The Journey of Shamini Dhana: Entrepreneur. Connector. Climate Ride Ambassador. Founder, Dhana, Inc.
Shamini Dhana brings to the fashion world over 20 years of experience in international strategy, global operations, venture capital, business development, management, and executive leadership in corporate America. As a consultant, government foreign direct investment specialist, and banker, Shamini gained extensive experience leading global business missions. She is passionate about the outdoors, and has represented Singapore in badminton, played collegiate tennis, cycled over 300 miles three times down the California Coast, climbed the Himalayas, was an associate producer of the True Cost movie, and is a philanthropist and Climate Ride Ambassador. These experiences stood her in good stead when she decided to express her passion and purpose by starting her own company, Dhana, Inc. She travels the world, spreading the DhanaTM spirit, and empowering youth to connect to people and the planet through the medium of fashion.
What is your story?
I grew up in Southeast Asia and I currently live in Northern California. I have now spent half of my life in the US and the other half in Asia. I’ve had the best of both worlds in terms of experiences, with my family spread over six continents, which helped me grow up with a very global mindset. Today, I consider myself a global citizen.
Growing up in Singapore, there was only one natural resource, which we call “human capital.” Literally everything we had was imported, from the food we ate and the shoes we wore to the toys we played with, the music we danced to, and the water we drank. As a child, I figured out very quickly that we are one big global community, dependent on each other for the very essence of life. My ability to engage with the globe became very personal, a relevant and integral part of my being.
People talk about travel as physically going to a place. I like to travel through people’s connections and their ability to share experiences and bring together their anecdotes. Travel, for me, is not about visiting seven countries in three days. I love to spend time and immerse myself in a culture and understand the different facets of what inspires and drives people, and how they feel they are connected to the earth, the physical beauty around them, and the natural environment.
Connecting with people on various levels and experiencing and seeing life through their eyes is what I do best. My personality is such that I am very curious about human nature and the human spirit. I have realized through my own personal experience that we are all part of the greater food chain. Each one of us has a unique gift to share during our existence on this earth. By paying attention and reserving judgement, each one of us has an opportunity to connect to each other, through our experiences, through our common dependence on what sustains us, as well as the material goods that we depend on.
I connect people with the planet in different ways. My mission can be summed up as “uniting humanity through fashion,” with the goal of inspiring people to realize that every day we wear a piece of clothing that has the ability to connect us with other people and with planet earth. We may not think about this very often, but every piece of clothing we wear has hands and hearts behind it. The natural resources of our planet are also in this piece of clothing. My hope is that the consciousness of humanity will get to a point where we realize that a piece of clothing can make a difference in this world, and that it can serve as a connection to humanity. Perhaps it’s time to revisit this journey, to step back and consider how aligned each piece of clothing is to our own values and how in turn we reflect ourselves in them. Fashion has the potential to connect us in deeper and more profound ways, to each other and to the world. The Dhana tagline “We’re Wearin’ the World” reflects just this sentiment and this reminder to humanity.
One in six people on our planet work in the garment industry. The fact that we have the ability to impact the second most polluting industry in the world by voting with our dollars is phenomenal. Each of us can make conscious decisions with the products we wear and consume. What excites me is that this level of curiosity and consciousness can be instilled from a very young age.
Wear what you stand for: wear your values
The business I run is a sustainable and ethical fashion brand for the youth and global leaders of tomorrow. Change happens through transformation and evolution over time, and what better way to do that than through our young people? Dhana symbolizes a way to rethink our connection with people and the planet through the medium of fashion. At Dhana, we strive to unite the beauty of nature, the choice of natural, organic elements, the celebration ofworld cultures, the creative genius of global artists, the passion of entrepreneurs, and the voices of children through the universal medium of fashion.
When we look at how our youth operate and function in the world, we realize they tend to be empathetic toward the natural world and to the life inhabiting it. Our youth have a propensity to care deeply, and the goodness of their hearts can extend way beyond themselves from a very young age. I often talk with and listen to the younger generation, either in classroom or community settings. Their curiosity is phenomenal, in terms of how much they grasp what is possible if we can change our behavior. They often have no desire to inflict any kind of pain or injustice on people, or to poison or pollute our environment. Many of them know that to honor the earth is to honor ourselves. When you see that very essence in a child, you realize it should be protected and preserved, like the earth itself.
We all know we are not the only species of life on this planet. If we were to step back, we would realize that we collectively rely on the same resources: the air we breathe, the water we consume, the natural heat we need to continue with life, and the minerals and plants we feed on that nourish us. We exist in a symbiotic relationship with all of the other species on earth. Once we realize and embrace this truth, the idea of living in harmony starts to become vital to our core existence.
People still feel the name of the game is to cater to the masses, but the notion of profiting at the expense of others is starting to shift. The philosophy of people doing business for the sheer goal of making money is starting to change, and the shift is taking place slowly but surely towards a more expanded consciousness. We are living in a transformative time with unprecedented amounts of content, information, and exposure to experiences via the internet, which brings with it the ability to connect with people who resonate with our message, product, or service directly. The conversation happening before the point of sale—the many people involved in the making of the goods we consume and the services we use, and the fact that they matter, too and should be honored and celebrated—have become relevant to our our survival as a human species. These are new ideas that we will see more of in the future of business as customers, workers, and communities demand more of it. These are the stories that will dominate our conversations and psyches, thereby causing us to revisit our contributions and impact at work, in society, and in life. By connecting to our purpose, we will ultimately feel connected to what we do every day and feel the reward and satisfaction of sharing our gifts.
At the end of the day, we are indeed all connected. When you are aware of where the food you eat and the clothes you wear come from, you can contribute to the triggering of massive changes in how business is done. The biggest change today is that the unheard worker, the silent consumer, and the curious customer are all reclaiming their voices and speaking up for what they want to see in the world. We are seeing new conversations emerging as people start asking new questions about the companies they do business with.
Dhana TM was founded in 2008, and we spent the last eight years building partnerships. One of the things that I have always believed is that partnerships and people don’t happen overnight. For any new venture, idea, or paradigm shift to take place, we must create those paths of collaboration. You have to find avenues and platforms that share similar visions where the values are aligned. Just like anything else, it’s personal. It is the propensity to share a vision of what’s possible.
One of the partnerships we are proud to be part of is the B Corp movement. B Corps harness the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Unlike conventional corporations, whose highest priority is financial gain, B Corps recognize that true profitability only comes when companies also contribute to the greater wellbeing of people and the planet. B Corps are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on their shareholders, but also on their stakeholders (e.g., workers, suppliers, community, customers, and the environment). At Dhana, we take the B Corp goals to heart. We’ve written environmental protection and social fairness right into our vision and our mission. We use our ethical and sustainable fashion lines to raise world consciousness about these important issues.
Apart from the B Corp community, Dhana TM is built on a strong foundation, having relationships with organizations like Green America, the Ethical Fashion Forum, Climate Ride, Fairtrade International, Ellevate Network, and local schools and communities. Each of these organizations share similar values and help us to build awareness of our connection to people and the planet through our clothes.
We are connecting with thousands of people who belong to these platforms and communities who want a brand that understands the very essence of their human spirit. People are looking to identify and connect with brands that reflect and align with a value system that resonates with the core beliefs of humanity. Dhana TM asks a basic fundamental question: “How do you wear the world?” I want our youth—and everyone else—to start asking questions like: How do I wear the world in fashion? Where was my clothing made? Who made it? How was it made?
The gifts children bring to our world
There is a very strong bond that can exist between a mother and her child. My Il year old daughter, Sasha, and I have a very special, priceless, and symbiotic relationship. We learn from each other. It’s an opportunity for the adult, mother, parent, and friend in me to walk the journey with my child, to share her experiences and rethink moments in time with her when she questions why things are the way they are in the world. It is an opportunity to revisit beliefs and ideas with her. To witness the world through my daughter’s eyes again and again is a true blessing in my life.
My biggest gift to her is to share her curiosity and passion with the world, and to help her to feel empowered to take her gifts and share them with the world. Sasha has an opportunity to share with the world how she thinks and connects through different mediums, be it poetry, dance, music, or art, and to be able to say she is drawing from different cultures, music, plants, and animals of the world.
Sometimes you don’t realize how you perceive the world until you are asked. A conversation has to occur for you to realize that you may have biases or misconceived ideas. We need to have more opportunities for people to have conversations with an open mind so that we can each interact with the world and find our place. It’s so important for us to ask new questions and truly listen to each other.
The Internet is a critical tool today for bringing people together all over the world so they can share their stories, receive feedback, guidance, mentorship, and help, and realize they are not alone. We are in a moment of history when our connectedness truly is far reaching and more impactful than ever. We should be ready for a world of change to unveil itself in the next few years and decades, so that we can move in a direction of harmony with our planet.
What is super exciting to me is the notion of the “I” being replaced by the collective “We.” This is when we can truly embrace the connected life we live in. Until you can break away and know it’s not all about the “I,” you will have the mentality of being the victim and not part of the collective. Solutions come as long as one is open to life and its possibilities.
We truly have the opportunity today to bring a new awareness to our global community about our interconnectedness. By embracing the idea that we are “Wearin’ the World” through our experiences with others, how we interact with the material world, and our shared dependence on our planet’s gifts, we will truly be connected to the human spirit.
Some sustainability information about Dhana:
Dhana values are ingrained and reflected in the spirit of our culture and brand “We’re Wearin’ the World” (our tagline)
Five defining values as part of Dhana’s ethos:
- Commitment to Honor all the People along the way behind our clothes
- Celebrate the natural resources and environment that enable our designs, styles and collection
- Communicate how we do business through transparency and accountability
- Compassion for all life on earth and in the being a force for good
- Conscious behavior to ensure that our actions have a positive impact on people and planet
Dhana Inc. joined B Lab and the B Corp movement in 2012. Our first certification was in 2013 with a score of 100 points. Late 2016, Dhana Inc. was recertified as a B Corp and we increased our score to 152 points. Here is the summary of the report.
Shamini Dhana is one of the contributors on Param Media Inc. http://parammedia.com/authors-contributors
Shamini Dhana’s article can be found in the book Our Journey to Corporate Sanity: Transformational Stories From The Frontiers of 21st Century Leadership by Ayelet Baron, Param Media, 2016, features 33 business leaders.
Shamini Dhana’s company Dhana Inc. is featured in Marin Independent Journal