By: Lorena Miranda || Founder || @lorenamirandabendeck
As we started 2020, our business was ripe for a growth spurt. We were prime time with the Fashion Revolution movement. With this in mind, I headed to Ghana in late February (before the COVID19 pandemic blew up around the world, more on that later) to prepare our team to scale. This time, the situation was much different than during my first visit. Now, I was no longer overwhelmed by what they lacked, instead I was excited for the changes that were about to take effect that they so urgently need and worked for.
As a small business, every penny matters. We need to be mindful of our expenses at all times. The unique thing about our business model is that we have positioned ourselves as a values based brand, and to maintain the integrity of this, we must spend money in a way that doesn't burden most small businesses: we must reinvest in the communities we source from.
Investing when cash flow is vital is a tall order, but I believe we have successfully managed to do it in a way that is positively impacts our branding and marketing strategy, therefore an important component to the overall health of our business.
What's New (Update March 2020)
1. We officially launched the Victoria Project Soap Program and created new jobs in the area.
- Moving forward, our weaving center will have soap readily available for use while in the center and at the end of each month, each weaver will receive 2 large bars of soap which should be sufficient for a family of four (4).
- The weavers are now producing products that meet our strict specifications and requirements consistently. This is a huge deal since part of our issue was that we had so many weavers weaving which caused orders to arrived in different colors and sizes. Now we only have 25 weavers that are slowly becoming Victoria Basket masters. As they get better and as our orders increase, they will then teach others how to weave our way and help create more jobs.
- We now have a Quality Control Manager and a new SEO Digital Marketing Manager. Daniel and Abraham are part of our executive team. Daniel is in charge of ensuring that our baskets are made correctly, sized properly, and woven to standard.
Prior to this, neither had secure employment. Today, they are officially employees of Sonder and Holliday in Ghana.
2. Plans to revamp the center are finally in place
For those of you who have followed our process via our Facebook and Instagram pages, you have probably seen how bad the conditions in which our weavers work are. The floor is completely dilapidated, which considering that there is a real lack of soap to wash clothes, hands, and body, is a serious hygienic problem. There is also poor ventilation and the heat is almost unbearable. It is essentially a sweatbox.
There was no electricity, internet, or any basic business tools like a computer or a printer, and not running water or plumbing.
Until now. A few things have already started moving.
- Computers and IPhones have been provided to key members of the team which will be used to communicate information as well as provide them with access to the world outside their village.
- Internet is now accessible through a portable hotspot which we provided for the IPhones and the laptop. We intend on providing more in the future as we grow.
- Plans and a budget to rebuild the floor and reinforce the walls and ceilings are finally in motion. Once we have estimates and the proper people who will be working on the project we will update all of you! This is a major part of our reinvestment plans.
3. The weavers have a renewed sense of pride about their work
This is a big deal for us. Part of our mission as a brand is the empower those we work with which is why we deliberately choose to work with some of the world's most vulnerable communities. This is a crucial part of our agenda and branding strategies as a business and brand.
Since we pay about 3-4 times local market value, our weavers understand that weaving for Sonder and Holliday is very prestigious. We only work with the best and if you want to be a part of our team, you must learn how to meet our expectations. These are big benchmarks in some cases, therefore, when a weaver is formally a part of our team, they feel a lot of pride and accomplishment, especially since in many cases, the weavers have been made to believe that weaving baskets is the last resort for the poor and uneducated.
The Coronavirus outbreak is hindered our operations a bit given that we are taking extra measures to ensure that our team remains safe in Ghana. The biggest impact we have felt is in our wholesale and store orders. Since the grand majority of our products are sold in places that are currently under mandated shutdown- hotels, stores, wineries, boutiques, and cruise lines- we are being forced to slow down operations to manage the slowed demand. Obviously this is impacting the livelihoods of our weavers, as well as our reinvestment plans.
Our hope is that this outbreaks subsides by Summer of 2020 so we can begin healing and getting on with the show. In the meantime, we have inventory and our website is still up and running!
For now, our team in Miami is working from home, socially distancing, and staying safe.
Much Love and Stay home!
Lorena Miranda Bendeck
Founder || @lorenamirandabendeck