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Students Study Bombay International Store

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bombay International on Michigan Street in South Bend is filled with delightful scarves, dresses and baubles. In a back room there are pillows and other decorator items. A rack of blouses in striking colors is in one corner.  Nothing here is mass produced; nothing that is found in big box stores.
The owner, Mariam Malkovsky, returns to her native country of India once a year to bring back this colorful array of clothing and accessories.
Her business is important. She takes pride in the beautiful fabrics and jewelry. But her philanthropy is her true passion. The profits from the store have helped set up businesses in India for several other women who would have difficulty supporting themselves.

Malkovsky was encouraged by friends to take goods to South Bend’s Farmers Market in 1995. “Cecilia Cunningham (a retired art professor at IU South Bend) told me to take the things to the market.” It worked and she found a loyal base. She then moved to a permanent location on Edison and Indiana 23 in 1999. She has been in her present location, across from the Chocolate Café, for four years. 

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She went to the Small Business Development Center for a few business tips. Jim Gregar, associate director, suggested that her business become part of a class project for a small business practicum class at IU South Bend.
What she got was some valuable pointers, business insight and new friends. The students were practically adopted and served Indian cuisine.
“They helped me develop computer skills, and a presence on the Internet. I have a Facebook page. I did things the old fashioned way. I learned Quickbooks,” she said. In the past she kept ledgers. “It was wonderful to get their help.”
Through the spring semester the small class met to discuss her finances, future growth, customer and operations. They talked to loyal customers and what keeps them coming back.  Dannil Salade, a senior from Mishawaka, said the relationship with her customers is very important. “She knows who they are” and what the customers want.

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The store draws from downtown businesses and from visitors to the Chocolate Café. The noon hour is busy and spring and summer are the prime shopping season for her, she said. The fall is slower until Christmas season and then picks up again with Valentine’s Day.
Carl Case, a senior from Osceola, said they analyzed the foot traffic and the business from hotels during the Notre Dame football games.
Andrew Bratton, a senior from Elkhart, said with Miriam’s new computer skills she can now stay connected to her customers.  “This has been a great experience for me. To get into her mind and learn her business, and learn what to do.”
Salade called it a practical way to learn a business from the ground up.
Two others students, Woyciech Marczynski and Marc Rose, contributed to the business review.
Malkovsky said she is thankful for the help and her new friends. She hopes that she can inspire others to be generous with their gifts and help others to succeed.