Ngozi Okaro, Executive Director and founder of Custom Collaborative, is an activist for environmental and social justice. She founded Custom Collaborative to support immigrant and low-income women launching sustainable fashion businesses and careers, while simultaneously advocating for a fashion industry that honors planet and people. Ngozi builds bridges in and between organizations and individuals to create opportunity and access. Her background includes leading initiatives at National Urban League and its affiliates, INSEAD, and Yale.
Over the course of a career in social-sector leadership, Ngozi has led education, social justice, and community-based organizations to identify and meet their missions. She is expert at strategic planning and operations, leadership development, and innovation. She has special expertise in mapping and managing change for growth-stage enterprises.
Ngozi initially viewed Custom Collaborative as a way to serve two constituencies: fashion-industry workers who deserve fair compensation and thoughtful consumers who want quality clothes that fit the body well. She innately understands the challenges facing women who love nice clothes but whose bodies do not conform to most ready-to-wear templates — the majority of US clothing buyers.
Custom Collaborative has evolved to also work alongside designers who need skilled employees and production services, providing a valuable service to the industry. The organization also develops worker-owned cooperatives and other businesses, in support of equitable ownership and strong local economies.
Ngozi is known for her incisive reasoning and executable strategies -- gained through 15+ years of transformational strategy and management successes. She is a natural team-builder who advances organizations through revenue generation and cost containment, human capital development, and stakeholder engagement.
Among other distinctions, Ngozi is a 2021 AARP Purpose Prize Fellow, 2021 Crain's Notable Women Business Owner, 2020 “World-Changing Women in Conscious Business” winner, from Conscious Company Media and Kate Spade, 2019 NYC Fair Trade Coalition "Changemaker of the Year", and 2019 New York Women's Foundation "Spirit of Entrepreneurship” awardee. She is a highly sought-after keynote speaker.
Ngozi is certified by New York University’s Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising, was a 2014 Environmental Leadership Program Fellow, and is a graduate of the Coro Leadership New York program. She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Morgan State University and is licensed to practice law in Louisiana and New York.