We had the good fortune of connecting with Nrithi Subramanian and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nrithi, how do you think about risk?
Just a few years ago, if you were to tell me, that I’d be spending my Friday nights carefully molding jump rings, threading chains, and handwriting thank you notes to people in Australia and South Africa, I may not even have laughed, but rather peeked to see if you were talking to the person behind me. Fast forward to today, my business, Mantra and Co., has evolved into a part of who I am, which I can surely say I’m the proudest of. From its inception, everything that I have done with Mantra and Co. has not only broken conventional business advice but has also been a series of risks.
When beginning my jewelry and accessories company, I had absolutely no idea of what it would entail, in any regard. Especially, in the peak of my junior year, with an onslaught of difficult classes and extracurriculars, I was apprehensive about my abilities to bring a distant vision to fruition. Although, I felt as if my desire to create social change, however ambitious it may be, would never be a reality if I treated it as a dream. Starting a business as a high school student would be a risk for a multitude of reasons, ranging from difficulty in balancing school work to later discovering a pandemic, which changed the face of eCommerce forever. After obtaining seed-funding from an investment company, creating a passionate team, and successfully launching, we realized that conventional business wisdom may not be for us. After all, the entirety of our business was far from conventional: a jewelry and accessories company created by those who SET the trends from which ALL proceeds go to charity. In some regards, I still joke to my team that we are a glorified lemonade stand. Through Mantra, we have been able to bring intersectionality between social activism and fashion, something that hadn’t been far ubiquitous before. So, instead of running our business distantly, we started to become more involved with our customers and our followers on our social media platforms.
We started to personalize and handwrite notes, showing the faces behind the business rather than just the products. Initially, there was ambivalence about bringing about this new, personal aspect because we weren’t sure if it’d make us look unprofessional. Rather, it did quite the opposite. Through expressing our team’s versatile personalities online, making small business friends, and having FUN with the business, we were able to build something, a company, that all of us truly fell in love with. If we hadn’t taken the initial risk of starting a business, and later on, customizing it to relate with and connect with our target audience, I can surely say, we would not be in the place we are today. Each business has a different person behind it, which can, oftentimes, be the most unique aspect about it. So, showcasing the real human behind it can resonate with people in a different manner.
What should our readers know about your business?
My business, Mantra and Co., is an eCommerce-based jewelry and accessories business that donates all of its proceeds to charity. Our goal is to intersect social activism and fashion to provide a product that a large group of individuals can come together to wear. Another unique aspect about us, is that our jewelry is curated by those who SET the trends, and we aim to uplift women in our community through catering to various different women-centric or run small businesses and charitable organizations. We embellish each and every order through adding a personalized touch and truly aim to bring a smile to each person who opens our packages. After starting in February of 2020, right before the pandemic, I was new to this entire realm of business, especially to an eCommerce jewelry business. What really kept me going, was the desire to transcend performative activism and create a tangible and lasting change in my community. Balancing Mantra with virtual schooling and its many ups and downs was, simply put, difficult. Although, throughout the entirety of this process, what I’ve learned is that the RIGHT people paired with inner confidence, can allow you to do things you never thought of prior. Allowing time for self-reflection, is where I’ve been able to develop the ideas for some of our best-selling collections, raising thousands of dollars for charity. If there is simply ONE thing that I’d want the world to take away from Mantra and Co. is that though there may be thousands of jewelry brands to purchase from, only through Mantra and Co. can you create a long-lasting impact in your community through also getting durable, sustainable, ethically sourced, and dainty jewelry made by a real person.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I definitely think that my favorite spot would have to be Greenville Avenue! There are so many small businesses that are fun to shop at and incredible places to grab food. Village Baking Co. is definitely a must for anyone who visits here in Dallas along with Velvet Taco!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In the ninth grade, I read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, a novel about the criminal justice system and its inequities, especially for death row convicts, as a part of my English class. This novel was the first impetus I had to curate social change in the world; the stories of Walter McMillan, a falsely accused death row prisoner, and so many more like him, fueled a conviction in me that still lingers within my work today. So much so, that using Mantra and Co., our team donated to the Innocence Project, an organization that provides DNA testing for potentially wrongfully convicted individuals. Moreover, both of my parents are living, breathing testaments to the American Dream. Both of them paved the path for me to be able to live out my aspirations, whether that be on the dance floor or Shark Tank, by being constant sources of inspiration and motivation. Both my parents provided unique aspects that enabled me to foster and later execute the idea that I had, along with my little brother (both my harshest critic and most loyal supporter). My entire team, full of young female entrepreneurs, inspires me to keep going every day. Their passion for what we have been able to build is almost tangible. The incredible small business community we’ve been welcomed into has been incredible sources of inspiration to us. Lastly, I’d like to shoutout every single person who has ever made an order or supported Mantra and Co. in any way; each order notification puts the largest smile on my face and brings me a little closer to living out my dreams. Without our customers, we are truly nothing!
Other: Tik Tok: @mantraandco
Hannah Harkins, Hailey Harkins, Mary McCue Bell, Nrithi Subramanian, Yuktha Suresh