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Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Ladin Atilla & Luvi Kids Decided To Change Our World

Once women start contributing to the family budget or become financially free; they gain more control over their lives and bodies, have an increased voice, and more meaningful participation in decision-making within the household. It also affects the lives of their children. They can provide better living conditions and education. It gives me great joy to be a part of this amazing impact.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ladin Atilla.

Ladin Atilla is a social entrepreneur and founded Luvi Kids, a women empowering baby clothes shop. Through Luvi Kids, Ladin has supported over 15 women working from home to sustain their livelihoods while looking after their families.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up in Bodrum Turkey, which is located on the Aegean Sea. Entrepreneurial spirited people surrounded me from an early age. My mom and dad are both entrepreneurs. Many of our friends and family are also entrepreneurs. Soon enough, I, too, launched my first business. I was seven and had a small table full of hand-painted magnets, handmade cards, and pages of my coloring book. It became quite a success. Later, I found out my dad was up the street, promoting my stand to everyone who passed by. It shows how important good marketing and networking is to the success of any business. This experience gave me a taste of entrepreneurship, and it stuck with me. I believe it also shaped my decisions later in life.

I lived and studied in Bodrum until the end of high school. After that, I spent an exchange year in the US which opened my mind to different possibilities and made me realize I had more courage than I thought I had. When I returned from the U.S. I obtained my degree in Industrial Engineering and took a position as a business analyst before moving to Dubai.

You are currently leading a social impact organization. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Luvi Kids is a “woman empowering” brand of children’s clothing. Our goal is to help women become financially independent by creating sustainable jobs for them. Economically empowering women is one of the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals as well. In countries where more women are included in the workforce, their economies grew. For example, increasing the female employment rates in OECD countries to match that of Sweden, could boost GDP by over $6 trillion (PwC, Women in Work Index 2018).

Most women who work for us do not have the skills or the experience to find jobs in today’s market. We help them monetize some of the skills they mastered as homemakers. A barrier that women often face is access to child and/or elder care. It prevents them from finding jobs because they are the main caregivers in the family. According to ILO, women tend to spend on average 2.5 times more than men on unpaid care and domestic work. Our business model breaks down that barrier and supports women working from home to sustain their livelihoods while looking after their families.

Once women start contributing to the family budget or become financially free; they gain more control over their lives and bodies, have an increased voice, and more meaningful participation in decision-making within the household. It also affects the lives of their children. They can provide better living conditions and education. It gives me great joy to be a part of this amazing impact.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I believe businesses can thrive and make a positive social impact at the same time. From the start, I knew whatever business I decided to build, it had to have a positive impact. Moving to Dubai and struggling to find a suitable job showed me the importance of having a sustainable income, especially for women. I wanted to create that for myself and for other women who otherwise may not have had the opportunity. I came up with this business model that allows me to give back to skilled, capable, and hard-working women who lacked economic opportunities. My goal is to create long-lasting results for the women who work with me. A Luvi Kids dress is not just a dress; it is a story of women helping women.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

After graduating from university, I chased corporate jobs for a while. However, I always felt something was missing. At some point I realized my dream job was being an entrepreneur. I didn’t need to chase other people’s dreams; I needed to create and chase my own dream. At first, I didn’t know how. Eventually, my desire to create, learn, and give back surpassed my fears. That’s Luvi Kids was born. The biggest inspiration behind Luvi Kids is my mom. She used to make me dresses like the ones I’m selling now. I loved wearing them as a child, and I wanted to share that through my designs.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I know the feeling. First, I read everything I could find about entrepreneurship and I still do. I learned a lot from books. There is a ton of free and helpful content online as well. Then, I started designing sample dresses and showed them to my friends, to moms, and to industry experts and asked for their feedback. Once I improved on the sample dresses, I started joining designer pop-up markets, Christmas markets, etc. It allowed me to connect with my customers face to face and test my business idea. After that, I started building my presence online. Somewhere along the way, I started joining startup communities both online and in my city. Being a part of these communities helped me a lot too.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Most of the women artisans who work for Luvi Kids live in villages. Farmer’s markets set up once a week in many of these villages. I noticed nearly all the women I work with wanted their pay the day before the farmer’s market. It made me realize the important impact Luvi Kids is making in their lives.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

It took some time for me to learn the selling process. My comfort zone is more in the design and production cycle of the business rather than the selling cycle. I used to jump at every opportunity to sell; at pop-up markets, online marketplaces, etc. I would get frustrated when it didn’t turn out the way I hoped. One day while I was brainstorming more sales ideas, I realized how I never checked to see if my target consumers shopped at these marketplaces. I also came to realize that the main objective of many of these marketplaces was to make money off sellers like me. Their goal is to get more sellers on their platform rather than making it a place for consumers to shop. After this internal discovery, it made me laugh each time I got blindsided by my desire to sell. In conclusion, always do your research!

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I have been fortunate to have multiple mentors and cheerleaders along the way. My family is my biggest support. They encouraged me to take the leap. Luvi Kids’ story began when I made my first sample dress. I began looking for mentors right away to help guide me through my next steps and decisions. I reached out to industry experts. I got invited to the sewing workshop of a manufacturer who makes garments for well-known brands. There we looked at the anatomy of my designs and how I could improve them. That insight and expertise helped guide me to transform my designs into higher quality, more comfortable, and a more durable product. I have many more stories like this one. I hope I can one day in the future “pay it forward” by sharing my experience with other entrepreneurs.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I have quite a few but, one of my favorites is about a women artisan who makes the beautiful crochet work on the dresses. She has been working with us since the beginning. One day, smilingly she told me it was her husband’s birthday. For the first time, she bought a birthday cake for him from a bakery thanks to the extra money she earned working with Luvi Kids. She surprised her husband and they had a great time. I think this is the sweetest story.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

All of us have a part to play in empowering women. Laws, regulations, and other appropriate measures are very important in combating gender inequalities. There are still legal barriers and societal stereotypes preventing women from getting jobs. Politicians can work on passing laws that protect women’s rights and eliminate discrimination. Society’s role is critical for women to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Both women and men should take action against discriminating attitudes and practices against women. Together, we need to work towards having equal participation and equitable representation in all sectors. As a community, we can support women in establishing and realizing their rights, and encourage them to get a formal education.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1 Be patient. I used to beat myself up about how many sales I had that month. The truth is you need time to try/fail/learn and go through that cycle multiple times. It is a part of the process. If you don’t give up and keep evolving, things get better. Therefore, patience is very important at the beginning stage.

2 Put in lots of extra time. No matter how seasoned of an entrepreneur you are, the world keeps evolving. To be able to keep up with it, you need to continuously learn and search for the best practices. Once you get rolling, it is easy to get caught up in daily tasks. Eventually, learning gets cast aside because you think you don’t have enough time. I suggest you always put learning on your priorities list.

3 Believe in yourself. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” It applies perfectly to building a business. You need to be confident about yourself, your vision, and your business.

4 Talk to your customers. Founders usually have strong ideas about how their target customers behave, what they want, and what they need. Our assumptions might not match reality. The best way to learn what customers want and need is to talk to them. They can provide valuable insights. Therefore, plan on starting a conversation and asking for feedback whenever you can. You’ll have a better chance of success when you know exactly what your customers want.

5 Always do more than expected. Fulfilling your customer’s needs is great. However, if you do more than expected, a one-time customer becomes a loyal lifetime customer. Most likely they will share their experience and recommend your product/service to their friends.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would tell them to stop waiting and start doing. Many projects get stuck in the planning phase. Don’t wait for the perfect plan. Act on what you have, and perfect it on the way with the lessons you learn. Also, think about ways you can make that positive impact sustainable. Being consistent and remaining focused is what’s creates long term changes.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Leandra Medine Cohen. I love how her brain works. Manrepeller is my favorite blog. I think we’d have a great time and her twins would look great in my dresses!

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m on Instagram as @ladinatilla and @luvikids. I read answer all DM’s.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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