When Priya Samant's second child was born seriously ill in 2008, Samant knew that her son would require all her care for a time and her job in the technology and software sector had to go.
Now, looking back (and with a healthy son), Samant calls those early difficult days a "blessing in disguise." The situation forced her to leave her job and, once her son was on the mend, to seek a new career path. It turned out to be one that took her back to her roots in India and her passion for textiles.
"The next thing I knew, I was using my education and passion to do something worthwhile," Samant said.
In 2009, Samant formed EarthFrendz, a company based in Wayland, but operating out of New Delhi and Mumbai to produce environmentally and socially conscious handbags, laptop bags, wallets and wristlets in an economically feasible way.
EarthFrendz's mission is "To give underprivileged people a global platform to display their talents and help create a green living and a better community," according to the business' website.
In the less than four years since founding EarthFrendz, Samant has seen her company's products draw attention around the world and, close to home, find their way into Whole Foods Market stores throughout the North Atlantic region. Samant said the Wayland Whole Food location is too small to stock her products, but locations in Framingham and Wellesley carry EarthFrendz bags.
Samant said her access to Whole Foods comes as a result of EarthFrendz being a certified YouthTrade company.
In her previous career has a consultant in the technology sector, Samant said, she had a lot of exposure to various handbags and laptop carriers, so she knew exactly what she liked when she began designing for EarthFrendz.
"I love watches and bags," she said. "I like bags that are not necessarily all leather. That look very sophisticated with fabric."
And the fabric of EarthFrendz products is just one of the places the environmental consciousness comes into play. Each EarthFrendz bag is hand sewn with a burlap lining for sturdiness and with an outside constructed from fabric scraps discarded by the enormous textile factories Rajasthan, India. Samant explained that scraps of fabric for curtains, linens, tunics and more go into her unique creations.
Obtaining those scraps is just part of the social consciousness part of EarthFrendz. Samant said most of the scraps are purchased secondhand from merchants who buy the scraps from the factories and sell them in city markets for income.
"Whenever anyone sees my product, they say it makes them feel very happy," Samant said, adding that she employs about 30 artisans who handsew the products. "It has a sustainability part of it. It has a social responsibility part of it. It’s a journey of a scrap of textile to giving identity to a poor person."
EarthFrendz started with 12 designs and Samant has other design samples in the works, but doesn't expect to expand the offerings just yet. She's primarily focused on scaling the operation so it can expand and impact more people's lives.
"It’s about giving back to the country where I was born and raised and giving back to the country where I have this opportunity,” Samant said.
EarthFrendz products are available at many Whole Foods Markets in the area, as well as via the company's website.