Los Angeles native and costume designer Tina Tangalakis launched fashion label Della after attending a volunteer program in Hohoe, Ghana. She fell in love with the community, not to mention the Ghanaian textiles. The rest is history.
Can you explain the volunteer program that first brought you to Ghana? The nature of the volunteer work and how you embedded into the community?
It was one of those volunteer vacation programs where you pay way too much to experience a third world country. The program was for a little under a month and my sole intention of being there was to work and teach at a local orphanage. After spending time there, I knew I wanted to do something that connected with the community in a lasting way.
What did you do before starting your company? Before founding Della, I worked in costume design and wardrobe styling — commercials, television shows, magazines, and indie films.
Who benefits from your work? Hopefully everyone benefits from our work! From our team in Los Angeles, to the community in Ghana, to the customers who buy our products. All of our employees are paid fair wages and receive healthcare and social security benefits along with other programs which include money mentorship classes, savings initiatives, and weekly literacy courses. Less than one-half of our seamstresses are mothers, however 90 percent of them are supporting children with their salaries.
Community support is big in Ghana and it means a lot that the jobs we are providing not only support our team, but extend to children and families as well. We've employed over sixty people this year!
Has this changed the way you think about charity and helping others? Yes, most definitely. We strongly believe in empowering one another through opportunity!
Have you had a lost-in-translation moment with the Ghanaians you work with? Oh, all the time, but we just laugh about it. I visit Ghana every six months but am in communication with the facility every day. The Ghanaians often make fun of me when I try to speak in their local dialect.
Tips for a traveler heading to Ghana:
1. Go to Cape Coast to see the old castles from slave trade. It’s very haunting, but very important.
2. Kakum National Park is canopy walk over a rainforest that’s absolutely amazing. There are only six like it in the world and it’s an experience that I think everyone should enjoy when visiting Ghana.
3. There's a little Rastafarian beach community called Kokrobite. It's a great place to relax and hang out with the locals.
What's your advice for entrepreneurs who want their businesses have an aspect of global giving? Start with what you know or what you love and go from there. There might be challenges in it but just don’t give up.
Where are you traveling next? Hawaii, for my first vacation since 2009! And then back to Ghana.