Changes and Challenges

Ojas Akolkar

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

Humanity is exhausted with 2020. In particular, it was supposed to be ‘MY’ year. After the much awaited launch of House of Tribalfare in Nov 2019, I was just starting to experience the joy and pride of being a brick and mortar owner. Finally. 

Just grasping at this fragile moment of glory, little did I know that my life was about to change yet again. After 5 months of steady growth in numbers, the first 10 days of March 2020 broke all previous sales records and I had a solid plan for the 2020 Holiday Season.

How do you relocate and move the business and family from Michigan to Florida in the middle of the pandemic while you grapple the devastating scenario of closing the location you just started? As absurd and untimely as this career opportunity was, my husband and I could not ignore the growth this would afford him in his career and of course how we would all grow as a family. Well all of us except me I thought. The practical implications of this decision overruled and as much as I severely disliked it, I knew that this opportunity for Raj was once in a lifetime much like the one he supported for me when we decided to invest and start the retail store. How could I NOT support his dream opportunity when he has for the last few years whole heartedly supported mine? The road ahead would not be easy, I knew, but we had moved so many times internationally that moving to Florida was ‘at least’ within the US. 

If experience has taught me anything, it is the belief that I will come out stronger from this, that Tribalfare will grow beyond my wildest dreams here in Florida. How exactly I’m not sure yet, but I know that there’s light at the end. And if there’s no light yet, its ok. Its certainly not the end. And so, I’m trying to change the way I look at things hoping that the things I look at change. I’m certainly not alone in my experience through this trying time and thankful for the opportunity we are presented with.

I’m excited and reinvigorated to brainstorm the next chapter for Tribalfare and can’t thank you all enough for witnessing this ride with me. Here’s to reinventing and relaunching House of Tribalfare 2.0. Stay tuned!

(Image captured by Forrest @tropicophoto in Jaipur, India Feb2020)

House of Tribalfare

Tribalfare was borne from a desire to belong …to every place. What began as a part time commitment (sharing cultures and crafts via pop-ups) will now be a brick and mortar reality called House of Tribalfare …or HoT!


It was in the winter of 2016 when I first spotted the house at 288 W 14 Mile Road in Clawson with a “For Sale” sign on it.  I was instantly in love with the house at first sight, this rustic 1923 craftsman home with a bold brick exterior and beautiful swooping arches. As an immigrant, I was scared to dream big. As a woman, sometimes I was afraid to dream at all. Owning a house with so much character and with a vision to see it become MY business in the future was all too surreal. I fretted long and hard, over the costs, the risks and the what-ifs. I was once again going down the path of denying myself a dream. That house eventually went off the market but a year later was listed again! This time my husband and I decided to jump into it. It was impulsive, it was risky, but it was now or never.


We’re currently in the process of converting this early twentieth century American craftsman house into a store. We will retain its original charming exterior and key elements of the interior while transforming the space into a medley of colors, textures and sights through the products it will house. To start with, it will feature artisan and niche designer crafts from India, Mexico, Gautemala anda few gems from Detroit as well  with plans for more countries to be added, one culture at a time.


HoT is poised to be a concept store created to invoke the senses, transport you in an instance to far off lands but still within the warm and comfortable setting of a home. Each room is staged with textiles, furniture, small house wares from different parts of the world, curated by us but handcrafted by artisans and creative partners. Both small and larger items are thoughtfully selected keeping in mind the heritage processes that were used to create these products and the functionality of a modern home. 

When you enter HoT, you’ll walk into a living room then find a kitchen with, among others, red clay plates from Mexico and clay water jars from India which promise to keep you quenched in the hot summer months.  Climb up the wooden staircase and find a fully functional master bedroom with hand blocked quilts, hand woven rugs and next it a children’s room with hand-made toys, and colorful bedding.  


We’re dreaming big! Looking to launch as a retail space this fall we’re also thinking of hosting talks focusing on diverse, cultural topics and intimate private events. Travel and food are other components of this cultural exchange we will scale up to in due time


Each time a guest walks into HoT, we aim for an extraordinary experience of course but we also want to deliver a feeling of warmth, comfort, even familiarity. It’s about inviting guests in and encouraging them to touch smell, feel, try the textiles and jewelry and visualize these products in their homes and lifestyles. Even imagine the joy of someone receiving it as a gift! Most items in the house are one of a kind. Once sold, we may replace it with something totally different or something similar but never exactly the same.


Sometimes, when I stand in the middle of this little house on 14 Mile Rd, I ask myself, “Where does it start and where does it end?” I have no answer. The House of Tribalfare is my life and what began as a venture is now an eagerly awaited adventure!

 I look forward to this with much gratitude and excitement and I invite you to be a part of it.

Welcome in.


The IDM Collection: Ideation

We are finally counting down to our  website relaunch and can’t wait to share the new look. Its here.. almost!

So excited to introduce and share the new IDM Collection. Inspired by India, Designed in Detroit and Made in Mexico. A concept that came to fruition in collaboration with the very artistic Rajiv Akolkar.

It started as a want to create. Something that would reflect the brand and the values it represents. Something ancient and modern. Something bold yet subtle. Something simple and universal. A creation that would embrace the past and yet be relevant today. Something that would fill that creative bug in me that kept slowly humming… annoying humming that I kept pushing aside.

Based in our retail studio at TechTown, I was surrounded by the most creative minds and brilliant entrepreneurs in Detroit. Every person I met was a genius in his or her own right. Creating solutions, creating legacies, creating their tomorrow in that collaborative Detroit spirit that just engulfs all who are ready to embrace it! The burning desire to create was definitely fueled by the exceptional creative energies around me at the time. Detroit is a city that feels like home. The people I know and respect in Detroit feel like family. Definitely, my comfort zone.

A few sketches, a few doodles, a few designs and then back to work. Was it too modern? Was it too ancient? The sketches continued. And then stopped for a bit.  A few weeks passed and the thoughts came and went.

A want to create something with modern lines but something that had soul. A design that defined what we stood for. A design that could resonate with everyone. Everywhere. Maybe something like an affirmation that would help inspire. A gender neutral creation that would transcend all labels and inspire.

And then just like that, the most cliched lightbulb moment. The design that was already etched in my memory as a child. The script that had fascinated me forever. Sanskrit: One of the most ancient languages of the world. I had caught myself using words like, ” Why can’t we all practice Ahimsa” or ” Please let’s have more Santulan today”. Somehow, these words started feeling like everyday affirmations. I started thinking and researching designs based on these powerful words and clearly there was nothing I found that spoke to me.

I knew that had to be it. I had to give this thought some seriousness.

It was time to involve someone with an art background and in stepped the very talented Rajiv Akolkar (aka the husband;) The engineer who was not allowed to attend art school as a career option, jumped at a chance to refine the sketches and bring my vision to reality.

Before long, Rajiv got an expat opportunity to move to Mexico and I have to say, I could’ve handled the move better. Need a separate blog post on how I handled this. Yes it needs a dedicated post? Nevertheless, he moved for 2 years and I moved for one with one kid in tow. One of the best decisions we made but I can say that only now. It was a challenging time for all of us.

Upon exploring the streets of Saltillo, I happened to step into a silver jewelry shop. A chance meeting with Axel, a young man who spoke better English than he cares to admit. With my broken Spanish and his not so broken English, we managed to engage in a conversation. The warmth and excitement in his voice to show me his creations and share his father’s legacy struck me. The pride he had in his silversmithing craft and aspirations to let the world know about his Mexican art and culture was inspiring. I knew it then. He was the right artisan partner to collaborate with for our vision. We tested a prototype and it felt right.  Thus was born the IDM collection.

Inspired by India
Designed in Detroit
Made in Mexico

As the website relaunches in the coming days, I hope the images, the styling, the concept and the vision is something you all can find inspiring. I can’t wait to hear feedback  and continue to learn as we work to introduce new creative concepts.

So excited for what’s to come!

Namste - IDM Collection - Prototype
Namaste – IDM Collection – Prototype


The IDM Collection
The IDM Collection

Tribalfare Travels! Change Is The Only Constant…


Tribalfare travels yet again!

7 moves in the last 10 years. 5 domestic and 2 international.

Change in geography, change in lifestyle, change through multiple careers seems to be a questionable decision making process doesn’t it? In hindsight, I am so glad that my husband and I made those bittersweet decisions because they have literally shaped our lives and made us global citizens of sorts. Tribalfare travels were not planned, it was our way of life and we soon figured out that we needed to own,embrace and celebrate our decisions. Change was the only constant in our global expat life.

What started as a raw business idea in the US, came to a chance collaboration in India, started in China and came to fruition in my favorite city of Detroit, Michigan. Now as tribalfare travels yet again and we try to settle down in Saltillo, Mexico; I have mixed feelings about all that has been accomplished and left incomplete in 3 different countries as I add a fourth to the list.

Doors needed to close so that new ones could open. Just a normal pattern of growth. I feel really blessed to have had this opportunity to explore and immerse in so many rich cultures and get to meet some fantastic people along the way.

Mexico, the country of rich cultural history and legacy. Reflecting and relaxing is the first thing to do on my agenda. Refreshing my mind to a new market, new people and new possibilities. Opening my heart to allow these influences to penetrate. It does not have to happen naturally all the time, I am trying to actually train myself to accept what life is offering. Look back at all the events hosted, the friends made, the customers met and the lessons learned. Making peace with all that was left unaccomplished. Making peace with the now and the present. Respecting the path I’m on and the very important role that destiny plays. There’s a bigger plan. There’s a reason. We just need to flow like water..rippling away merrily without knowing where we will end up. As long as the flow is positive and moving forward.

First things first, the boys are situated. The 17 year old is happily doing an internship in a career he would like to pursue and the 8 year old is following his dream on becoming the next Soccer Superstar aka Messi;) Spanish lessons have begun and of course salsa dancing cannot be far behind. My dream to learn different styles of dance is being worked upon as I’m genuinely mesmerized by how gracefully people dance here. And I need a whole separate post on the food!

Subscribe to our blog and join our journey as we explore and immerse in this beautiful culture!
#Jointhetribe #Tribalfaretravels

These images were captured on a recent day trip to Monterreal, a two hour drive from Saltillo. Mountains, horses and raw scenic beauty.

The ‘Lunch and Shop’ Experience

Tribalfare Lunch and Shop Indian Foods ethnic

It all started when Cheryl from Freedom House called me to schedule a shopping appointment and introduce a group of her girlfriends to Tribalfare. We quickly came up with a date and added it to our calendars and then she asked me one fateful question…”Is there a place for Indian food you can recommend in Midtown?”  I racked my brain, and I realized I couldn’t. I replied honestly, “I don’t think we have any traditional Indian restaurants in Detroit..well…not one that I can recommend anyways.”

Combining my passion for Indian food with Tribalfare retail products, has always seemed, to me, the most natural evolution of this brand (especially in Detroit). Having worked on this vision, I had already received my ServSafe certification through a program at FoodLab Detroit. The only thing missing was a commercial kitchen where I could prepare meals and get my catering license. After reaching out to multiple kitchens, I got in touch with a local catering company and they offered me the opportunity to try out their kitchen. I was in luck, since they were a licensed catering company I didn’t need a catering license! The company’s license completely covered me and I was ecstatic. I could actually make my overly dwelled-upon vision come to fruition.

The next task was to decide the menu. Indian cuisine is so diverse depending on the different regions that I decided to start with Gujarati cuisine. Foods that I grew up with, quintessential comfort food from the State of Gujarat in North West India – home to my parents.

(See the menu down below!)

Cheryl initially inquired about bringing a group of four of her friends and not long after the lunch experience was confirmed, she quickly invited several others. Finally, we had a group of seven extremely kind, fun women who joined us for our very first ‘Lunch and Shop’ event! They shopped before AND after lunch and we had such a great time talking about the colors, textures, and styles that make up Tribalfare. Sharing my story with the ladies and interacting with them made me realize that the tribe was indeed growing.

Providing an exceptional, cultural shopping experience in a warm and cozy environment is what I enjoy the most. Our typical client appointments range anywhere from 30 mins to 2 hours! Of course, if you make it a ‘Lunch and Shop’ event, it can last upto 3 hours;)

Looking for a cultural experience for your next meeting or event? Call me: 248-434-7231 or email: [email protected]  –  Let’s talk!



Office Studio ‘Soft Opening’

Tribalfare cultural shopping experience

Isn’t it ironic that my last blog post was about a huge milestone at TechTown when we won the award for the ‘Pop Up Shop Category’ at TechTown’s Retail Boot Camp. We went on to try a two month pop up in Midtown at 71 Garfield and were so happy to be in such a robust neighborhood. And now..We have officially set up our first office studio in suite 332 in TechTown!

I’m beyond excited and thankful to call this space my home away from home. The ‘Soft Opening’ yesterday has left me humbled and overwhelmed at the support and love I have received from everyone here at TechTown. I can honestly say that my customers are now friends and all my friends are now customers.  Thank you Alissa for being a great addition to our team, providing your creative energy to fuel Tribalfare’s online store and accommodating my ‘mompreneur’ schedule. Thank you Anuja for being the ‘perfect’ intern and helping us with inventory management and your work on the Tribalfare Bollywood Dance Program (more details to follow;) Thank you Cafe Con Leche and Adan for providing the much needed caffeine at the event.

A huge shoutout to the TechTown team: Ned Staebler, Graig Donnelly, Regina Campbell, Bonnie Fahoome, Sarah Donnelly, Wendy Wilson and Andrea Pitcher for the constant support and encouragement throughout this whole process!

This space plays so many is a space to collaborate with other creatives and work on our e-commerce website, it is a space that houses our inventory and a space where we offer a cultural shopping experience by appointment. Tribalfare is so much more than just a retail store. We can now arrange intimate meetings, special events and offer monthly trunk shows. An inclusive, eclectic space that celebrates the good in each of our cultures and aims to offer a tiny snapshot of Indian arts, crafts, textiles and of course hospitality!

I’m so excited to meet you and learn about your story and your culture while you explore mine. Let’s make an appointment!

Retail Boot Camp @TechTown Detroit

Tribalfare Retail Boot Camp TechTown Detroit

It’s been a hectic last week of Retail Boot Camp at TechTown. I can’t recommend this program enough. From hands on assignments to research and getting you out of your comfort zone, this challenging 8 week session will leave you exhausted but fulfilled! Of course, winning an award for a pop up store on draft day is definitely validating:) Featured here are my peers from the program who also won awards for starting their business.

A lot of time and effort went into every little detail about retail. Financials, locations, marketing, merchandizing, leasing, social media, design and customer service are a few of the topics we covered.

Thanks to the Retail Boot Camp team: Regina Ann Campbell, Bonnie Fahoome, Faris Alami and Cameron Watson. Faris and Cameron were pretty much available any time for a quick check or a lengthy discussion on our presentations. Their input and feedback was extremely crucial in steering me towards crafting a successful presentation.

After having won the award, now is when the work begins. More research and networking in finding the ideal location and introducing the communities to tribalfare!

Are you ready to join the tribe?

Mompreneur Spotlight!

All I can say after reading this blog post is that I’m amazed at how accurately Karen E has captured every relevant detail of the hour long interview. It is truly a unique experience when you read somebody else’s take on your journey and can be very rewarding and encouraging. A little pat on the back, that little validating nudge that propels you to take the next step towards your goal.

A fellow Summer 2015 Build Institute (Ferndale) graduate, Karen and I met in an entrepreneurship class and learned more about our ventures and interests during a span of eight weeks. So when she expressed an interest in interviewing me as a fellow entrepreneur and mom, I was immediately excited and at ease because we had already established a comfort level. She was the perfect person to be my first interviewer:)

To read more about the blog click here

Mompreneur Spotlight – Tribalfare

While she is also an attorney, Karen is an expert grant writer and publisher. She contributes to the local website http://ferndale/ – a must have resource for all moms!

Photo shoot in St.Thomas, USVI!

Huge shoutout to my adorable nieces Devanshi and Easha Ved for the most fun product shoot ever! Devanshi rocked the shoot by showcasing the tribalfare products with so much excitement and not to mention patience;)  and Easha has quite the creative eye for product styling and photography. The location: Megan’s Bay in St. Thomas! We had a great bonding time in addition to them falling in love with the tribalfare products and….them:)

Thank you Veds!