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Meet Charu Swaminathan of Mishkalo in Western Suburbs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Charu Swaminathan.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Charu. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
The idea for Mishkalo started, interestingly with a “Thank You” note I received from a couple. The note thanked me profusely for the thoughtful blender I had given them as a wedding gift. However, a few days later, I found the gift receipt. I had bought them a set of wine glasses not a blender. That struck me as a double irony – neither the couple nor I remembered what the gift was. Perhaps because the couple did not need a blender or wine glasses; and I probably did not spend a second to think what would be an appropriate wedding gift for them.

This made me wonder what makes a good wedding gift. From my own experience and talking to a few couples, I came to the conclusion that a wedding gift should be meaningful, memorable and establish a connection between the giver and the wedding couple.

I had my ‘Aha’ moment when I visited the Art Institute of Chicago. I was so inspired that I came home and started sketching out my business plan. Mishkalo was born!

Has it been a smooth road?
My original idea was to sell art online targeting wedding guests, my first roadblock was the objection that people raised ‘ What if the couple does not like the art I buy for them? A second roadblock was that the price of an original artwork is typically outside the price range of a wedding gift. Then I realized that I was looking at the business from the wrong end. I needed to look at it from the perspective of the wedding couple.

This change in perspective enabled me to go over both my roadblocks at once. Having a wedding registry where the couple choose the art that they like and wedding guests pool together their contributions to collectively buy an artwork of the couple’s choice.

Recruiting artists turned out to be easier than I thought as many artists reacted favorably to the idea. I heard that many of them have sold to wedding couples in the past.

While customer acquisition is always a challenge, as a new online company, I am trying to sell a product that is sometimes worth 2000-3000 dollars. As I realized that I needed to build trust and credibility with the couples, it led to a pivot in my customer acquisition strategy. I reached out to partner with some established companies in the wedding industry. I use them as my marketing channel to couples and my company has started setting up a physical presence in wedding events such as the ‘Luxury Bridal Walk’ in Chicago.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Mishkalo LLC – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Mishkalo is a wedding gift registry for original art. It specializes in the intersection of art and wedding gift industry.

Mishkalo has a curated collection of original art by artists from all over the world. We enable couples to choose the artwork they like and their guests to pool their contributions and collectively buy the artwork.

Our differentiation from other online art galleries are:
A: Carefully chosen artwork that is appropriate for wedding gifts.
B: Making the art buying experience accessible and enjoyable to wedding couples who are not necessarily art collectors. Specifically, we help the wedding couples in choosing the artwork based on their taste, budget and home decor.

We are proud of bringing together the beauty of art and a beautiful moment in a couple’s life.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I Love the energy, beauty and the cultural offerings of Chicago. Chicago’s multi-ethnic neighborhoods which offer authentic ethnic cuisines, its vibrant art, music, comedy and Broadway shows make it an enjoyable city to live. Chicago’s beautiful shoreline and architecture will take your breath away.

I don’t like the bad public transportation of Chicago and of course it’s traffic.


  • If you are looking for original artwork by emerging artists in the range of $250-$3000, Mishkalo will delight you.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Artists: Lianna Klassen, Linda Yurgensen, Caleb Nichols, Ira Ivanova, Lianna Klassen, Karina Liergo, Iulia Dinca, Gaya Karapetyan

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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