You know the “mom uniform”, that yoga pants and tee combo you’ve been wearing ever since you’ve had kids? Our NJMOMpreneur of the week, former fashion exec Neepa Sikdar, knows it too, having even been guilty as charged. But watching moms get into that rut sparked an idea: A personal styling business— Accessible Style—where she helps women overhaul their wardrobe so that they can look and feel their absolute best all the time. From a career high of having a client on an international best dressed list, to helping a mom get her identity back, to juggling two daughters 7 years apart, this fashionable mom keeps it real for her clients with the reminder that taking time for yourself is essential to your well-being. We sat down with her to talk about how fashion doesn’t have to be intimidating, what it’s like to be a mom in two different stages simultaneously and the sensational NJ shore spot that has made-to-order warm donuts (we’re drooling already!):
featured image via Diane French Photography
Creator of Accessible Style & NJMOMpreneur Neepa Sikdar
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Neepa: I style women to make them feel beautiful inside and out. Whether they need help looking red carpet ready, a complete wardrobe overhaul or a clear style direction for their branding photoshoot, my goal with Accessible Style is to help them look fabulous and create a personal style at an accessible price.
Developing your personal style should be a fun exploration of who you are and often times the fashion world makes it intimidating so that you feel like there’s an exclusive party you can’t get into. I break that wall right down and offer a memorable, VIP experience for each client that she can gush to her friends about. My clients hire me because I’m down to earth, make them laugh and help them identify a signature style that’s curated from every facet of their lives. We are not just one thing, we are a composition of the many hats we wear. Our personal style should reflect that.
You matter and taking time for yourself is essential to your well-being. Get up, dress up and show up for your life.” – NJMOMpreneur Neepa Sikdar
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Neepa: The idea for my business came at a time where I loved my job but I wanted to have more flexibility. I was at school drop off and kept seeing one mom after another frantically rushing to school dressed in pajamas, yoga pants or an outfit that didn’t fit properly. Their kids were skipping to school, smiling and dressed like they came out of a GAP ad.
In that moment, I thought, “Why is it that women are willing to spend money and time for their family but not for themselves?” I had those mornings too, rushing to school with no makeup and not showered. It was then I decided to start a business where I can remind moms to make themselves a priority. I want to show them that taking time to discover their style will make them a better mom, wife, employee or boss.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Neepa: This is my dream job. Since the fashion industry is full of immensely talented people from all walks of life, I view fashion as art you wear. I get to see fashion shows and view collections and interpret them for my clients. I’ll hear things like “this shoe was constructed with over 1000 Swarovski crystals and made by hand.” Then I take this information and share it with my client, to empower her to make more educated buying decisions.
My absolute favorite part is watching my clients reclaim their individual personal style because oftentimes, her identity got a little lost after kids. It’s that moment when she looks in the mirror and cracks open the biggest smile because she loves how she looks. I get to play a part in my client’s happiness, and for that, I’m grateful.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Neepa: Before I started Accessible Style, I was a clothing and accessories buyer in New York City. I worked in the fashion industry for over ten years on the sales floor of Target and GAP to the corporate buying offices of J.Crew, Donna Karan New York, and Liz Claiborne. I was in charge of selecting the product that would go in stores and online as well as determine price, promotion strategy and fit.
Through my work experience, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with CFDA nominated designers: Jenna Lyons, Todd Snyder, John Bartlett, and Tim Gunn. I also attended the Fashion Institute of Technology where I trained in color analysis and the business of fashion. These experiences have been immensely helpful to my clients, as I’m able to direct them on what’s worth splurging on and where to save.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Neepa: This is hard to answer as I’ve styled clients to command the stage, meet with dignitaries and princesses as well dressed three generations for a bar mitzvah. My writing has been featured in several books and publications and I’ve created some magic on photoshoots. However, having Tim Gunn approve of my outfits pretty much made me feel like I was going to fashion heaven. Another special moment was having a client of mine featured on a best-dressed list for the Royal Ascot in London. I love my job and I’m most proud that I get to play a small part in making women feel beautiful and confident.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Neepa: That I was a shy, awkward kid who spent a lot of time with my head in a book. I struggled a lot with my identity as I grew up South Asian American. I wasn’t sure where I fit in. Creating outfits and trying the latest fashion trends allowed me to gain confidence and was a way to meet new people. Outfit making was a great skill to have when my friends were heartbroken. I would arrive with ice cream and put together cute outfits, which would change the mood instantly.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Neepa: I turn 40 next year, and I’m sort of freaking out but also excited to enter the next decade of my life. I finally feel that I’m at a place where I know who I am and trust myself to go after whatever I want.
Professionally, my business is on fire and I’m ready to add another team member to help with the day to day. We’re also working on several brand partnerships which will give more access to my clients. My personal passion is to educate people to make better shopping decisions and I’m excited on exploring ways to do this.
NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Neepa: Our family supports Computer Literacy program, an NJ based organization that supplies rural schools in Bangladesh with computers and provides students with technology-aided education. It’s incredible to see the progress the students have made when armed with the right tools. I also support YWCA Bergen County and Reveal Beauty; both are amazing organizations that aid survivors of domestic abuse. They’ve allowed me to host events, teach and restore dignity to women who’ve struggled to find their worth after abuse. Giving back is a priority for me and fuels me to keep working hard so I’m able to do more.
NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Neepa: I’ve had so many role models and mentors in my life who saw things in me I couldn’t see in myself. From my high school marketing teachers who encouraged me to take on leadership roles, to my managers at Liz Claiborne who taught me about integrity, to my friends Helen and Sarah who lead by example. I’m so fortunate to have them and many others in my life. I really cannot pick one person because they’ve each had such an impact on the woman I am now.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom (or parent/role model) ever gave to you?
Neepa: My dad always reminds me to take a deep breath and be still, to have faith that whatever I’m mean to have will come to me when I need it. My mom told me to make my own money because it gives you the power to do what you want.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?
Neepa: I’m a quote junkie, I read a quote or an affirmation daily as part of my morning ritual.
Why fit in when you were born to stand out.” – Dr. Suess
It’s so simple yet very powerful. People are always trying to dress, act or think like someone else but when you march to the beat of your own drum, you’ll really learn to shine. There’s only one amazing you in this universe, showcase it to the world.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Neepa: I grew up in South Jersey, went to college in Central Jersey and now reside in North Jersey. I freaking love this state. I live in Northwest Bergen County and love the mountain views and beautiful trees. We explore local farms with our kids in the summer and fall, but our favorite activity is spending time at the Jersey Shore. My favorite beaches are Ocean City and Spring Lake, but we’ve recently rediscovered Asbury Park, Ocean Grove and Long Branch. A special tip is to join your local Facebook mom’s group: Our Oakland page is phenomenal and has helped me navigate our new town.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Neepa: I have two girls, one in 8th grade and another in kindergarten. I have my feet in two completely different mom stages so it’s challenging finding activities we can all do together. I even have different sets of mom friends since my kids are 7 years apart. The best part of being a mom is helping them discover what they are passionate about and supporting them to achieve their goals and dreams. Currently, that means being a dance mom to both in a competitive dance program.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Neepa: Oakland Diner is an old school diner with great variety of food options, it reminds me of the diners I went to as a kid. Fractured Prune Donuts is a favorite in Ocean City, where you can make any kind of donut your heart desires. Osteria Procaccini in Ocean Grove has the best gluten-free pizza ever. Liberty Science Center kept us busy when we lived in Weehawken. Abma’s Farm in Wyckoff has a great petting zoo and garden center. For a fun girls night out: Son Cubano Restaurant in West New York and Board + Brush Creative Studio in Ramsey.
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Neepa: After 12 years in Weehawken, we moved to Oakland, just 9 miles from the New York state border. I love that my neighborhood is full of walking trails and that birds and bunnies show up in my backyard. I never thought I’d move back to the suburbs but it’s a wonderful retreat from the hustle of New York City, and a great town with so many activities for all ages. We vacation in Ocean City, Spring Lake, and loved Crystal Springs for a quick getaway when the kids were little.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Neepa: Test out your product/service a ton. Make sure there’s a demand for it in the market and that you enjoy the work before you launch. Read business books, practice your craft, hire others who can help you in areas of the business you aren’t interested in doing yourself. Develop a local fan base because they will be the best form of advertising.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Neepa: You matter and taking time for yourself is essential to your well-being. Get up, dress up and show up for your life. Buy the shoes. Be kind to yourself, you’re doing a phenomenal job.