2020 Summer Catalyst Startup Profile: UNfabricated
When Prabaarja Bedi MBA ’20 was 16 years old, she spent time designing dresses with her mother and often visited her family’s textile manufacturing firm. She saw only men working on the factory floor and noticed piles of fabric that were never used. Prabaarja also noticed that there were many women in India with a talent for sewing clothes, who were either unemployed or unhappy with their current work. The prevalence of gender inequality and textile pollution, as well as the underutilization of female talent, inspired Prabaarja to initiate social change.
“My passion to reduce textile waste and to empower women gave birth to UNfabricated. We identify reusable waste fabric generated in textile manufacturing firms and hand it over to an underutilized women workforce that possesses basic seamstress skills.” As co-founders, she and her mother design the products and partner with an all-women production house to manufacture accessories, clothing, home furnishing items, and face masks. Her products are elegant, as well as socially and environmentally conscious. In fact, the “UN” in UNfabricated is inspired by three key UN Sustainable Development Goals which the venture aims to address: no poverty, responsible consumption and production, and gender equality.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Prabaarja was eager to help out and launched the production of facemasks. In the beginning of July, UNfabricated began selling facemasks in India. The masks are sold on a buy one, donate one basis: when a customer purchases a mask, UNfabricated will immediately donate another mask to an individual who cannot afford one. After about three weeks, 80 masks have been sold in India and another 80 have been donated. UNfabricated has been preparing to launch this initiative in the United States. Prabaarja invites the recipients of the donations to to share photos wearing their masks. Check out UNfabricated’s Instagram to see photos and stay tuned for the release of masks in the U.S.
In Summer Catalyst, Prabaarja has enjoyed networking with peers, building relationships with mentors, learning from Hot Seat, and attending Lunch & Learns. Her peers and mentors have provided invaluable feedback on her products, website, and the venture as a whole: “Being an entrepreneur gets really intense and having a strong support network is very helpful.” The most rewarding part of the entrepreneurial journey for her is waking up to do something she is incredibly passionate about. In addition to Summer Catalyst, Prabaarja was a member of Babson’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab accelerator.
What are some of the most valuable lessons Prabaarja has learned as an entrepreneur and how has the journey shaped her as an individual? First of all, it has given her more strength and resilience. She has learned that it is important to keep the ultimate vision in mind. Looking at the bigger picture, focusing on the impact, and reminding yourself of your major goals can help you persevere through challenging times.
What is her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? She encourages her peers to collaborate with others who have different skill sets; that way peers can learn from one another: “You don’t need to learn everything to start a venture. Know your strengths and get help in other areas.” She also believes it is important to stay connected with the entrepreneurial community and reach out for help when you need it.