September 2005 - Baltimore Business Journal, 40 Under 40

Priya Rayadurg
Owner, Cloud 9, Sweet Papaya
By Jared Favole

Age: 39
Education: associate degree, Baltimore County Community College - Essex
Hobbies: interior decorating, gardening
Greatest inspiration: Succeeding in everything I do, whether it´s running my business or gardening.
Community service: none
Family: married, no children
My friends say I ... am a really nice person.
I´m most proud of ... how far I´ve come as far as my business is concerned with only an associate´s degree.

Priya Rayadurg came from a family of doctors but didn´t choose medical school. "I was definitely the black sheep of the family," said Rayadurg, 39, who now owns the clothing stores Cloud 9 and Sweet Papaya with her husband, Randy Shayotovich. Her stores feature trendy clothes like layered skirts and tie-dyed shirts.

But Rayadurg, who was born in India and emigrated to the United States in 1975, knows what it´s like to be different. Getting used to a new country is never easy.

"It was quite a change," she said, "It was helpful to already know the language. I was the youngest one in the family, so I fell into [American culture] quickly." She recently opened Sweet Papaya in Belvedere Square, which features clothes similar to Cloud 9 but aimed at the over−35 crowd. Rayadurg started small − running kiosks in the Towsontowne Center. She and her husband decided they wanted to own a full store and now have four stores and are considering opening a fifth.

The hardest part for Rayadurg is keeping up with the competition. "We´re always trying to be a little bit ahead of everyone else and different," she said. "That´s getting harder in Baltimore." Shayotovich handles more of the business end of running the stores, while Rayadurg focuses on the creativity of marketing their products.

"She´s a highly artistic, creative person," said 37-year-old Linda Pfleiderer, an employee who ran one of Rayadurg´s first kiosks in the early 1990´s. She worked for Rayadurg then and stopped just before Rayadurg opened the first Cloud 9. Pfleiderer said she kept running into Rayadurg and wanted to work for her again. "I liked what they were doing," she said. "I just liked the style." She said Rayadurg is someone who knows what she wants. "Her leadership style, however is laid back," Pfleiderer said. "It´s inspiring to work for her," she said. "She´s just honest and upfront about things."

Picture credit: Nicholas Griner / staff

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