Amrita Thadani is one of those rare business leaders who truly puts people before profit. She has incorporated a social good mission of creating sustainable jobs for female refugees and displaced women with her apparel company NEOCOCO. The brand partners with resettlement agencies including the IRC (International Rescue Committee), Program for Torture Victims, and LA Downtown Women's Center to train and enable women to work in a safe environment and contribute to their families and society.
The mission of helping these women is a true display of the powerful impact in doing good. See our below interview with Thadani, a woman we are beyond honored to spotlight this August. Enjoy!
POPLINEN (P): Where are you from?
Amrita Thadani (A): I was born in India. I moved to the United States after high school to become a student at Parsons, The New School in NYC. I wanted to pursue a career in fashion.
(P): Have you always had a career in fashion?
(A): I have always worked in fashion. I started by assisting photographers, and eventually worked my way up to being a Fashion Stylist for both the film and advertising industries. After studying at Parsons, I moved to Los Angeles and spent a couple of years being a mom. I was also figuring out what role I wanted to play next in fashion.
(P): What is the story behind NEOCOCO? How, and why did you start it?
(A): NEOCOCO started as a resettlement program for women refugees. We served a small group of women who enrolled in the program. Early on, we knew that getting everyone from different backgrounds and cultures to communicate would be a challenge, so we used hand embroidery as a therapeutic tool to establish healthy communication and regard for one another.
We learned that seeking asylum and being in a safe country is not the end of all challenges. In fact, refugee families are constantly swimming against the current for years, even after seeking asylum. We wanted to create a model that would make displaced women financially independent––that's how NEOCOCO started.
(P): Could you tell us more about the refugee women you work with? How did you establish these relationships?
(A): Our team is extremely diverse. We have women from Syria, Iraq, Guatemala, Mexico, and Congo. They have all escaped war or persecution for standing up for human rights, their identities as LGBT, and their political activism. We are introduced to them through the organizations mentioned above. We work with them in small groups and in-person visits, and assist them beyond just jobs. Our workshops help women break out of isolation and they learn they are not alone in their experience of feeling alone in their bodies and minds.
(P): What's your vision for NEOCOCO'S future?
(A): So much has changed in the last five months. As a mission first company, we want to continue partnering with organizations and creating more opportunities for displaced women. We look forward to stronger collaborations with organizations outside the US and serving communities that need us most. We want our work to have a positive global impact on women and communities–– encouraging women to be financially independent.
(P): What are some words of wisdom you would you give to other BIPOC individuals wanting to start their own business or new career?
(A): If you have an idea, you are ready to start building a business model. It's all about taking the next step. Just do it!