Dali and Finn Schonfelder’s clothing obsession is not quite like that of your average teenager. Born in Holland, the sister-brother duo founded Nalu, a clothing label that uses its proceeds to keep children in India in school through the simple act of providing them with a uniform. After a family trip to India revealed a trend in drop-out rates, Dali (16) and Finn (13) got their creative brains together, using their shared interest in design and clothing to help their newfound friends. With a name that means ‘wave’ in Hawaiian, the Nalu label is creating a ripple effect, expanding to Bali and Kenya, with hopes of reaching Uganda next. In partnership with Xero, we had a chat with co-founder Dali about her incredible initiative.
How did the idea for Nalu come about?
In 2011 my family and I first entered some schools in central hot, dusty India. We formed friendships with the children in the playgrounds while my mum and dad were volunteering as chiropractors. I turned 13 and [returned to India, where] I discovered something quite strange: nearly all of my friends weren’t at school. When we asked where our friends were, the local villagers told us that they weren’t allowed to attend school simply because they did not own a school uniform. In India the government pays for school uniforms up until students are 12 years old. But after age 12 they stop with the uniform contribution, which causes enormous school drop-out levels in these poor communities.
What was the next step?
We couldn’t believe that something so affordable had such a measurable impact on my friends. So we started Nalu as a for-profit business based on a simple model, Get Give, where for every five products we sell, we give one school uniform to a child who needs one.
How does the process work?
The entire process begins with you buying Nalu products. We employ local women to make the school uniforms, then we give the uniforms to the children who otherwise must leave school. In our pilot school, there has been a 78 per cent increase in enrolment.
As teens running a business, what have been your biggest assets?
A pro [of being teenagers with a business] is that we get heaps of help! We go to the coolest school on Earth. It’s called the Green School in Bali and we get taught how to be the leaders of the future. We get a lot of time and coaching from the Green School community to work on Nalu. For our finances, we are also just starting to use Xero so it is helping to organise our monthly revenue and cost sheets as well as help us predict the future.
The best moment in your business journey so far?
The first school uniform recipient was a girl called Pretty. When we gave her a uniform it meant she could continue her schooling and this turned her whole life around. She closed her eyes and smelled the first new clothing that she had ever owned. She rushed to the bathroom to slip into her new school uniform, and watching her walk across that red dusty school plain she looked like she was 5cm taller with pride.
What is next for Nalu?
Our goals are to give away 20,000 school uniforms a month, and continuing to support the students we have given uniforms to so that they can graduate.