When Nelli Kim signed up for a short-term mission trip through Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City in 2014, she did not expect to witness barefoot children playing on the filthy streets of Mumbai as locals stared out the windows of bars along the trash-littered streets of the city's red-light district.
Describing it as hell on earth, the fashion veteran was moved when she realized that one pair of shoes at Bergdorf Goodman, the department store where she worked out, could provide for so much people on that same block for days.
"God, there's nothing separating these people from me except our circumstances and the luck of my birth," Kim recounted realizing in a conversation with the Christian Post.
She worked as a merchandise manager of women's footwear at Bergdorf Goodman and took the trip to Mumbai on a mission.
Following that eye-opening experience in India, which according to the Global Hunger Index has a score of 27.5 on the hunger index indicating a serious hunger level, Kim pledged on her way home that she would use her talents in service to others despite now knowing yet how she would be able to do that. When she realized that she worked in fashion, the idea clicked.
"I'm not a doctor or a social worker; I'm a buyer for a luxury department store. I have no idea what I could do with the purpose of giving back," Kim remarked. But the fashion veteran was determined so she "prayed, thought, schemed and dreamed." She even pushed through despite a bout with ovarian cancer.
Today Kim is the owner of RĒDEN, a purpose-driven shoe brand company whose name stands for "restoration of Eden." Her shoes are designed to be "radically different" as they offer both comfort and style, even for people who suffer from foot pain. She knew this was important because she experienced it herself while going through chemo treatments.
"I wanted my shoes to solve a problem. To offer shoes that will allow people to be pain-free and promote optimal health," Kim remarked.
To develop her one of a kind purpose-driven shoe brand, she worked with an orthopedic surgeon to design them. She began shipping orders in late 2021.
"I wanted a purpose-driven brand, to be comfy and look cool," the purpose-driven shoe brand company owner said. Her trip to India sparked RĒDEN, as a way to use her talents to make an impact on other people. Kim then pledged to give half of her company's profits to charity.
The fashion veteran admitted though that the road was not easy and there were moments of doubt. In retrospect, she said it was God's hand that helped her through her journey.
"This was no fluke," Kim said of her experience in India. "I have a true calling to help these people. I need to seek out opportunities that will get me there!"
Because she was determined to make a positive change on people, Kim left Bergdorf Goodman for opportunities with other companies, where she gained knowledge on the various aspects of running her own business.
"I didn't want to be an entrepreneur. I didn't set out to change the world," Kim remarked. "But God put me down this path, and if there's one thing he's shown me, he'll be with me every step of the way."