Danielle Chiel, the 293rd person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is convinced she’s going to live until well past 100.
When you have that kind of long-term horizon, as well as the zest for life that Danielle possesses, you think differently to most people. You’re hungry to embrace new ideas, chase ambitious goals – and even reinvent yourself from time to time.
That’s certainly been the story of the first half of Danielle’s life.
Back in her hometown of Brisbane, Danielle worked as a music teacher, ran her own music school and then founded what became one of Australia’s largest independent knitting stores.
But Brisbane felt too small for Danielle. So she moved to Sydney, where she launched a new company, a retail hand-knit clothing business. The business needed suppliers, so Danielle travelled to Tamil Nadu, in India, to look for villagers who could supply her with quality, hand-knitted clothing.
It proved to be an inspired decision.
In 2013, Danielle founded KOCO (or Knit One Change One), a company that rents shop space in villages and employs local women to create high-end, hand-knitted garments for fashion brands around the world.
Before covid, KOCO employed 250 women in Tamil Nadu. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit KOCO hard, by disrupting supply chains, raising the cost of imported yarn and reducing sales. As a result, KOCO employs 100 women today, but Danielle is determined to rebuild the company to its former size.
Every week, Danielle hits the phones, cold-calling brands and corporate clients in Australia and overseas, growing the business one customer at a time.
Most people would shirk at such an enormous challenge. But Danielle is not most people. She thinks bigger – and longer – than most people.
The second half of Danielle’s life promises to be very interesting.
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