Nrithi Subramanian was horrified as she watched the bushfires ravage Australia earlier this year.
“After reposting on social media, I was like, ‘What do I do now?'” she said. “I can’t yet vote, so I wanted to find something I could do as a teen. I wanted to help others like me who were passionate about social change.”
As she brainstormed ways to help, the 17-year-old kept coming back to products she knew other high school girls would love: jewelry and accessories. In February, she founded Mantra and Co. as a way to support small businesses in Dallas and nonprofit organizations around the world.
The company is run by a diverse group of high school entrepreneurs, including Lakewood neighbor and Bishop Lynch student Lila Banowetz. The 16-year-old is the director of marketing and public relations.
“We do this outside of school and work because we’re so passionate,” Banowetz said. “No one gets paid. It’s all voluntary.”
The first line to launch was the Butterfly Collection, which made more than $1,000. But Mantra and Co. didn’t stop there. The company now offers a variety of necklaces, bracelets, anklets, earrings, scrunchies and more.
“I wanted to create a unique spin on environmentalism,” Subramanian said. “The butterfly is trendy, but it is also a response to nature and the environment we give back to. We have lightning bolts and snakes and various things that resemble nature.”
The high schoolers behind Mantra and Co. are conscious about reducing the company’s environmental footprint and ship orders en masse with biodegradable shipping to reduce emissions.
Mantra and Co. is not a nonprofit, but all net proceeds are donated to charity. The company has supported the Genesis Women’s Shelter and the North Texas Food Bank. During the coronavirus pandemic, the high schoolers made care packages containing sanitation wipes and homemade masks that they donated to local businesses, such as Penne Pomodoro, Flying Fish and Burger House.
“When COVID hit, I thought e-commence business might spike, but our sales took a punch,” Subramanian said. “A lot of people got unemployed or laid off. As a team, we needed that face-to-face interaction, but we’re also a team that likes to keep going.”
The company continued its activism in June, when protests against police brutality rocked the country. Subramanian and her team started a GoFundMe that raised more than $730 to help business owners affected by looting. Additionally, all jewelry sales that month were donated to causes supporting racial justice.
As the company grows, it has expanded it reach from primarily high schoolers to women of all ages across Dallas. A second customer base is growing in Minneapolis, where Subramanian has family.
“We’re getting a business boost before we go to college, and it’s helping us figure out what we want to do,” Banowetz said. “It’s cool to see how people support you.”
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