Fif Ghobadian, a San Francisco entrepreneur, wants you to understand this: Life can go from good to bad, very quickly.
Born in Iran, she enjoyed a comfortable, affluent lifestyle until the eve of the Iranian Revolution, which led to the brutal death of her parents' friends. Then a teenager, she fled with her family to London, finally landing in Northern California in 1979. "The concept of all of a sudden not having money was shocking," she recalls. Her father, unfamiliar with the language and American culture, couldn't find work. "There's not a single door that opens."
Despite the struggles, Ghobadian managed to attend Claremont Colleges in Los Angeles and ultimately built a successful career as a mortgage broker. But a few years ago, while reading "Orange is the New Black," she was struck by the book's central plot line: A person who goes to prison, even for a minor offense, can lose everything. "What scared me is that once you cross that line and you're incarcerated, it's almost impossible to come back into society," she says. The desperation in that, she says, resonated.
In 2013, Ghobadian came up with the idea for Road Twenty-Two, a luxury T-shirt brand (think $76 for a classic crew) that would hire women who had served time in prison to box, trim and package its products. The name comes from the highway out of the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, Calif., the largest female prison in the U.S.