“If you want to make an impact you have to give people life-changing skills and the opportunity to apply those skills. People are very entrepreneurial by nature because when you have very little you learn how to make the most of it and how to find opportunities.”
The Story Behind The Sparkle
With social impact being the drive, and traceability and ethical sourcing of the gemstones the catalyst, Lalani started a journey with her women-owned jewelry brand that helps these women artisans recognize their self-worth and give them the means to be self-reliant.
And that is when Lalani’s story starts with Gilgit. Nestled at the foothills of the K2 mountain in Pakistan, the world’s second highest peak, lies Gilgit. A sparsely populated community in the north of Pakistan, surrounded by the world's highest mountains and some of the largest glaciers in the world outside the polar region. Its harsh conditions and unique landscape are the beating heart of the women-owned jewelry brand Daria Day.
“You're talking about an environment where job opportunities are so little, with men leaving to other cities. So, you're left with a population that's elderly, younger, and run by single female-headed households. I wanted to find a way to give them an alternate source of livelihood,” says Lalani.
Taking The Next Steps
It was during her time working with NGO’s that Lalani got to intimately know these communities and their hardships.
“I think one of the lessons I got while working in development is that aid is not the answer. We relied very heavily on giving aid. If you want to make an impact you have to give people life-changing skills and the opportunity to apply those skills. People are very entrepreneurial by nature because when you have very little you learn how to make the most of it and how to find opportunities,” she says with such passion.
Lalani decided to support the artisans financially and creatively by using the business skills she had acquired from working in the corporate world.
“I worked with wonderful on-the-ground NGO’s that run programs to train the community, especially women, in gemstone processing and jewelry making. But often what is missed is the next step, which is access to market. If you're in a remote community and you're living too far away to even get to the next largest city, then it’s a problem,” says the women-owned jewelry brand founder.
“Being a woman entrepreneur, you run into so many barriers. Especially being a person of color as well. The key advice is to just start, don't let self-doubt stop you."
She quickly identified that the issue was one of market access. The remote location did not lend to easily getting the jewelry to people who could buy it so Lalani started working on creating market access.
“I started thinking, there's got to be more that we can do. When I came back to Canada after one of my trips to Pakistan, I reached out to the Rupani Foundation and that's how Daria Day started - working with this foundation and getting the women artisans together. It was basically combining a love for ethical fashion with a desire to really make an impact that changes lives,” says Lalani.
Daria Day Jewelry connects these skilled women artisans with people who would value not only the workmanship of the pieces but the story behind it and the power of what raw gemstones have to offer. Sourced directly from local miners, artisans work on transforming the raw stones into faceted gems. Using only real and natural gemstones straight from mother earth, the artisans handcraft their creations from source to finished product.
“We launched the women-owned jewelry brand in 2019. I like to say that we've been a catalyst of change in the region because now the foundation is setting up a whole gemstone processing center and is going to be employing these artisans. We're going to be working through the foundation to get our gemstones directly through them as opposed to with individual artists because they all are coming together. We showed them that there is a market for their jewelry, and with a new processing center with resources, it's a game changer,” says Lalani proudly.
Women Supporting Women
Daria Day’s mission is to provide women artisans who handcraft their jewelry with a sustainable livelihood and a path to prosperity. And they have been doing a beautiful job empowering these women to break the cycle of poverty widespread in their community with the skills they have acquired.
“We get the rough gemstones from the miners and because our artisans have been trained to process a gemstone, they do everything from start to finish. They take the rough gemstone and based on the design that we have they are either made into beads or cut into faceted gemstones that you see on a pendant or a ring,” she says with a smile that speaks volumes about her pride in these women and their abilities.
With social impact being the drive, and traceability and ethical sourcing of the gemstones the catalyst, Lalani started a journey that helps these women artisans recognize their self-worth and give them the means to be self-reliant.
“It also ensures that artisans have continuous work because now they can also make jewelry on their own. And then they try to find markets to sell it. Some artisans will drive down to Islamabad, which is like a 16-hour journey,” says Lalani.
Wanting to break the status quo of unfair work conditions is a fight that Lalani won’t back down from. Daria Day are doing their best to have all those involved in the production of their goods - the entire supply chain - fairly compensated so that they can reap the benefits they so rightly deserve. Which is why this ethical brand makes sure each piece of jewelry comes with a product card about the artisan that created the piece and the origin of the gemstone.
A Shining Future Lays Ahead For This Women-Owned Jewelry Brand
Daria Day has also helped Lalani as an entrepreneur to prove that dreaming big is the only way to dream.
“Being a woman entrepreneur, you run into so many barriers. Especially being a person of color as well. The key advice is to just start, don't let self-doubt stop you. And if you run into issues, look around you. You will find that there is a community of women entrepreneurs, who are willing to help you and lift you. I wouldn't have been to do it without help,” says Lalani.
Lalani was nominated for the Women of Influence award by RBC for creating market access for jewelry produced by artisans living in remote communities in June 2021. The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is the premier national awards program celebrating the achievements of Canada’s most accomplished and impactful women who have demonstrated excellence — from economic growth to social change, from local to global reach, across multiple sectors.
“I was nominated which was a bit of a surprise. I think the biggest thing about being nominated is it validates the work even though I didn't win the award. But just the fact that we were nominated shows that people are noticing what we’re doing,” she says.