2022 Grants Challenge

Empowering Women Refugees Through Employment

Idea by Neococo

Meet Neococo - an apparel company founded for the sole purpose of creating jobs for displaced women. We create unique handcrafted artwork, celebrate culture and believe in amplifying voices. By partnering with refugee resettlement agencies we train and hire women to work from the safety of their homes. We hope to expand our program and collaborative partnerships with other nonprofits across the United States. This will enable us to provide employment, essential training, education and supportive services for more women in need.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Immigrant and Refugee Support

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

West LA

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

About 50% of displaced refugees are women and children, and 65% of all refugees are unemployed. Some of the challenges refugees face are secure housing, cultural adjustment, job security, surviving on food stamps, child care, learning a foreign language, and general lack of quality socio-economic support. Ultimately, these factors have become perpetual roadblocks, trapping an entire demographic in this experience. Through our programs we have experienced our team’s struggles first-hand. Our team members from Middle Eastern countries have never been encouraged to work and now they have been forced to become the breadwinners for their families. Language barriers and transportation are factors that add to these challenges. Our LGBTQIA members are survivors that have untreated PTSD due to the violence they have endured and are unable to integrate into society. Racial discrimination in work spaces and lack of support has left many people from African communities unemployed & helpless.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

We partner with one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the world (International Rescue Committee) and local non-profits (Downtown Womens Center, Program For Torture Victims). These agencies connect us to new arrivals. We provide them with a 2-week training program to learn hand embroidery, and get to know our supportive Neococo environment. We offer skill building workshops, as well as an individualized supportive approach based on language proficiency, experience, or unique circumstances. Hand Embroidery is a beautiful commonality amongst many cultures around the world, and is both familiar as well as therapeutic for our team. NEOCOCO has become a mighty group of women from countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Congo, Guatemala, El Salvador and Afghanistan all now resettling in Los Angeles. Our program is unique, in that it enables our team to work from the safety of their homes. Every Neococo product promotes equity and financial freedom for our incredible employees. By creating employment we want to ensure that women resettling in Los Angeles have what they need to rebuild their lives and regain their identity. Our team continues to work with governments, businesses and local nonprofit organizations to encourage and actively promote women’s safe economic empowerment. Our dream is to be able to create more Neococo community teams across the country, and to one day even be able to offer equitable work and support services to women in refugee camps worldwide.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

With the integration of different cultures comes a culmination of arts, handicrafts, cuisine & experiences.This is exactly what sets Los Angeles apart from other cities. Economists also agree that the effects of immigration on the US economy are broadly positive. Our Neococo platform enables individuals to immediately start working and being self-sufficient which allows them to further their capabilities by investing in education.This also allows for a smooth integration into society instead of being segregated into low income areas. Economic well being enables affordable housing which makes communities safer & healthier. As we grow with greater visibility, it means that our community programs can expand too. This hopefully leads us to our big dream - The Neococo Collective, a storefront where a customer can buy directly from Neococo artisans in their city along with our team participating as sales associates and other staff members managing day to day activities at the store.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

At Neococo, we have two measures of success: -How many womxn have we been able to help -How have we enabled each womxn, not just financially, but also emotionally, socially and psychologically. 1. All ten members are now self-sufficient and contribute financially to their families. Most have gotten off food stamps, contribute rent, groceries and pay for healthcare. 2. Six of our members are now proficient in English and confident enough to take public transportation. 3. A Middle Eastern refugee who was sharing a studio space with her two teenage sons can now afford housing. 4. A survivor of domestic violence is now back on her feet and supports her 3 month old. 5. A Latin American transgender woman has overcome a lifetime of discrimination and can now afford housing. As a community, working together, being consistent and having a support group enables our team to collectively connect and heal. They now help new members to overcome their obstacles and coalesce into our safe space.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 12

Indirect Impact: 25