Sujata Chatterjee

Sometimes in life, it is our heart that guides our path and that is perhaps the essence of my story about why I decided to become an entrepreneur and change-maker. It is always expected one would follow a career inline with their education and work experience and it always advised to follow a work or business model that has successfully been done before. Yet I have done the exact opposite of all this. So I thought I am an engineer by degree, I am a social entrepreneur by choice. But I became a social entrepreneur simply because I felt the overwhelming need to try and solve a few socio-environmental issues around me.

We live in an age of a retail boom where modern consumers shop throughout the year leading to overcrowded wardrobes. Their shelves are lined with clothes which they will no longer repeat, and yet they keep on shopping. Looking around me- I knew everyone, including my friends and family, had this same problem. At the same time, in a country like India, in slums and villages- lakhs of people struggle to find basic clothing and so many women need a decent source of livelihood. But even more shocking is the environmental aspect of it! Nobody knew the amount of natural resources that go into making each fabric. The worst part is the World Economic Forum states that up to 60% of clothes thus produced are lying unutilised, wasted or may even end up in a landfill. I could see the effect of fast fashion on the society &natural resources of my country and felt water conservation was the absolute need of the hour.

The story starts with my own wardrobe which was just too full and I just knew that there must be a better way to use our excess to benefit others and the world around us.

I conceptualised and single-handedly founded Twirl.store to solve all these socio-environmental issues. At Twirl, we encourage everyone to send their unwanted clothes to us. Customers are rewarded with points which they can redeem to buy new, upcycled products from us. But with all the unwanted cloth products that Twirl receives, Twirl either donates it to the needy or upcycles it as a fabric to create new wonders. This work of upcycling or reusing fabrics is all being done by rural women or slum women thus giving them a source of livelihood. Our talented women manufacturers make eco-friendly products in a range of bags, accessories, gift items, home décor etc that can get sold on www.twirl.store and also find a place in bulk orders/ corporate gifting.

While we all know that a Startup is difficult, and manufacturing setup is exhaustive – a full manufacturing and Retail startup with socio-environmental goals was a totally steep uphill task. On top of that, I faced a lot of negativity because I was on a mission to change society and planned to do it as a lady entrepreneur from Kolkata with only a team of women!

Lack of awareness about cloth-wastage and superstitions regarding used cloth was a major hurdle in this project and everyone, literally everyone needed to be educated about the usefulness and need of upcycled products. Yet even with all these hurdles stacked up in front of me, I chose to remain committed to our goals of reducing cloth-wastage, conserving natural resources, meeting the clothing needs of the poor and ensuring women empowerment. It was at times tiring to keep struggling but I continued to dedicate all my time to work hands-on to benefit women in slums/villages and do a bit for the environment.

Today I am proud to say www.twirl.store is providing an innovative solution to the problem of overflowing wardrobes and is the first of its kind platform that is acting as a bridge between the two ends of the societal pyramid and trying to meet the aspirations on both sides.

In 2 years, Twirl.store has conducted numerous donation drives across urban slums, villages & shelters of West Bengal and basic clothing has been provided to over 3000 needy people including the differently-abled, the elderly, children and many more. At the same time, conserving resources like water through each product, thousands of fabrics have been upcycled to date.

To encourage women empowerment in every way, Twirl.store is an all-girls organisation with ladies handling every role from manufacturing to operations to sales. Twirl works with self-help groups/NGOs for extensive skill development and has ensured sustenance for women from lower economic strata by selling thousands of upcycled products handcrafted by them.

Twirl.store has been felicitated at Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2019 and named as one of the best ideas to transform India by IIM-C and DST, Govt of India. We are part of Startup India and selected in prestigious NASSCOM1000StartUps program.

As Twirl.store founder, I was humbled to receive the Devi Award, powered by New India Express from the hands of Mrs Smriti Iran, Union Minister. I was awarded Swayam Siddha by Eastern Chamber of Commerce and Women-on-a-Mission by YourStory media. I have also been selected for Breaking the Glass Ceiling program of US Consulate Kolkata and University of Texas(Austin) which has helped me immensely.

My efforts have been featured in Outlook Magazine, The Telegraph, Dainik Jagran, Entrepreneur, Divya Bhaskar, Radio Mirchi, ETV Bharat and many more media outlets across the country. Renowned celebrities have spoken positively about our work including Sourav Ganguly(Ex-captain Indian Cricket Team), Mrs Chandrima Bhattacharya (MOS, Govt of WB), Kaushiki Chakraborty(renowned classical singer) and many others. We are pleased to have worked with organisations like Intuit, Senco Gold &Diamonds, HIDCO-Govt of West Bengal and many others

Entrepreneurship is a journey and so I stumble on. I fall often when the road becomes too rocky (pandemics, financial crisis, health issues etc) but I keep picking myself up and continue to find new paths (new opportunities, collaborations etc). Because the biggest motivation still remains the smiles on the faces of those whose lives we are able to touch.

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