By Jan Carabeo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – What started as a high school project in the Delaware Valley is now having a positive impact on lives halfway around the world.

“Here are a lot of our woven products, scarfs, wraps,” Mia Costonis said.

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Spoken like seasoned entrepreneurs, rather than high school students. Mia Costonis and Meena Padhye are focused on more than just their studies at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. They also have a business to run.

“I think it’s so crazy because people ask me, especially headed into college, like do you know what you want to do? And I’m like, ‘well, I actually have a company right now,'” Costonis said.

That company is called Sonas To America, created in the school’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and inspired by a school trip to the Sonas weaving village in Takeo, Cambodia.

“The only source of income for most women is to harvest, which is only a couple months out of the year, and it equates to about a dollar a day,” Costonis said.

But in the Sonas weaving village, 15 women make a living by creating these colorful hand-crafted goods.

“It’s from 100% cotton that they grow right there in the village, they spin it into thread, they dye it with all-natural dyes,” Padhye said.

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Through Sonas To America, Mia and Meena then sell the items here at home and send 100% of the profits back to the Cambodian artisans, so far totaling $15,000.

“It’s just life-changing for them,” Padhye said.

A lifeline for the artisans and a life lesson for Mia and Meena. Sonas To America launched in 2019 but when the pandemic hit, the entrepreneurs ramped up their social media marketing and switched focus to online sales. They also expanded their product line to include wellness items like face masks and soap – exemplifying the mission of becoming entrepreneurial problem solvers.

“They really show hustle and heart and determination in an incredible way,” Edward Glassman, of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, said.

But the work isn’t done.

“There’s so much room to grow,” Padhye said.

Meena takes the reigns soon once Mia graduates in June. Her first goal is to get products into more retail stores, then ultimately to continue passing this business down from one class to the next.

“It makes all your work so fulfilling and it doesn’t really make it feel like work anymore, it’s just kind of fun and then you feel good you’re doing something impactful,” Padhye said.

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