis during her time at the Argyros School. She and her sister are the founders of Sonu Company, a jewelry company that “wants to help every couple design a life-long statement piece that is unique to them,” according to their website.
The Sonu Company Story
Payal and her sister, Kajal Vitha, co-founded Sonu Company at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and are 3rd-generation jewelers. Their father is a jeweler with 30 years of experience in the industry, so Payal and her sister grew up helping out with his business, Vitha Jewelers, from an early age. This background helped Payal and Kajal realize that once it was time for them to venture off on their own, it was jewelry that they wanted to do.
Payal and Kajal’s friends started asking them for advice on engagement ring shopping, buying jewelry, etc. She says that “It’s a special moment when you get to be a part of someone’s engagement because that’s the first time most men buy jewelry. They don’t really know what to get, they know what they’ve been told, but they don’t actually know where to start.” She loves to be a part of that experience.
Sonu Company also places an emphasis on sustainability, with a transparent approach to jewelry. Payal says that it’s important to her and Kajal to understand what’s important to them and their business, like donating to more sustainable mining practices – and not just what’s important to them, but why it’s important to them.
A memorable moment for Payal since founding Sonu Company has been the opportunity to work with Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking (Season 3) to design an engagement ring for a couple on the show. She says that “it was a really surreal moment” and that they’re “just starting to get used to what that means for us, but that was the moment we needed to really kind of solidify that we’re on the right track.”
Payal says that she always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur and have her own business. She’s always been the person with big ideas and the one thinking of ways to make things quicker, and easier, and make people’s lives easier.
She says that her senior project was an iteration of Bird for Chapman’s campus, where students could use their Panther Bucks to check out an electric bike – aiming to solve the issue of getting to class on time with back-to-back classes on one side of campus, all the way to Dodge College, for example.
Payal’s experience helping in her dad’s business was a large driving force in pursuing entrepreneurship. It was the connections she built there that sparked that interest as well as a love for the industry and craft. Additionally, while at Chapman, Payal was able to watch other students’ successes in the Launch Labs at the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics. “That really gave me the confidence that, hey, I can also do this,” she says.
Payal’s Career Before Entrepreneurship
Payal wasn’t always sure that jewelry would be the industry she’d end up working in. Before her entrepreneurial journey began, she was actually working in the tech industry. After her graduation from Chapman in 2016, she was working up in San Francisco, then came back to Southern California. At this time, she was working in cannabis tech, a very niche industry. Moving back to SoCal was when she started helping out at her dad’s store, ultimately leading her to the path of jewelry and entrepreneurship. She says that her pre-entrepreneurial experience helped her to understand how a business runs, and the operations side of a business, teaching her enough to feel like she could jump into her own company and make it run.
Payal’s Chapman Experience
Payal’s story with Chapman goes way back to when she was around 10 years old when she first attended a camp on campus. She always knew that it was something she would come back to at some point in her life.
She transferred to Chapman at the beginning of her junior year. She was looking to get involved immediately, so she joined Greek Life as a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority where she also held a community outreach position. She says she was always in front of people and always the one talking. It was this position in Tri Delta that helped her nip away the fear that she had of talking in front of people or randomly going up to people to start a conversation.
Payal speaks very highly of Professor Mario Leone and says that “It is one class I will never forget. I think he really challenges you and the way that he sets up his class, the way he presents your capstone project, and the way he has his final…that’s one that’s stuck with me even after being gone for so many years.”
Payal’s advice to students looking to take an entrepreneurial path is to “be willing to get scrappy with it and learn. Learn as much as you can and really just take in anything you can. Sit in on a 10 or 15-minute chat, or have coffee with someone to learn more about a role. It’s worth it. You never know what you’ll learn in that or where it will lead.” She went on to say “It doesn’t hurt to be nice and it doesn’t hurt to grow your network.”
The Argyros School had the chance to sit down with Payal for a video Q&A session. See the full interview on the Argyros YouTube channel or watch below: