For the team at Alana Athletica, yoga isn’t just a way of giving back to the body—it’s a way of giving back to the community. They’ve partnered with Emerge, an organization in Sri Lanka that empowers female abuse survivors by giving them mentorship, training and employment in the apparel production industry they need to get back on their feet and thrive. Abuse and marginalization of women is all too common in the developing economy, but economic empowerment holds the key to so much healing.
We had a chance to connect with the entire Alana Athletica team, co-founders Cheynelle Mendis, Azad Rahman and Juan Castellanos.
Dustin Clendenen: What inspired the partnership with Emerge?
Alana Athletica Team: Our team at Alana Athletica comes from different countries and very humble roots. There were several turning points in our lives that made us fortunate enough to have the opportunity to migrate to the United States and live the American dream, some of us temporarily and others permanently. After traveling the world (with jobs in management consulting and fashion design) for many years collecting new friends and experiences, we were convinced that our future efforts (both personal and professional) needed to serve a greater purpose—to give back, support, and empower others. After years of courage and planning (and plenty of market research and conviction), we assembled our core team, full of talent and sharing the same vision, to launch our dream, Alana Athletica. We knew that our ultimate goal wasn’t to create the highest quality yoga pant in the market (even though we do think it is), but to use a high-quality product as means for a greater purpose, which is where Emerge came in. After numerous interviews and due diligence on non-profits, we decided to present this opportunity to Emerge because they share the same core values as Alana Athletica and support our vision—that women deserve to feel confident, supported, and empowered. We believe that by working with Emerge, the sky is the limit with what we can give back to these deserving women and local communities. Our vision is that Alana Athletica’s growth will be driven by the support of our global community – the women who design, cut, stitch, wear, and showcase our product.
DC: How has working with women in Sri Lanka changed your perspective?
AA: Working with women in Sri Lanka has transformed our perspective on the purpose of life and what “success” means. Previously, our cofounders were all part of very successful corporations, traveling first class around the world, supporting Fortune 500 executives, and making great money. After taking a step back and finally getting out of the corporate bubble that we were in, we realized that the meaning of life was much more than that. Once we started working with the women in Sri Lanka, this shiftin the purpose of life became even more evident. We began to see the inconsistencies between wealth and poverty in developing countries, as well as how fortunate we had been to be able to live a life free of abuse. Having been so fortunate, we now feel that it is upon us to help those who haven’t been as fortunate, and to appreciate the little things that life gives us—light, water, nature, a smile, a family, a meal. With this change in perspective, we now want to be a pioneer in the corporate environment and set an example for others across the world on the meaning of life—a life devoted to giving back, to minimizing the lack of balance that exists between those who have been fortunate and those who haven’t been. This is what Alana represents.
DC: How have you seen Emerge impact and change the lives of the Sri Lankan women in your workshop?
AA: While our partnership with Emerge is relatively young, the impact that this organization has is truly one-of-a-kind. From teaching young women career and life skills, to mentorship and reintegration, Emerge willfully enables its women to get a second chance at life, a life full of hope and opportunity. This applies to the women of Emerge in our Alana Athletica production house. Through mentorship and a rigorous training program, we have been able to integrate our Emerge women to those already supporting our production workhouse and in doing so, have created a sense of community where everyone feeds from one another’s support and encouragement. We are empowering our women by equipping them with career and life mentorship, with the ultimate desire of creating successful women and economic empowerment.
DC: Why do you think it’s so important for businesses to give back in some way in this economy?
AA: We think that more often than not, large corporations try to exploit the resources in developing countries to maximize profits, without realizing that such exploitation comes with an immense opportunity cost. When one side wins, another one loses. We are advocates of success for everyone. We want to empower and support women in need, and at the same time give back to the local communities who are designing, creating, and wearing our product end-to0end. By prioritizing this aspect of giving back, we truly think that we can establish transparency and awareness of the realities lived in developing countries, set a worthy example for all, from everyday citizens to global corporations, and create a chain reaction of giving back—one that is not linear, but exponential.
Alana Athletica wants to be a pioneer in the launch and execution of this exponential cycle of giving back with the ultimate goal of providing economic empowerment to our women and community.
As of this writing, the AA team are raising money on Kickstarter. Check out their campaign here!