The Story Behind The Rug: An Interview with Rakesh Agarwal
In celebration of our 20th Anniversary, our team sat down with Rakesh Agarwal, the owner of Rug & Home. Read as he discusses his journey to entrepreneurship, why giving back to the community is important, and much more. If you're an entrepreneur looking to gain inspiration, this interview is for you!
When did your passion for rugs begin & who inspired you?
After graduating college, I went straight into the rug manufacturing business in India and that’s how my passion for rugs started. I’m one of very few people that have been on the manufacturing side in India as well as in the U.S. I’ve always been self-driven and I’ve always wanted to create beautiful pieces of hard work.
My inspiration comes from the century old designs and how they’ve been updated to go with current trends. Many designs are 1500 year-old designs that have been repurposed for today’s needs.
How old were you when you started your journey to entrepreneurship?
I’ve known I wanted to become an entrepreneur since about 16 or 17 years-old. Entrepreneurship was something always instilled in me. I didn’t have a lot of money and connections, I only had a dream. It’s not something easy to start, but your dreams can become your reality.
“If you dream, you will meet God!” – Rakesh Agarwal
How did you bring the Rug & Home vision to life?
A lot of research, hard work, dedication, and passion bought the Rug & Home vision to life.
I’ve surrounded myself with great people. All entrepreneurs’ should embrace change and surround themselves with good people. As a business owner, you won’t always know every aspect of the business and that’s okay. I’m a firm believer in finding good people, hiring them, and letting them do their magic. If you hire good people they will never let you down.
What were some of your challenges in the beginning stages?
Everything was a challenge! When we first opened the Gaffney store we were on the wrong side of South Carolina. Getting customers to drive to that location wasn’t easy and neither were getting sales. Once the customers realized the quality of the product there were no more concerns about getting business.
Location, credit, advertisement dollars were all challenges in the beginning, but the harder you work the luckier you are. We stayed with the plan.
What’s the process like when selecting rugs for the showrooms?
A lot of it is gut feeling and keeping up with trends. The number one reason why people buy rugs is color, number two is color, and number three is color! Dolly has the best eye for color.
Anything that’s “in” when it comes to women’s clothing and colors is often reflected in rug trends. We have one of the largest selections of rugs in the world. We believe in high value and take pride in the fact that we can find highly fashionable pieces at extremely affordable prices. In most cases, we are 30-40% cheaper than customers can find elsewhere.
What’s the key to keeping business relationships strong?
Communication with customers and employees as well as asking questions are important ways I strengthen business relationships. I enjoy being on the sales floor and in contact with our customers. I make sure I’m always asking questions as far as finding out what the customer is looking at and looking for. I always want to know what’s missing and how we can improve our inventory.
How do you stay ahead of your competition?
Research, staying up on trends, and giving back to the society.
Why is important for your company to give back to others?
We are all about giving back here at Rug & Home! We give back to the areas that we work in as much as possible. We’ve donated over $100,000 to hospice and given close to 12,000 flowers to nursing homes across the SC/NC area. Everyone is so busy, and no one has time to actually sit and give attention to those in nursing homes. I believe in going and talking with them, even if it’s only for a few hours. We’ve also organized mission trips to India to provide medical attention to those in need and those who may not be able to afford it at the time. Any time you give, it comes back to you 10 times over. I truly believe in this statement!
What are three characteristics one must possess to become a successful entrepreneur?
Dream and dream BIG, get away from negative thoughts or any form of losing, and always know that failure is not an option. You also want to make sure that when making business decisions, you never second guess yourself. Make a decision and stick to it. Lastly, never be afraid to ask for help when it’s needed and help someone else become successful. I know I’ve given you more than three, but these characteristics have helped me become the business man that I am today.
If you could share one piece of advice to new entrepreneurs what would it be?
Embrace technology, set goals for yourself, and manage your time wisely.
Where do you see Rug & Home in the next 20 years?
This is very difficult to predict that, but I foresee change in the future. If we keep doing what we’re doing, I see expansion! I believe that every big metropolis area has a need for a Rug & Home. I also predict that our e-commerce business will be as big as our in-store business in the coming years as well.
We're ready to take on the next 20 years!