Now that I’m permanently settled in India, it’s been such an exciting journey coming across incredible social impact brands in Asia empowering people and protecting our planet. When I came across Dinadi on Instagram, I was thrilled to dive in and learn about their story.
Dinadi is a social impact brand based in Kathmandu, Nepal. The brand creates fair employment opportunities for Nepali women by producing sustainable, high-quality knitwear.
Dinadi launched in April 2016 from the living room of co-founders Preston and Mirjam’s home in Kathmandu. After a serious “kick start”, exceeding a crowdfunding campaign goal by more than 200% (!), the brand was able to move into a more modest, office space and scale their operations. They started the year with 40 knitters and because of their massive momentum, to date have employed 55 staff and are about to roll out training for another 53 knitters.
I got the chance to interview the brand’s Canadian and Swedish founder duo, Preston and Mirjam, and learn how they brought their creative and business savvy skills to address economic stability and craftsmanship in Nepal.
What does Dinadi mean?
Dinadi means ‘dawn’ or ‘break of day’ in Nepali. When we launched Dinadi this was what we hoped it would be – a fresh start, a new beginning for our employees.
“Our social mission has always been to create opportunities for those greatly in need, and to see employment at Dinadi as a catalyst to bring lasting change in the life of the individual employee.”
What inspired a move from the western world to Nepal?
What initially drove the move from our home in Sweden to Nepal was the conviction that social entrepreneurship is the way to bring sustainable development to developing countries like Nepal, combined with a belief that every individual can make a difference with their life. Together we had visited Nepal back in 2000 and seen first-hand the enslaving reality of poverty and felt convicted to play a part in Nepal’s development.
Nepal suffers from an extremely high unemployment rate of 46%, leaving many without work and in desperate situations. Many feel forced to work abroad and leave families behind in order to provide for them – sadly many experience horrible work conditions and are victims to unethical labor work. Preston’s background in business and economics and Mirjam’s passion for knitting and teaching combined to create the framework for Dinadi. With help from others we were able to start and grow Dinadi into what it is today. Almost 3 years later, we are still convinced that providing employment opportunities is an amazing way to come alongside people and see them provide for and help themselves in a dignifying way.
How did you originally come in contact with your first group of 40 knitters?
The first 40 knitters we trained we reached out to ourselves and offered them jobs. Some we came into contact with through another organization working in Kathmandu who we have now partnered with for almost 3 years. For others they were approached by our social worker – an awesome Nepali woman who has been with us ever since we moved to Nepal in 2012 before Dinadi’s start. Through her we have come into contact with most of our employees.
For our employees, the common denominator is that they were all marked by the enslaving cycle of poverty and were in desperate need of a job. We of course wish that we could employ each one we meet, but in order to maintain yearlong production for our current employees, we have to this date created employment for 55 people. Currently we are interviewing more knitters and start training another 53 knitters next week to fill growing production needs!
How have you found raising 3 children in Nepal, surrounded by passionate entrepreneurs and social goodness has impacted their lives?
Raising children anywhere is both a challenge and more fun that words can describe. However, raising children in Nepal adds a lot of complexity to the “normality” of being a parent. We have three kids in between the ages of 9 and 13, and they have so far spent the majority of their childhood here. They have an international flavor to them, having a mix of Canada, Sweden and Nepal with a community here from literally all over the world.
We love how this has developed their sense of justice and compassion, and how they at an early stage in life they can really understand global social issues. They experience certain challenges living here that their peers in the West do not face. At the same time, they have all communicated that life here feels more “meaningful”, and they can see that the sacrifices that our family have made has really made an impact here. But it is sometimes hard to be so far away from extended family.
Give us an overview of the growth seen since launching in 2012 – the triumphs, the hardships and all
Dinadi launched in April 2016 and since its start we have seen many lives impacted. We work with amazing retailers across the world and have launched 3 collections, built a brand, created a fully transparent production process and much more. However, two and half years, in reality, is not very long and in some ways, we have only been building on the foundation. But to try and sum it up; it has been an extremely busy and intense period.
Triumphs include; seeing the big response to the first Kickstarter collection and knowing that the demand for ethical and sustainable fashion was growing, enabling us to be dedicated to our social mission. Also working with boutiques as well as launching our web-store, giving us more direct contact to our customers.
Triumphs for our knitters include; seeing more knitters (or their children) entering school, our women feeling like peers to their spouses and families as they start contributing financially, the financial stability that many now experience and seeing community and friendships grow out of our workspace. Within the last 6 months we have employed a team of Nepali managers that run much of the day to day operations.
This has been a real triumph to see locals filling key roles in terms of growing Dinadi with the same high level of quality and commitment to sustainable ways. Startups are always messy, take lots of time and effort, and can be very challenging. Doing a startup in Nepal, which is politically unstable, and to do it in the aftermath of a big earthquake and a 5-month blockade that pushed the country back many years in terms of development is of course even more complex. Everything takes longer to do here, and requires more work and creativity. We just have to keep going and push through the challenges that constantly arises.
A big growth potential for us is our online sales. Growing our online sales would allow us to employ more women in Nepal. Our FW18/19 collection is right now online and our distribution centers ship to most of Europe and Canada and the US.
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I am a social entrepreneur. That means I use business as a catalyst for social goodness. I am deeply passionate about sustainable travel, zero waste living, ethical fashion and social good. I currently run North India's first zero waste guesthouse, Hara House, and am the Content Director at Causeartist.