By Nancy Johnston, Tengri Founder
I wrote my business plan on a chocolate wrapper
Born in Hollywood, I’m an Asian-American living in London with a penchant for travel and adventure. The idea behind Tengri was conceived when I was travelling with friends and staying with herder families in Mongolia. It was fascinating to see the delicate and interwoven relationship between people, animals and the land, and I developed a deeper understanding and respect for the bond between the herder families' livelihoods, their yaks, and the Mongolian landscape.
I also discovered how the Khangai yak – an indigenous wild species found in the Khangai mountains of western Mongolia – could help preserve this nomadic way of life. These native animals support biodiversity and help to prevent land desertification by allowing plant species and wildlife to regenerate and thrive. Khangai yak fibres are as soft as cashmere, warmer than merino wool, and hypoallergenic.
Using my knowledge as a professional systemic social worker, I was inspired to write my first business plan there and then... on the back of a chocolate wrapper, in a dimly lit ger (yurt). My aim was to bring sustainable fibres to the forefront of the global textile industry, to the benefit of everyone involved – herders, designers, manufacturers, and customers.
I needed a company name that honoured Mongolia and the relationship with the herders. Mongolia is also known as the Land of the Endless Blue Skies – when you travel across the country you see blue ribbons wrapped around trees to honour their sky god, called Tengri. I was blessed and given permission to use the name Tengri, and told that I should do the utmost to give it the highest honour.
Back in London, I penned the Tengri Manifesto and decided to use my modest life savings to help support the families by purchasing yak fibres. With the support of an extended network of friends in fashion, design, community development, marketing, business and product development, Tengri – a business dedicated to sustainable luxury – was born.
Tengri is a culmination of my lifetime ambition to harness the power of design, research, technology, education and fair business practices. We aim to improve individual consumer choice and collective action to sustainably support people’s livelihoods, while protecting wildlife and the environment.