NJMOMPreneur: Susan Correa, art & eden
BY ERIKA SZUMEL ON
From changing herself, to changing the world, India-born-mama of two, CEO of art & eden, and our #NJMOMpreneur of the Week, Susan Correa, is not only transforming the kid’s fashion industry with her beautiful and sustainable designs, she’s inspiring us with her charitable contributions to children in need around the world. Fueled by her humble roots growing up in Mumbai, India in a 250 square foot home with two brothers, Susan is well on her way to growing a global brand in 2019 which includes an expansion into more than two department stores. We loved hearing about her fave date night spots with her hubby including Cuban Havana in Hackensack, taking hikes with her family through Ringwood State Park, and how she lives her best life on the weekend with some pampering for herself.
Meet the CEO and Founder of art & eden, Susan Correa
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Susan: art & eden is a sustainable and decidedly unconventional children’s fashion brand. We take “be the change you want to see in the world” to a new level. We believe that business can be used as a force for good, that our process and profits have the power to serve the needs of local and global communities. We take a holistic approach to sustainability, including every touch point from process to product to consumer and beyond. All our clothes are made with sustainable fabrics like organic cotton and up cycled or recycled polyester, certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard. We use low impact dyes, biodegradable poly bags and recycled packaging. We strive for a cradle-to-cradle operation, where what we make can be re-used, recycled or can decompose.
We ask difficult, rigorous questions and aren’t afraid of difficult, un-pretty answers. We want to make something better, to leave our children a planet that we are proud of, one they can breathe and thrive in. In addition to our internal processes, we have local and global giveback programs that serve under-resourced children. In Newark, NJ, we partner with the Camden Street School to run a yearlong mentorship program that fosters inner authority, community resilience and leadership amongst middle schoolers. Globally, we work with Hope Worldwide to provide multivitamins and medication to children in need.
From as far back as I can remember I wanted to do work that mattered. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to change the world.” – Susan Correa, owner of art & eden
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Susan: I grew up in India, the middle child between two boys. l loved being an athlete, playing all kinds of sports with my brothers and their friends. My mother encouraged me greatly to excel in all that I was passionate about but also insisted that I learned to cook and sew. Remember, this was India and that was quite the norm. Cooking, that would be fine, I enjoyed a good meal but sewing, that did not feel natural for me. I would rather spend that time outdoors playing soccer, basketball or hockey. Nonetheless, I decided to at the very least to give it a shot. Contrary to my expectation, I instantly loved it, transforming fabric to a piece of clothing which I managed to actually sell for a profit, that was business and an all win for me.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Susan: It’s both humbling and incredibly fulfilling to be able to build a business that is committed to being a force for good. To be able to do well by doing good is most certainly the biggest joy of my business. Our world is a place where results are ecologically, economically and equitably enjoyed and our embrace of triple top line accountability is what I absolutely love.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Susan: I have had the good fortune to have never worked a day in my life. I have truly loved every moment I have spent in the business of fashion. I have spent over two decades in the fashion industry across the globe and had the very unique disposition of having experienced the business of fashion from 360 degrees. My journey commenced in India on the factory floor engaging in design, merchandising and production, but very quickly I ramped that up, to build and lead multi-million dollar businesses across India, Europe, Canada, and the United States. Through my journey in fashion, I have been a product and production solution to at least 70% of the U.S .major retailers.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Susan: 6 months before launching art & eden, I called my giving partners Hope Worldwide. When art & eden launched, I wanted to bring nutrition and medical aid to children in need. This was meant to be an exploratory call. My giving partners expressed an immediate need of funding required to provide 1 million multivitamins and 7,000 doses of Albendazole to children in Central America. I had not sold a single piece of clothing. I had no funding in place. Every conceivable barrier raised its head – no money, not my country of sale, not my country of origin, etc. And then I thought the walls that I am raising are blinding me from seeing the opportunity. This is exactly what I had called Hope Worldwide to explore. These are very real children with a very real need and so in a leap of faith, I decided to pay it forward and committed to meeting the need even before I sold one piece of clothing. That is the best decision I made for art & eden and the proudest moment for our team. We did come through on our commitment and launching our Buy Better Do Better Campaign, was the most fulfilling event in our journey to date. It is in giving that you do truly receive.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Susan: That I grew up in a 250 sq foot home in Mumbai India and since then, had always dreamed the dream of building a business in America.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Susan: In September, we were awarded the Eco-Excellence Award for Most Sustainable & Socially Conscious Brand in children’s fashion. That has already opened some exciting doors for us. We have an incredibly exciting partnership coming up for launch in January 2019 (it’s under wraps right now) but we are so fired up about it. I am working with my giving partners, Hope Worldwide in bringing early childhood learning to communities in need in America. Also fired up to begin our global journey and launch art & eden in UK, Australia, and New Zealand in 2019. Art & eden is launching into 2-3 major department stores, we’re really looking forward to this presence.
NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Susan: To be able to fundamentally change the trajectory of a child’s life by an act of generosity is what I passionately care about. Everything we do is connected to the world of children. To be able to harness the power of business to nourish children in need through multivitamins, medication, mentoring, education and meals is a path that’s very close to my heart.
NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Susan: My brother Ian Correa is my role model. He was studying to be a computer engineer and was on the cusp of what would have been a financially rewarding career. Just at that time, he learned about a Leprosy Colony in Delhi, India, where the children of the lepers were ostracized from society. No one dared go in or let the lepers or their children out of the colony. The kids were doomed to a life of segregation. The children of the lepers were mostly kids without leprosy themselves but were completely separated from the outside world. My brother saw this as an injustice and chose to be the change he wanted to see in this situation. He spent the next 10 years of his life breaking down the barriers and divides, and entered the colony to educate the children of the lepers and served and provided for the lepers including bandaging their sores. He restored the children to normal human connections one child at a time. He has since saved, restored, served, educated and provided for many of the poor and needy in society. He is most definitely my Hero and has influenced my life and my journey of impact profoundly.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom (or parent/role model) ever gave to you?
Susan: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates – this quote from Socrates is my husbands favorite. He is an ardent seeker of knowledge and truth and has always encouraged our family to challenge the veracity of traditional beliefs that were passed on and blindly accepted as true. Every culturally indoctrinated belief that I had held as true for the business of fashion was shattered when I began to examine the journey of fashion from seed to shelf. art & eden was born from striving to challenge business as usual and use the new data and new truths to build a business where my personal and professional values aligned.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi
From as far back as I can remember I wanted to do work that mattered. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to change the world. Rumi’s quote taught me a simple truth, that changing the world started by changing myself. Instead of trying to bring change to what was distant, a very real way to start that journey was to become the change I wanted to witness. Art & eden came into fruition from that realization.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family? (Is there a season you love going there or special tip you can offer?)
Susan: My family loves being really close to nature. We feel so blessed to have such awesome conservation areas where we can enjoy the simple joys of nature trails, hikes and long walks in Jersey’s many beautiful parks. I am originally from India where it was Summer all year round, so I cherish how nature adorns herself so spectacularly with every season. We love observing these changes with every season in Jersey’s conservation parks.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Susan: Raising children – witnessing their growth from infancy to teenagers, from being completely dependent, to fully independent, to watch them flourish and blossom and above everything else become young adults that care, are kind and compassionate, has been my most awesome joy.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Susan: My husband and I enjoy our regular Friday date nights. We love experiencing restaurants where the owners and staff make you feel at home when you come to enjoy a meal. My favorite restaurants are the ones where the owners are personally involved in the business and better still are the chefs. My top three would be Granada in Hawthorne for their amazing Spanish food, Cuban Havana in Hackensack for their delectable cuban cuisine, and Pierre & Michel in Fairlawn for their delicious desserts.
I really believe in working hard through the week and then really pampering myself and living it up to the fullest on the weekends. I love rejuvenating at some awesome spas like Flic Spa in Bloomfield where the owners are also massage therapists. And of course, this would not be complete without talking about businesses that serve bubble tea. My favs are Baboin Montclair and Vivi in Hoboken.
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Susan: I moved to the United States about ten years ago from Canada. I live in Fairlawn in Bergen County. I picked it as it was a great school district but I have grown to love everything about the town. Work takes me around the world so when I am back in New Jersey, I like to be as close to nature a possible and spend a lot of time in beautiful gardens, parks and trails. Every day we go for long walks to the interwoven neighborhood parks. Taking long walks in Bear Mountain State Park, Ramapo Conservation Park, and Ringwood State Park is how I spend a weekend afternoon. I absolutely love the serenity and wisdom of nature and love taking in the aroma of the earth, it’s food for my soul and spirit.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Susan: The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step in the right direction. Being an entrepreneur is an awesome endeavor and a journey, you don’t need to figure the full route to the destination on the day you start. Know where you want to go, then take one right step. The next right one will follow. As you take the journey, sometimes you will succeed and other times you will learn. Make sure you always grow. Business today has to be reimagined. The story, the narrative, the action and the interaction must feel like a beautiful symphony, brilliantly composed perfectly executed, heartfully performed so that it becomes memorable and warrants being worthy of being shared.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Susan: Moms: You are the fount of life and love. You will not always get it right – you will still, always be amazing. Stay present and ensure you and your partner are a team.
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