Entrepreneurs at AU: Annika Paseta '21

Year: Freshman

Major: International Studies

Meet Annika, the student, entrepreneur, and general boss lady that came to AU from the outskirts of Los Angeles with a head full ideas and a plan in her backpack to take the D.C. area by storm. Annika started her very own backpack company called Anikiu, which works to help girls across the world. We sat down with our newest role model to get to know her a bit better.

  

Her Campus American University: So what is your company is about, and could you tell us about what inspired you to create the brand?

Annika Paseta: What inspired me the most was going to school and basically wearing a Jansport backpack and not really having many options when I was going school shopping. I started embellishing my backpack and incorporating textiles I had gotten from India. I wanted it to represent a different culture because I think so many ethnic cultures have these beautiful and vibrant colors and textures. In South America the embroidery is just exquisite, and you most likely won’t wear a piece like that because they’re so extravagant; but if you incorporate little pieces then people will be able to wear that. So I started designing my backpack and then I bought pre-made backpacks in LA at the LA Fashion District. My mom and I would embellish them, and after that it was just so tedious to sew like 40 backpacks and make them all unique while not being able to sell more than one of each backpack. So I contacted a manufacturer in Delhi, India. I worked with a Fashion Broker [to make] my first backpack [which] is in collaboration with Girl Up, an organization under the United Nations that supports education for girls in 6 developing countries. It advocates for security, leadership, and empowerment. I think that’s really important and there’s a really large Girl Up Community so these girls can wear these backpacks to school every day; a backpack is something that everybody sees. The slogan of Anikiu is “Carry the future with you,” and that’s’ basically what the company strives for, and that’s our core value.

HCAU: So you’ve designed all the backpacks yourself right?  What’s your favorite backpack that you’ve created?

AP: The Girl Up backpack took me the most time. Most people when they’re embarking on this journey to manufacturing they don’t realize the kind of work it takes to make something like this. For example, I had a Michael Kors, no, a Marc Jacobs backpack and I basically sent them the backpack and I said this is what I want and this is the layout and I had to reconstruct the backpack, the dimensions, the size, the color, the font... Everything was so meticulous because the manufacturer will not make it unless it is exactly what you want it to be. So they asked, "what is the measurement of the straps?"

“It’s like 2 inches per side before the font and the size and everything…” and I drew up a picture, and I said “this is what I want.” They said: “No you have to design the logo.” There is so much that you have to do that you never really think about.

HCAU: Did living in L.A. inspire you in any way when designing your backpacks?

AP: Probably, not actually. I don’t live in L.A. I live about 40 minutes away in the suburb and it’s very “hipster-y.” The company isn’t very “hipster-y.” It’s more ethnic and there are a lot of cultures, and I think because I come from such a diverse background I’ve always had those textiles in my wardrobe.

HCAU: Besides Girl Up, are there any other organizations you’d like to collaborate with or causes you’d like to represent? Basically, where do you see Anikiu heading in the next few years?

AP: There are so many social issues that I would really like to work on, like getting rid of plastic waste, so a backpack that has recycleable material, or maybe something that advocates against the ivory trade. It would have elephants on it or rhinos or some sort of wildlife but, in a cute way, because if you just had like real elephants It would be too much. [Basically] something that had a message but was still somewhat cute and trendy. Another thing would be fighting for human rights or the LGBTQIA+ community, maybe by having rainbow straps. I have all these designs but it’s all a matter of finances. I realized it’s more expensive to ship the actual backpacks than to make them, and so right now my goal is to sell all of my Girl Up backpacks before I start making pencil pouches. I just have SO many ideas so, it’s exciting.

HCAU: And besides Anikiu, you’re also a full time student. How do you balance managing the company AND your studies at AU and even when you originally started the company as what, a sophomore in high-school?

AP: It’s definitely hard, and I think in high-school I didn’t balance.  You’re just so excited about this idea and you just want to do everything, and I think that really affected me. Now that I’m in college I’m just trying to focus on my grades and kick [Anikiu] up again soon by making connections and contacting the entrepreneur center in the university rather than trying to do it myself. So that’s what I’ve been doing this whole time, and I’m not really getting anywhere because I need exposure. It’s just that I have all these backpacks and all these ideas, and I just need to tell people about it.

HCAU: Finally, at the AU Chapter of Her Campus we strive to encourage women to be their own #Girlboss. What does being a Girlboss mean to you, and who do you look up to as boss inspiration?

AP: So a Girlboss to me is someone who’s confident, who doesn’t really care what people think. A lot of people are always telling me “No you can’t do it, it’s too hard, you’re crazy,” and “Why would you go work with people in India? Why don’t you work with people here?” and I think that I really don’t care about other people’s opinions. I kind of just do my own thing, and that’s really empowering; that’s what makes my personality. I have a very strong personality, and I know some people might not like that but that’s okay. I’m not here to please everybody. My inspiration is my mom because she has definitely given me the values of being humble, working hard, and staying positive. I don’t think anybody else could have taught me that. And she’s also a CEO too, of a transportation company.

HCAU: Okay time for a bit of a speed round, are you ready? Coffee or tea?

AP: Tea.

HCAU: L.A. or New York?

AP: I haven’t been to New York, but, I would say New York. I haven’t been there but it just seems so much cooler…

HCAU: Puppies or Kittens?

AP: Puppies

HCAU: Bacon or chocolate?

AP: Chocolate

HCAU: CAVA or Chipotle?

AP: I don’t like either one of them.

HCAU: Your favorite spot to study on Campus?

AP: The SIS Building

HCAU: And if you could be any wall in the world, what wall would you be and why?

AP: I would want to be an inspirational wall maybe like a wall with a mural, a wall people would take pictures with and have lots of color and have a message with it.

 

You can find Annika and her company online at www.anikiu.com and on her twitter (@annikiuco) /facebook /instagram (@anniku.co)

Photo credits belong to the cutie.

About The Author

Em once climbed Mount Everest in Three hours. She once bent a spork with just her mind and almost always showers naked. Takes pride in her ability to complete quests within a reasonable amount of time and can say the alphabet backwards and forwards on any occasion if asked politely. Currently spends her time studying International Studies at AU, playing board games, and participating in dramatic cold reads of 80's sitcoms and passive aggressive sticky notes.