‘From the Gegent’ is a series of articles featuring businesses, services and the people behind them in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. Presented by Mica Soffer, owner and publisher of community news service COLlive.com and neighborhood directory gegent.com:
Photos: Shimi Kutner
In 2013, Chanie Loschak was living in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. She was a wife, mother of 2 children and expecting a third. While feeling proud of motherhood, “I wanted another element to my life,” she says.
So she looked back at her childhood days when her mother Masha Gansburg would take her along to visit trade shows to discover new clothing for her children’s clothing store “Young Timers Boutique” in Crown Heights.
“My mother would take me out of school twice a year to go with her and it was a highlight for me,” says Chanie. “I used to dream about doing something with clothing because I grew up in my mother’s store and it was always something that I loved.”
Looking for a creative outlet, but without actual experience in the business, she turned to her mother for advice. “My mother is really my inspiration being an incredible and loving, warm businesswoman,” she says.
Her mother’s tip: There’s a need for quality, dressy pencil skirts for younger girls.
“She suggested that I go and create one with a specific fabric that she recommended. So we went to a fabric store and she showed me which fabric I should buy. But after that I was on my own, to somehow create a skirt. I had no idea what to do.”
Her next move was to take a Subway ride to the garment district of Manhattan, schlepping along her second baby and pregnant with the third. She began stopping passersby on the street, asking about factories, and didn’t get much help.
Then, one energetic young woman offered to help, and took Chanie to the 14th floor of a nearby building and introduced her to Jack. “He only spoke Chinese and could barely understand English,” she recalls.
Nevertheless, Chanie asked about creating pencil skirts.
“You have a pattern?” Jack asked.
Chanie had no idea what he was talking about. Jack went on to draw a pattern and then explained that she also needed “grading” to create the skirts in different sizes. And then, he said, there’s the sewing and labels. “I had no idea what any of this was about,” she admits.
Not giving up, Chanie went through the entire process and finally had 125 skirts created. The only problem was the next step: Reaching the customers.
“My mother took a few and a couple of her friends with stores in different neighborhoods also agreed to sell them for me,” Chanie says, adding that they “probably agreed to sell them more as a favor for my mother.”
And that is how her company, Teela NYC, was created.
“Teela is the name of my mother’s mother,” she explains. “My oldest daughter is named after her. Since my mother is so involved in fashion, and my inspiration, I named the company in my mother’s honor and for my daughter. It’s a name close to my heart.”
Since those initial pencil skirts (which sold out), she has sold thousands more along with a full line of modest children’s clothing such as dresses, skirts, tops, dress and casual wear for girls and boys.
“I did not go to college,” says Chanie, 31 and today a mother of 5 children. “I learned everything by experience. I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but thank G-d that turned into many dresses, then tops and skirts, and then we expanded to boys and baby lines. Now, I do everything from newborn to teen, casual and dressy, for both girls and boys.”
At first, she had to offer sales and convince stores to sell her items. Yet as the demand for her product grew, companies and stores from around the world contacted her to sell her clothing line.
Before the new season, she sits down at a computer and creates designs herself relying on instinct and experience. “It’s already second nature to me,” she says. “I instinctively know what parents are looking for to dress their kids in and we use organic bamboo cotton – it’s more expensive but makes our clothing luxurious and of a higher quality.”
Teela NYC has an online presence and 3 warehouses run by a team of 10 people that include a technical designer, creative designer, agent in China, graphic artist, quality control team and warehouse staff.
“We’ve had tremendous success,” she says. “Customers have been asking for my items from all around the world. We sell in all the frum Jewish communities across the world, and also in numerous countries including Israel, Canada, South America, England, France, Australia, Germany, Austria, Belgium and even Kuwait.”
Chanie is married to Rabbi Ahrele Loschak, Director of Chabad Young Professionals Brooklyn, a division of Chabad Heights. So it is no surprise that she credits Hashem for the success of her company, yet she says the evidence is there.
“The hand of Hashem is so obvious in everything that I do,” she says. “Similar to planting, you can work hard on the field and the growth is up to Hashem. The same is with us: We can work and spend tens of thousands of dollars, and the success is ultimately up to Hashem.”
Chanie tells how they moved into a new warehouse and placed all their merchandise there to be shipped out for the next season.
“Four days later, the building sprinkler system malfunctioned and the entire warehouse flooded. I was 9 months pregnant, and I literally could not believe the disaster. When I saw the pictures, I got physically weak.
“We had 10 people come for 4 days straight, change all the boxes and clean up. Thank G-d, we were able to salvage the mass majority of the clothes. The expense was huge, but I had bitachon in Hashem that this was for the best, and whatever the cost that was lost, was meant to be.”
Another example of Hashem’s kindness, she says, happened when the fabric company raised the prices without prior notification. “My husband, who is very resourceful, started searching online for companies. The one we randomly contacted turned out to be the wholesaler from which our distributor had been buying for us. We ended up ordering directly from them for a lower cost. Hashem just sent us straight to them.”
Chanie says this strong belief also comes into play when difficult news comes her way. “My motto is always that it is in the hands of Hashem. If I lose an account, I have the belief that I will get another bigger account. Hashem leads us every step of the way. The same is when I hear that other companies are copying our designs. I am ok with it because success is all in Hashem’s hand.”
When asked how does she juggle family and work, Chanie admits she struggles like many other parents.
“The workload is so high, and as much as I try to bring more people into the team, the work just keeps on growing,” she says. “The only way I can manage is because of the incredible support of my husband who cooks dinner and for Shabbos. He cares for the kids along with me. A supportive husband is really the only way I can do it all.”
When her 5th baby was born, Chanie decided to cut back on business, wanting to focus on her children.
“And then, Saks Off Fifth contacted me that they want to carry Teela. They found out about us and they want to become my account. I felt like Hashem was saying, you cut back, but I am making it easier for you to succeed. I really felt like Hashem was telling me that I was doing the right thing by cutting back to devote myself to my family,” she says.