Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

Nerves? What nerves.. (a funder is due in not many minutes!)

Good morning, good morning!

And what a glorious day it is, the sun is shining, the ducks were quacking happily as I cycled pas Southampton Common duck pond on the way to work, and now I’m in heels – again – which means it’s a big day.

And it is. The John Paul Getty Junior Trust are coming to see us today. We have applied to them for just over £64k to pay part of our rent and wage bill for our first two years. Applying for funds is a long process generally, especially with big charitable funders. There’s usually a first stage application, which often goes to their board or trustees for shortlisting. Then there’s a fuller application, which is usually to be accompanied by things like our rules/constitution (in straight business this would be the Mem and Arts, the business’ governing document) and financial projections, and possibly extracts from our business plan. They often want a bio of each of our Committee members, and can ask for all kinds of other bits too. This generally all goes, again, to a meeting for discussion. And then, if you’re lucky, they ask to come and visit. It’s my understanding that also after a visit, a report is often made to the Board again, and then a decision taken – so this shows, I think, why applying for funds can take a long long time. We put our application to this fund in way back in September, were asked for our fuller application in early March, and here we are now.

So I’m just a bit nervous. But I’m wearing my lovely jewellery that was bought for me all the way from Afghanistan by one of our lovely women, which always grounds me. The women are all excited by the visit too – one told me she prayed for us last night that we would be lucky, and we have Somali rice and Welsh bara brith for lunch. I hope so. It would be such a lifeline to have this extra breathing space, and to know that we could take the pressure off the production a bit, to know that we could pay the rent.

But enough of that, my stomach is flipping all over the place so, let’s see, what else has been going on. I last wrote last week, after we had a visit from a tiny baby. Apparently whomadeyourpants? baby number 2 is scheduled to visit (with mum) at some point soon. We’ve been as busy as ever here, but it’s starting to be busy – doing the work, rather than busy – setting things up. Which feels great. The more we get our processes and procedures bedded in, the more people can get on with things without us helping them, which frees us so much time. And over the last week, things have been getting much much smoother.

And the pants, the pants! Quality is suddenly rocketing – the women are starting to understand the machines more intuitively, which means they are needing the teacher a bit less. We are really looking forward to being able to let the women get on without a teacher as it means we can run shifts when the teacher is not free. All in good time though. We’re very nearly out of pink fabric and waiting for samples of some new – which is very very exciting.

Also, I have had two great conversations with people who are going to come in and help with our next design, and some efficiency and process stuff. One is a 2nd year student who is going to come and do a month work experience with us in August, and the other is someone who has worked in product development all over the world after getting a degree in contour stuff. Both are passionate about gorgeous undies, and ethics too, so we are already getting along well and I’m really looking forward to meeting them both. In fact, I plan to visit the latter in Totnes, which I will get to with bike and train and make a long weekend of it. Lovely! In terms of timing, we’re hoping to host them both in August when we may be quiet here with school holidays hitting us – childcare is such a massive issue, and there’s no getting away from it.

Over the last few weeks I’ve also realised how much I have now come to rely on others. Della has been off for a few days and Aimee has been away. Both are in today and just knowing they are here makes me feel calmer. I can;t believe that I hadn;t actually planned to take on volunteers really – Della was suggested to me by a mutual friend, and Aimee volunteered after I gave a lecture to her class at Uni. It just hadn’t occurred to me that people would want to actually actively give up days to help, and so I was quite prepared to be doing everything myself. I am inordinately glad I am not so doing, and enormously grateful for their time and dedication. I know now that I could not be doing this alone, and find it quite hysterical that I thought I could . I had no idea!

In case you’ve not seen it elsewhere, we have had some great news – Lush have offered us £5k from their CharityPot after their visit to us last week. This will help us create case studies on each fo the women we work with so we can show people who makes their pants, but also they can form part of a CV, and can be used with work we hope to do with Refugee Action on really helping people to understand what life is like for refugees. There are so many misconceptions, and I really want to do something to break a few down. Half of the women we work with, for example, have no recourse to public funds. They get no benefits at all, so the idea that people are coming here and getting free money and free houses is somewhat flawed. But that’s a subject for another day.

And now, dear readers, I must bid you adieu. I have yet another trip to the loo to attend to(my nerves…) and last minute pre to do. More next week – and wish us luck!



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8 Responses

  1. angela says:

    Good luck with everything! Just remember how fabulous you all are and keep at it!

  2. Clare W says:

    Good luck! I have no doubt that you will wow them with your dedication and tenacity, and the lovely “family” you have built around Pants. x

  3. Giang says:

    Hi Becky, I have been following your blog for some time. It is so inspiring and wonderful what you and your team are doing for others and the community. I wonder if you would need another volunteer (I know you already have two) then I am available 1 afternoon per week to do whatever you ask. I know this is not much to offer but as I have two children I am unable to arrange my time differently. My temp job just stopped a month ago and I am looking to volunteer to make use of my free time. My email address is included and if you need to contact me please feel free to do so. Good luck with the funding and hope to hear from you soon. Giang.

  4. Giang says:

    Hi Becky, I left a comment on here a couple of weeks ago saying I would like to volunteer with your group. My field is marketing but really I am on for just about anything (finance, paperwork, even sewing if you can train me). If you would come back to me and say you don’t need any volunteer at the moment I will totally understand. It’s just that I am wondering if my comment might have got lost in cyber space. Cheers, Giang

  5. Giang says:

    Hi Becky, I am so glad to hear from you. Here waiting for your email in my inbox. Giang.

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