My henna journey started when I was very young, and the older I got, the more my interest for it grew. Henna art, otherwise known as mehndi, is a big part of Indian culture and tradition so I would often times see it at many events and celebrations. I was immediately captivated by the aroma, application and beauty of it and took every opportunity I had to carefully watch whichever artist was hired for the night. I had no interest in the dinner spread, the dancing, or the socializing aspects of these events and was fully committed to learning as much as I could about henna throughout the night. By the end of each evening, I made sure I had henna applied to my hands as well and the very next day I would grab a piece of paper and a marker, trace my hand and try to copy the patterns. Little did I know how much of an impact my 6 year old self would have on my future and career.
I was immediately captivated…
When I was about 10 years old, I told my mom to buy me a henna cone, which terrified her because she didn’t want me messing with something that stains like that, but she eventually gave in. My family lives in Las Vegas, so every time we would visit our California she’d buy one for me, but I couldn’t get through them fast enough. Over time, I noticed how each cone was made, with a thin piece of plastic rolled into a cone shape with a pin in the tip to get that perfectly fine application. So I taught myself how to make them. I’d collect plastic from anywhere I could, water bottle labels, different packages, and the clear sleeves my Indian outfits would come packed in. I filled my cones with lotion, as I didn’t learn how to make henna until much later. I used this handmade cone and lotion situation to practice my heart out in every free moment I had, still not thinking of it as anything more than a hobby.
I taught myself how to make them
When I was 12 years old, we were headed to LA for my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary party. My whole family packed up the car and drove 4 and a half hours to my grandparents house. By the time we got there we were exhausted and could not wait to get to bed; however, the moment we stepped inside, we were greeted by a room full of my grandma’s closet friends. After assessing the beyond confused looks on my family and I’s faces, my grandparents proceeded to explain how the henna artist they had hired cancelled on them and how I would now be responsible for doing everyone’s henna that night, including my grandmothers. I would be lying if I said I didn’t go into full panic mode. I had never done henna on anyone but myself prior to this evening, and this was one of the biggest celebratory events in my family with my grandparents at the center. Nonetheless, I respected my grandmother’s wish and went on to do everyone’s henna that night. The results not only surprised the room full of people but I was shocked at the progress I had made, and that’s where Suhenna started.
I… went on to do everyone’s henna that night
By the time I was 13 and a freshman in high school, I was doing henna or doodling on anyone willing to lend me their hand. My mom suggested I should look into taking this hobby more seriously and my dad helped my purchase my first website domain enabling me to build my very first website. Balancing high school and trying to start a business became a huge challenge that I was not fully prepared for. There was a lot of trial and error and I very quickly had to learn how to prioritize my time appropriately.
By my senior year of high school, my time was more divided than ever. Back in sophomore year of high school I got a job at a local bakery in order to start making and saving money to invest in my business further down the line which is precisely what I did my senior year. I had redone my website twice since the original, launched my social media platforms and invested in business cards and a good banner for the booths I planned on holding at various art shows across the city. The moment I graduated high school, I threw myself into my business, applied and received a business license and started to learn how to make my own henna. I also launched an online story through Etsy to feature a collection of art I made which quickly became a large part of the business. Within the summer between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college, Suhenna became a full time job. The majority of my development happened during this time, my grandfather combined my name, Suhani, and the art of ‘henna’ to come up with the name Suhenna. I began attending every art show, talent showcase and fair I possibly could, and began marketing myself like crazy. Bridal appointments, party bookings and art shows became a regular deal for Suhenna and it’s been a slow but rewarding process. Doing Suhenna full time, keeping that job I got at the bakery sophomore year, and being a full time college student posed as a new challenge so I schedule my classes around the times I usually work. It can tend to be a lot at times but I genuinely wouldn’t change a thing.
I threw myself into my business
As far as challenges go, aside from constantly being beyond busy with one thing or another, my family and I recieved so much hate and backlash. We’re an Indian family with an Indian community, and everyone’s sons and daughters are going into the STEM field or engineering or law, and then there was me. A double major business marketing and hospitality events and meetings full time student, with a part time job at a bakery and a full time business and that somehow wasn’t enough to satisfy the stereotypes our community tends to have. There were so many occasions that auntys and uncles would lecture my parents telling them they were wrong for allowing me to pursue this and that I’d never get anywhere in life. So many people talked behind our backs saying things like “she’s wasting her life,” “her parents are dumb for letting her do this,” “how is she going to survive?” And even in trying our level best to block it out, there were times I’d talk with my mom specifically about whether or not I was doing the right thing in which she’d respond, “your dad and I support you for a reason, you have a passion for this and a natural talent, if you were meant to be doing something else, you would’ve been doing it by now, give it time.” That was the last time I ever doubted myself. Those same auntys and uncles who told me to let it go and had negative things to say are the same ones asking me for ‘friends and family’ discounts, they’re the same ones telling their kids to ‘be more like me,’ they’re the same ones who are now shocked at how far I’ve come, how serious I am and how dedicated I am to this business.
So many people talked behind our backs
Suhenna today is still a very small business. I’ve had the honor of connecting with and working with some of the people I look up to most within certain communities and have been able to venture out into new beginnings and outlets of creativity. The full name of the business, Suhenna Creations, continues to allow me to create endlessly. Suhenna has grown to offer so much more than just henna including: bridal henna, body henna, tattoo commissions, henna decorated cookies and sweet treats, t-shirts and apparel, modeling contracts with other brands, party planning, custom art pieces, centerpieces, digital art and more. I owe a great deal of my life to the art of henna and genuinely couldn’t be happier with the decisions I’ve made. I consider myself lucky and am humbled by the opportunities life has given me and I cannot wait to continue this growth. There is no possible way I could have gotten this far without my family though. I am most fortunate for them, and the way they understood my difference in interest and helped me pursue that instead of pushing me in another direction. I still attend school, full time, and intend on making Suhenna my career.