Your Name: Sophia Hyder

Business Name: Evolvemint, a clothing company that is economically sustainable and promotes gender equality

Type of Business: Social Enterprise in Clothing and Accessories

Business Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Twitter @evolvemint

Reason for starting
I had an epiphany in 2010 when I realized that I had reached a plateau in my professional life. I yearned to find happiness through meaningful work, and knew that combining my two favorite passions, international development and fashion, would let me do just that. I wanted to create classic, elegant designs for dresses and skirts using bold prints and high quality fabrics. In a nutshell, my aspiration was to create the clothing and accessories that I would wear myself, but couldn’t find in stores. I also wanted to be able to trace the origin of my apparel, to appreciate clothing as a work of art and confidence. As an international development professional, it was imperative for me to create a business model that is economically sustainable and promotes gender equality. One of the most important elements of my work is that it supports my Bengali and American heritage.

How do you define success?
Happiness = success. The blood, sweat, and tears are all worth it if people are positively impacted by Evolvemint’s vision and mission in the long run. I have received messages from people that I work with in Bangladesh saying they really appreciate the work I am doing on their behalf. It not only makes me smile, but pushes me to work even harder.

Biggest Success
In Bangladesh, I make sure all parts of the supply chain from producers to consumers recognize that gender issues exist, and can be improved throughout each part of the process. To encourage sustainable economic development practices are taking place, I mentor the women enterprises by providing access to consumer demand information while also assisting them to develop competitive prices for international markets. In the U.S., I aim to provide consumers with greater knowledge about where their products come from. I encourage them to ask questions and to think about how their purchases impact larger economic development issues. Since launching Evolvemint in June of 2012, the response in Bangladesh and U.S. have been overwhelmingly positive. There is already greater transparency and awareness of gender and sustainability than before – and I consider this my biggest success thus far.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
In Bangladesh, strong partnerships have been the key to realizing my goal of starting a business that supports and promotes truly sustainable economic development practices. Building those relationships abroad was extremely challenging. As Evolvemint came into being, I worked diligently to navigate through roadblocks related to perceptions, stigmas, and cultural differences, before I found the people who would share my vision. I learned to lean on trusted colleagues who understood, and shared, my motivations and passions, and through them, I was able to sift through myriad non-starters to find partnerships that would really work. After establishing our own ‘norms’, the Evolvemint team was able to move forward through a planning process for the successful implementation of a shared vision working towards gender empowerment and sustainable economic development practices.

Who is your most important role model?
My parents. They have taught me to appreciate and value family, friends, my surroundings, and the education that I have. All these factors have contributed to my vision for Evolvemint. I feel lucky enough to have what I have – and I want to spread the love in a sustainable way.