Los Angeles designer Tina Tangalakis has always loved art and humanitarian work. After studying costume design from the California Institute of the Arts, she worked as a wardrobe stylist in the entertainment industry. Years later, she entered the design world but eventually quit because it left her unsatisfied. “I wanted to design, but I wanted my work to have a purpose,” she says. In September 2009, Tangalakis took part in a volunteer program and found herself in Hohoe, Ghana. She quickly fell in love with the locals and their culture, and decided to help improve the lives of the women there. Together with a local entrepreneur, Tangalakis started Della, a socially responsible accessories company that employs women in the village.
For Tangalakis, Della is the career she had been looking for: business with a conscience. “Now I have found a way to do meaningful work in my field, and fortunately, socially responsible consumerism has become a trend,” she says. “Through businesses like Della, I hope to keep it the norm.”
Della’s mission is to empower the Ghanaian women it works with through jobs, education, and skills training. The company believes in nurturing dependence and human ability rather than providing charity. All of Della’s products are handcrafted from vegan and sustainable materials and literally “carry change” – every dollar earned goes toward providing education, employment, and financial stability to its seamstresses in Hohoe. Additionally, Della’s employees receive benefits such as national healthcare, national social security, and weekly classes in literacy and money management.
Recently, Della launched a line of exclusive, limited edition laptop cases at Apple, becoming the first socially responsible and African-made brand to do so. Apple originally said no to Tangalakis when she first approached them, but she took it as a challenge and followed up in six months. “Be persistent and don’t take anything personally,” she advises.