Building the First Luxury Vegan Handbag Brand + Moving Beyond Influencer Campaigns with Sugandh Agrawal of GUNAS

On this week’s episode of the Spirit of 608 podcast, we hear from the founder of what is arguably the first luxury vegan handbag brand. In business for almost 10 years, this company has successfully navigated challenges that many FEST founders face, from sourcing high-quality materials that meet value-driven standards to finding ways to reach new audiences after the usual suspects (social influencer marketing campaigns, we’re looking at you) start yielding less than stunning results. For anyone building a mission-driven brand today, this conversation will bring you knowledge and intel from a FEST pioneer who’s been at this for a decade.

Meet this week’s guest, Sugandh Agrawal, Founder of GUNAS.

This episode brought to you with the generous support of badass FEST biz Lyst, where you can search from over 12,000 brands and stores to find what’s perfectly right for you.
What you’ll learn

Think all vegan leather is just cheap plastic? Think again. In her quest to produce luxury vegan handbags and accessories, Sugandh has experimented with a wide range of different leather alternatives, including apple leather, pinatex, mushroom leather, and recently, mulberry leaf leather. Yes, those are that many options out there – and there are more to come, starting with the proprietary material Sugandh is developing in-house. This FEST founder says high-quality options can be just as good as animal-derived leather and even last up t 10 years. Learn more about these alternative leathers in this week’s episode.

How you’ll be inspired

The best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur? It’s all on you. Sugandh says, “You have to be extremely disciplined because if you don’t show up, no one’s going to pat on your back and say, ‘Hey, by the way, you didn’t do this.’” On the flip side, entrepreneurs do get the benefit of owning their own schedules and ways of working best. In this week’s episode, hear how Sugandh works, and why she knew that the entrepreneurial lifestyle fit her best.

What you’ll tell your friends

If influencer marketing is too expensive, time-consuming or just not bringing results for your brand, there are other ways. Take it from Sugandh, who traded in influencer marketing for highly-targeted partnerships with and involvement in communities and organizations where her ideal customers like to hang out. She says knowing your consumer worked best for her. For Gunas, partnering with and maintaining a presence at vegan-friendly festivals and events were key to growing this decade-old company’s reach. Hear more about Sugandh’s strategy and how it’s helping Gunas in this week’s episode!

Resource of the week

Other than the usual list of the handy tools for an online entrepreneur, like Google Docs and Shopify, Sugandh swears by this book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s all Small Stuff. Her main takeaway: “Nothing is as big as we think it is.” 

Connect with Sugandh Agrawal and Gunas



Instagram: @gunas_newyork

Twitter: @gunasthebrand


Mentioned in this episode:

Nolcha Fashion Week


Google Ads

Bing Ads



Google Analytics



Google Docs


Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff

T-shirt motto: You can handbag but you cannot hide.

This episode brought to you with the generous support of badass FEST biz Lyst, where you can search from over 12,000 brands and stores to find what’s perfectly right for you.
Find more episodes featuring women at the forefront of FEST online at



© Spirit of 608