Crafting the American Dream

A Temple alumna’s entrepreneurship journey in sustainable fashion 

Sharmin Khan, FOX ’20, defies expectations with AAIZAA, a sustainable, modern brand that celebrates South Asian heritage, while making a lasting impact on the fashion industry and beyond.

Aaizaa's founder Sharmin Khan stands in a powerful pose looking at the camera next to a mannequin wearing a beautifully designed yellow traditional Indian garment and earrings.

From her dreams of creating a sustainable and modern brand that celebrates South Asian heritage to her journey to create her version of the American Dream, first-generation American Sharmin Khan, FOX ’20, demonstrates true Temple Made entrepreneurial spirit. With courage, vision and determination, Khan created a unique route through education and built her business, AAIZAA, as a testament to her belief in herself, pride in her culture, and motivation to make a lasting impact on the world. Most recently, AAIZAA has been chosen to design garments for Miss World Bulgaria during Miss World 2023 happening in March 2024!

We sat down with Khan to discuss her path to Temple University, the creation of AAIZAA and her passion for positively impacting the fashion industry and all those touched by it. Through her story, she hopes to inspire other women to believe in themselves, push past obstacles and never give up on their dreams. 


Answers have been condensed for clarity and conciseness.

Can you tell us a little bit about your path to Temple? 

Since high school, I knew I wanted to go to Temple, but life had other ideas, so I wound up enlisting in the U.S. Army. My main priority was academics, so when I learned the military would support me, I figured, “Why not?” About two years into my service, I received an honorable discharge. The leadership skills, work ethic and problem-solving abilities I developed during service were invaluable to starting a business. And that is exactly what I did. But first, I began my academic career at Delaware County Community College, transferred to Temple University and completed my bachelor’s degree in business administration in December 2020. 

What did you do after graduation? 

I graduated at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and, like many people, found myself with more time on my hands. I used that time to develop a comprehensive business plan with careful research, analysis and attention to detail, which Temple taught me extremely well. I also analyzed consumer trends and behavior during the pandemic, identified new opportunities in the market and assessed the competition. Developing new products and services was next, and I focused on catering to the changing needs of consumers during the pandemic. Finally, with more people spending time online during the pandemic, I worked toward creating a strong digital presence by optimizing websites for search engines, creating engaging social media content and investing in online advertising. 

How did you get the idea for AAIZAA? 

The idea originated from personal experiences growing up in a South Asian household and feeling a solid connection to cultural traditions and aesthetics. This connection inspired me to create a brand that celebrates and honors those traditions while incorporating contemporary elements and fashion trends. Researching the market for South Asian fashion and jewelry helped me recognize a gap in the market for high-quality, handmade products that balance traditional and modern aesthetics. I had the opportunity these past four months to collaborate with designers, artisans, suppliers and retailers to bring my vision to life.  

Additionally, a desire to support women and create a legacy have been key motivators for starting the brand. By employing female artisans and using traditional techniques, the brand could provide economic opportunities for women while preserving cultural heritage.  

What does AAIZAA mean? 

“Aaizaa” is a name used to describe all things good, prosperous, heavenly and ethereal. “Aaizaa” is also interchangeably used for Asia. Since the company offers products from the Asian continent, it best suited our primary market. 

Sharmin Khan stands in front of grey background with orange traditional indian outfit.
Red traditional indian dress

Tell us a little bit about how AAIZAA was created. 

On my recent trip to Bangladesh and India, I came very close to my artisan and entrepreneurial roots as far back as my maternal grandfather. He was into poetry, painting, screenplay writing and cinematography. My mother and her sisters have knowledge and skills in making clothes, bags and jewelry. My uncles have amazing painting, sketching and woodcrafting skills. My cousins are singers, choreographers and musical artists. 

Growing up, I also showcased artistic skills without knowing they ran in our blood. I am a photographer and makeup artist. I’ve choreographed and styled people for cultural programs in the community, and I have been writing poetry and short stories since the age of 11. However, my family did not immediately recognize these skills as a potential career. They were set on the idea of a 9-5 “safe” career, but it wasn’t my dream. How could I explain that to my family, who left their home country and came to America to give us the “American Dream” of a 9-5 routine and a “safe” corporate life? There’s nothing wrong with following that route, but it wasn’t something that I was passionate about. I had this idea for AAIZAA and knew I needed to choose creativity over certainty. 

My mom started a small business from home, crafting dresses and ethnic wear and slowly built the product list. I was 13, and I remember being excited to help her at local markets and gaining skills in customer service, sales, marketing and so much more. That was another motivator to create AAIZAA and fulfill not only my dreams but hers alongside mine. I wanted to show her that living the American Dream means that anyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, can achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination. At its core, the American Dream is about having the freedom to dream of having something of your own. 

Why is your brand so important? 

First and foremost, as a women-owned business, I am contributing to the growth and success of female entrepreneurship and creating job opportunities for other women. Additionally, as a first-generation immigrant with minority status, my brand represents the American Dream and the potential for success that exists for all individuals, regardless of their background or upbringing. My parents’ sacrifices and hard work have undoubtedly influenced my drive and determination to succeed, and my brand is a testament to their efforts. 

My brand is also a powerful tool for economic empowerment. As a minority and veteran entrepreneur, I create jobs and economic opportunities for members of my community who may face barriers to employment. By supporting women artisans and handcrafters in developing countries, AAIZAA is also positively impacting global communities. By providing fair wages and safe working conditions, my brand empowers these women and promotes sustainable economic growth. 

Furthermore, as an individual of South Asian heritage, I can bring a unique perspective and set of experiences to the table. AAIZAA has the potential to bridge cultural gaps and promote diversity and inclusion within the fashion industry. As a South Asian immigrant, I can use my brand to showcase traditional textiles, designs and techniques from my home country while incorporating modern styles and trends. This helps preserve cultural traditions while also sharing them with a wider audience.  

How did what you learned at Temple help you create your business? 

Every single course I have taken at Temple has prepared me to build a solid foundation for my business today. Courses such as finance have helped me understand concepts such as budgeting, forecasting, analyzing financial statements and how to make informed financial decisions. Strategic courses have taught me how to analyze market trends, identify opportunities and develop an effective business plan for my brand. Marketing courses taught me how to develop a marketing plan, conduct market research and create effective advertising campaigns. Difficult courses like risk management have aided in shaping how I manage those aspects of my business. Overall, the knowledge and skills I gained at the Fox School of Business provided a solid foundation for creating and running a successful business.  

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beaded Indian shoes
German silver earrings with colorful traditional Indian designs
beaded bracelets
Indian bridal necklace
bracelet and hand jewelery
indian bracelets
steel purse
Text reads "Aaizaa by rhea khan x miss world."

What’s the future of AAIZAA? 

The newest update is that I am designing garments for Miss World Bulgaria, who will be participating in the Miss World competition in March 2024, which is so exciting!

The future and vision of AAIZAA is to become a leading global fashion house representing South Asia’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. A big part of that is storytelling and continuing to connect the products to the context of how and why they’re made. As categories are expanded, the focus will be on staying true to traditional craftsmanship and techniques. We’re starting with clothes and jewelry, but the vision is to expand to showcase the culture in a 360° way through accessories, home goods and so much more!  

There is a growing demand for sustainable and ethical fashion, and AAIZAA will continue to promote slow fashion instead of fast fashion. AAIZAA will always be focused on creating high-quality products that can be handed down from generation to generation, just like the cultural traditions that inspired this whole conception of AAIZAA. 

Finally, customer engagement is vital for the success of AAIZAA. We build customer relationships through social media, email marketing and other channels to understand their needs and preferences, enabling us to create products that surpass their expectations. When customers explore our products and future services, we want them to be able to say, “Oh! My grandmother used to have something just like this!’” AAIZAA will leave customers with a nostalgic experience, which will help build a loyal customer base that values our brand.  

Shop other #TempleMade Businesses like AAIZAA in the Alumni-Owned Business Directory. Interested in having your business listed?