On Saturday, January 18th, another milestone was reached in the Secret Pillow initiative at the Meppadi center. Fritha, our charismatic, inspirational, and global change maker from London has returned to the Meppadi center to reunite with the women she trained 6mo ago, to hand over their earnings for the 2nd Secret Pillow order, and share the love and feedback she received from customers of the first order. All 12 of the WE Graduates who were first trained came, plus four new interested participants. The meeting was a delightful mix of good cheer, homemade sweets, and hard business talk. Topics such as international shipping, export tariffs, SHG formation, and global marketing were discussed. The pillows are making quite a splash all over the world, as customers from the US, UK, Australia, and even South Africa are placing orders. Not only that, but many of the Meppadi women are now on Facebook, posting pictures of their hard work, and sending friend requests to Fritha and AMMACHI Labs staff. From isolated, village housewives to global entrepreneurs, what an achievement!.
Fritha is now busy starting a campaign to expand the Secret Pillow project, and has asked the women in Meppadi if they would be willing to make 100 pillows for her by the summer. The women enthusiastically said “YES!!” and thanked Fritha for her support and belief in their abilities. During the meeting, each of the WE Graduates was asked to share their experience so far in making the pillows. A few stand-out responses follow: Sreeja – I am very happy. I did not know how to sew before, but now I can thanks to this project. I am sewing all sorts of different things now for my family. I am also proud that I set up a Facebook account especially to contact Fritha!
Manjusha – Ihave no words to express my happiness. I know I will never go to England, but Iam proud that something Ihave made with my name on it is being sold there. Manjumani – I was a nurse but had to give it up when I got married and had a child. I was very lonely and unfulfilled when I was home alone. Now Iam very happy to have this opportunity to earn whilst making something in my home and with such a nice group of friends.
Once the final business was conducted, money handed off, and plans for the new order put in place, a fun photo shoot was held to capture all of the joy and good energy produced from this project. Fritha will be compiling footage from the event and from her work in the UK to produce a video on Secret Pillows and sharing it with all of her new friends on Facebook.
Fritha also expressed interest to get another group of women in a different center making Secret Pillows, and it was agreed that the Calicut center would be a perfect choice. Soon we will have two Secret Pillow entrepreneurial groups shipping all over the world! After a lunch break, the conversation shifted to the formation of SHGs and the practical methods of setting up a bank account to handle orders. This discussion was lead by a representative from The Business Incubator at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and another of AMMACHI Labs staff. This was a very useful discussion and the women walked away with a strong business sense as well as a business deal to make it happen.
Overall the events in Meppadi were a huge success. The next collection of Secret Pillows will be due in July when the women will attempt their first large shipment overseas to Fritha’s UK address. This is but the beginning of hopefully a fruitful partnership, and one that will teach all of us involved a lot about Women Empowerment in action.
January 20, 2014