"It takes a huge amount of resilience to have no family and very few friends and start your life again."

The life hack I swear by is: Meditation, to put a space between thought and actions My happy place is: Swimming in the ocean

Mandeep Soor

Building better supply chains to support people and the planet

A PROBLEM THAT HITS HOME. The journey of Mandeep Soor's company starts with her mom. An immigrant who moved to the UK in the 1970s, she struggled to find employment, eventually working as an at-home seamstress to help make ends meet. "She was paid by the piece rather than per hour," Mandeep recalls. "I saw her work incredibly long hours for less than the legal minimum wage. It's a small but specific example of how vulnerable people can be taken advantage of in complex systems."

Recent years have seen an exposing of human rights abuses in the textile industry worldwide lead to new regulations, such as the Forced Labor Prevention Act in the US and the Modern Slavery Act in the UK. But as Mandeep notes, the supply chain for clothing manufacturers is often incredibly complex. "A single product can be made up of a hundred parts, all with their own supply chain, and when you multiply that by thousands of products, it becomes even harder for a company to do due diligence to ensure that human rights abuses don't occur."

In 2020, Mandeep co-founded Bendi, which helps organizations with complex supply chains look at risks within those suppliers regarding human rights abuses and environmental impact. It’s a mission that’s close to her heart; one she swapped a successful career, first in strategy consulting and then startup operations, to pursue. Initially, she launched the company with her close friend Ben Norsworthy, who previously worked at Burberry as part of their responsible sourcing team, before enlisting a third co-founder Olivier Bacs.

"I had reached a stage in my career where I could fill up my bank account, go on nice holidays, but I felt a piece was missing: am I doing something that makes a difference to the lives of others and has value to me and the world?"

Mandeep says fortuitous timing helped Bendi in its infancy, with the new regulations incentivizing companies to address supply chain issues or suffer hefty fines or have their shipments held at ports. "It means we're seeing the alignment of commercial value and doing the right thing in a way that hasn't happened before." Within a month of launching, she secured an innovation grant from the UK government – an approach that has continued to prove successful compared to fundraising from VCs.

THE COURAGE TO PUSH RESET. However, Mandeep's grit and determination to drive Bendi forward cannot be overestimated. At 18, she was forced to start her life again, running away from home after her parents refused to accept her sexuality when she came out as gay. Leaving her home in southeast London with just a small bag of her belongings, she was resolute on continuing her education, putting herself through night school and eventually university.

"I think it takes a huge amount of resilience to have no family and very few friends and start your life again. Because of that, if I don't like something, I know I can try change it. It's become part of my DNA."

As Bendi continues to move forward in its mission to change how organizations address supply chain challenges, Mandeep is now eager to give back to the individuals and LGBTQIA+ groups that helped change the trajectory of her life. "I want to be the leader of an organization that makes things better – positively impacting workers in the supply chain, helping reduce or avoid abuse and harm of people and the planet. For me, that's the most valuable legacy I can have."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.