Tamara Gondo uses her passion for social entrepreneurship to help Jakarta’s refugees and the planet.
Tamara Gondo is a member of Generation17, a partnership between Samsung and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), empowering young people around the world who are contributing to the Global Goals.
For Tamara Gondo, a simple white T-shirt is anything but. As the CEO of Liberty Society, an e-commerce platform that produces and sells eco-friendly goods, she weaves refugee empowerment and sustainability into every piece of clothing and every accessory her team creates. “My hope is to inspire young people that it’s possible to do business and do good,” says the 25-year-old entrepreneur.
According to UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, there are roughly 14,000 refugees living in Indonesia. Many struggle to gain access to work or put their children in school. Tamara founded her company in Jakarta in 2019 to support the planet and the local refugee community she employs to make the products. Along with providing refugees with a steady income and upskilling opportunities, the platform takes a more holistic approach, partnering with organizations to provide them with health services, childhood education, and donated food.
“It’s a safe space where women can heal and rebuild their dreams,” says Tamara. “It’s a place where they can express themselves and their creativity while building financial freedom.”
Tamara reviews designs with refugee makers.
Supporting Second Chances
Tamara’s passion for helping others began early on. While in middle school in Jakarta, she started a nonprofit with friends to collect donations for local flood victims. The organization has since grown to include sponsorship and microfinance for underprivileged youth. “After seeing so many inequities,” she says, “I made a promise to become a bridge builder, connecting those who don’t have resources with those who do.”
Years later, while volunteering at a refugee organization, Tamara met a group of women who were sewing to support their families. Inspired by their harrowing resettlement experiences and the beautiful clothing they were making, she knew she had to help. “I saw really talented women who have the skills and passion, but don’t have access to the market,” she says. “They’re resilient, they’re strong, they’re creative. That’s what I want the world to know when they see the crafts that they make.”
A trainee sews shirts at the Jakarta workshop.
Along with teaching the refugees various tailoring skills, Tamara’s team finds other organizations to broaden their training, providing the artisans with language, business, financial, and digital literacy classes. A recent entrepreneurship program for refugee teens taught them how to launch their own e-commerce sites.
Creativity Powered by Technology
Tamara credits digital technology for enabling collaboration among her international colleagues. Virtual meetings allow her team of 15 to connect regularly and share diverse perspectives that inform every aspect of her business.
As an e-commerce platform, technology is a critical tool for showcasing their goods and reaching a global consumer audience – in the U.S., Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and elsewhere. Through the power of technology, Tamara is able to connect with socially conscious brands and organizations, and tell the stories of the makers and causes supported by each product.
“Technology has really opened up the world for us to share the stories of our refugees and elevate the voices of those who are often not heard,” she says.
Tamara discusses fabrics during a virtual meeting with her global team.
Sustainable Style to Save the Planet
According to the UN Environment Programme, the world produces about 400 million tonnes of plastic waste a year, and every second, the equivalent of a garbage truck of textile waste is burned or dumped in landfills.
The products, which include hoodies, bags, and hampers, consist of environmentally friendly fabrics made from trees like Tencel and viscose. Their primary customers are businesses looking for more sustainable goods and gifts. Cassava, a root vegetable, is used for compostable packaging, and banana leaves are repurposed into bubble wrap. The company also upcycles plastic waste, leftover textiles, and drink cartons into products like scrunchies and tote bags.
“Our eco-friendly and impactful goods help purpose-driven brands give sustainably, shop consciously, and do corporate social responsibility differently,” Tamara says.
Tamara’s team uses sustainable fabrics to help the planet.
Today, Liberty Society has provided upskilling and financial freedom to more than 100 refugees. Through its partnerships, it has also helped 500 families access education, food donation, and free healthcare. A third of the proceeds go to support the artisans. To open possibilities for more communities, the organization has expanded its reach to include refugee men, people with disabilities, and survivors of sex trafficking.
For Tamara, the most meaningful part of her work is seeing refugees find hope for the future. The company succeeds, she says, “when our makers start to envision building businesses of their own, when they have hope to dream again. It’s as simple as that.”
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