Timbrel Adidala: Giving underprivileged women a voice
As she browsed through fabric at a market in India, Timbrel Adidala was approached by a complete stranger who asked her if she needed help sewing.
The woman was from the Banjara community, a nomadic group in India with its own customs, languages and style of dress. Adidala, 30, of Leola, recognized her entrepreneurial spirit and desire to make her own money. She respected that.
Soon the woman would become the first employee of Lush Bazaar, Adidala's fashion line offering handmade clothing, accessories and home decor. With a passion for design and determination to help women in her native country, Adidala started the business as a way to create job opportunities for underprivileged women.
"I've always wanted to make a difference," she said. "There are people who are doctors, missionaries and pastors...but for me, fashion is a way that people express themselves. I believe that with Lush Bazaar, this line is a way people are expressing that they believe in other women and they also believe in doing good, even while they dress.
"When you wear Lush Bazaar, there is a story behind that," she said. "There is a person on the other side of the world while you're sleeping who is making this piece of clothing, coming to work happy that they're there because they're actually able to provide for themselves and their family."
Empowering her employees
Adidala sat down with the Business Journal in early July, just a few weeks after her office space in India was burglarized. The business took a financial hit and she had to lay off several employees, but Adidala is bouncing back, preparing a fall line that will feature bold, hand-dyed items and woven pieces.
Lush Bazaar is just a couple years old, but through her employees, Adidala, who came to the U.S. when she was three months old, has already learned a lot about what living in India is like for women.
"Though India is growing economically, it still holds onto its traditions and cultures that aren't helping women," she said.
There's a saying that cows are more sacred than women in India, she said, "a really scary, goosebumpy" idea.
"The lower-class aren't given a choice, and that goes on throughout their life," she said. "They're not given a choice as to whether they want to have kids or not. They don't understand what it's like to be respected. They don't understand what it's like to have someone ask them a question and want to know their answer."
Adidala noticed this when she asked her employees for input on her fashion line.
"A lot of times it is hard for me to understand them," she said. "I just think it comes easy for a woman to explain themselves or tell me, 'I'm not feeling well. I'm not coming to work.' They just won't show up because they don't want to have the confrontation."
Adidala encourages them to speak up, to share their ideas and opinions with her. In a way, she said working for Lush Bazaar is akin to therapy for the employees, as they previously didn't feel they had a voice. It's a safe space where what they have to say is valued.
Her first employee is one example of how her staff members have opened up over time. After working with her for a while, the woman shared her back story: She was married at 14, and her husband committed suicide. With children to support, she started working, in addition to the tasks she had to do for her in-laws.
It made Adidala realize "this is probably just one story of so many other women and girls that probably go through this." She knows she can't help them all, but maybe helping a few could change that cycle, she said.
Adidala works out of The Candy Factory, a coworking space in Lancaster, and communicates with her employees in India via phone.
Over time, Adidala has noticed a positive change in the morale of her staff. They're more vocal, and they laugh a lot more, she said. She's proud as a business owner to empower them in that way.
Her first employee has found a sense of financial independence, purchasing her first sari with her Lush Bazaar wages.
"She never actually bought a sari with her own money before, so when she bought that, she was just in tears because it was her hard-earned money," Adidala said. "She had that extra money to buy something, not to pay a debt or pay for something for her boys."
"I didn't realize it, but for her, that's a big deal," she said.
'We all have it in us'
Lush Bazaar merchandise can be purchased online or at That Shuu Girl in Lancaster. Eventually, Adidala hopes to open a fashion truck in Central Pennsylvania and employ single mothers, specifically refugees.
"India is my homeland, but America is my home country," she said. "I grew up here all my life, and I want to help people here who need it as well. As much as I say I want to help India, I want to help America as well because it gave me everything I have today."
Her ultimate goal is to put Lush Bazaar's fashion on a major runway, all the while improving the lives of women.
The importance of the business venture for Adidala can be traced back to her childhood.
"I've always respected women in my life for what they've gone through," she said. "Like my mother, when she came to this country, she knew nobody and she was like 21 years old. I was her first child. She spoke English and she was educated, but she left her family and everything to start this new life, to give her kids a better life. She grew as a woman and she was so strong through it all.
"My grandmother was a principal, and my other grandmother was a pastor and an activist," she said. "All of these women molded me to be a strong woman, and my passion is to help other women become strong. I really believe we all have it in us as women."