Born in Bhutan, Bishnu was just 8 years old when her family had to flee to Nepal. She recalls that as a kid she didn’t quite understand why they were leaving her home, all she knew was that “the king didn’t like her people.” Bishnu then spent the next 20 years of her life in a refugee camp, living in a tent with no electricity or running water. She met and married her husband there, and they had their first child in the camp. It was also here where Bishnu learned to sew and would eventually make clothing to sell. You wouldn’t be able to tell by her bold personality and friendly smile, but when she first arrived to the United States in 2009, she didn’t speak a word of English. After years of taking classes, Bishnu is fluent in English and helps translate for the other Nepali women on the team.
If you ever get the chance to visit Goma’s home, you’ll leave with a full belly and a humbled posture from the amount of hospitality you received. When Goma isn’t sewing she’s cooking for her friends & family, making sure everyone’s needs are met – and it’s obvious this brings her so much joy. Goma was forced to flee her home of Bhutan when she was 17, uprooting the life she knew to live in a refugee camp for the next 9 years. Goma came to the United States in 2009 and lives in Columbus with her husband and three children.
Nar arrived to Columbus in 2012 from her previous home in a Nepal refugee camp. Her wait to be resettled out of the camp was a longer one; it was a year and a half after her initial application to be resettled when Nar finally received the opportunity to start a new life in the United States. Sweet Nar may be the most soft-spoken seamstress on our team, but she touts the most experience on the sewing machine.
Kara Cronley, Designer
Four years after graduating from Kent State University's fashion school alongside our founder, Tess, the two reconnected and in early 2017 Tess asked Kara to join the Neighbors Apparel team. Kara spent a few years after college working as a designer in NYC, and then found herself back in Columbus where she now owns her own ice cream shop (a bucket list item she tackled by the age of 25). Kara spearheads all product design and oversees sewing operations at Neighbors Apparel.
Tess Reeves, Founder
Tess launched Neighbors Apparel at the age of 23, having just recently graduated from Kent State University with a fashion merchandising degree. After spending three weeks at Vogue Magazine, Tess quickly fell out of love with the materialism and injustices of the fashion industry and looked elsewhere to find a purposeful career. She fell into refugee work, and the rest is history. Tess is 26 and currently resides in Columbus, Ohio. You can read the full backstory of how Neighbors Apparel came to be here.