Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

Just another Manic Everyday

Howdy readers, how goes it with you today? All is bustling here, in anticipation of another funder visit today, and I’m just about to get my heels on.

My day started unusually in that I couldn’t cycle in today – boooo! An enthusiastic footballing child whacked a football at the clever bit of my bike the other day, the bit that holds the pedals and gears and all, and it seems something vital has clonked. So I’m going to have a lesson in bike maintenance from my dear brother this weekend, and work out what to do. Until then, it’s just me and my legs for transport.

So let’s see, what’s happened since last week. As ever quite a lot. The funding visit last week went well, I think/hope. We had a great lunch together with a huge bowl of Somali rice which I love. They’ve asked for more info, which can’t be a bad thing, so just got to sit tight now and wait and see. After they left, I had a huge adrenaline crash and just conked out – I had no idea I’d been so tense. There we go. Today’s funding visit is from The Hilden Charitable fund and I’m really looking forward to showing them around and talking to them about the other work they do.

In utterly brilliant news, the women last week broke through the 50 pairs of pants in a session barrier, and made 55. It was a great confidence booster. Our production forecasts were based on numbers we’d been given way back when and we are having to revise them – we had been forecasting 132 pairs to be made in three hours in January, February and March this year so we’re a bit behind – losing the three weeks in December really put us back as the women just aren’t experienced enough to hold their skills without regular practice. Then the spring that sprang caused more problems. Does anyone know the phrase, ‘for the want of a nail, a kingdom was lost? That’s something that goes through my mind a lot here, how something tiny can have a huge impact – no-one else here has a clue what I’m talking about!

On other brilliant news, we have two fab new volunteers. J rocked up one day last week and just knocked on the door and asked to come and help – initiative like that, was I going to say no? Right now, she can come in every day which is a huge bonus as it gives some real consistency to the admin support, and means that Della and I will be able to hand some stuff over – knowing that there is one person as a conduit for all things adminy will mean we don’t have to go chasing on people or worrying things get lost if someone is in just once a week- we just go to one person. And C came to us through our fab bookkeeper Helen and will be coming in regularly to make sure our finance system is kept up to date and everything is filed. It’s not often that I have what I think of as ‘good’ finance meetings – my head just doesn’t work for numbers over and above arithmetic, but the two wonderful women we have working on it are great. Helen has also, brilliantly, secured not only funding to pay for our finance system for a year through the Mark Thomas Mailing List (who I am delighted to day I will be meeting some of on Friday) but committed to sourcing extra paper and supplies to help make sure we can produce and print everything financey that is needed. It’s daft but we are really very poor so even things like printer paper are an expense we have to consider, not something we can just order willy nilly. We do now have two printers (woohoo!) courtesy of some money we have been awarded through our involvement in some local learning exchanges organised by these people http://www.letstry.org.uk We are already hosting crochet sessions, and plan to do some on IT, particularly things like facebook, as the women here want to be able to share photos with their families across the world. They, and we, are looking forward to these classes starting – just got to do a few tweaks to our systems and then get all the wires connected (not as easy as it sounds – network cables get physically flung through the space above the suspended ceilings, sometimes by me, sometimes by other volunteers. Nothing is fast here!)

Sales seem to be creeping up. We’re actively NOT marketing right now as we don’t want to get masses of orders and stress the women. We want them to be making consistent good quality, not loads of pants that we can’t sell. But every day the orders are trickling in, and it’s a good feeling. I have moments of remembering how I used to enjoy sales jobs. I was never one of ‘those’ sales people, I hope. I always liked to help people solve their problems, and that’s how I saw sales. I’m looking forward to solving some pants based emergencies!

We had a great Committee Meeting last Friday, the last one before our very first AGM, which is to be on the 21st May. It feels so grown up! I might make us a birthday cake. A potential new Committee Member came along, who has bags of commercial experience. I’m really hoping that everyone else took to her as much as I did as I think I need the support on the Committee – I bang on and on all over the place about how social enterprise has to be as much about the enterprise as the social – it HAS to make money else it can’t do the social good – I don;t think the women here woudl feel as empowered, which is what we want to achieve, on a handout as they would on wages drawn from their own labour. But right now, I’m the only one with straight, profit making, commercial experience, and it would be fab to have another voice of experience there. One of the things I think I need a bit of support on is how to cope with women who have unrealistic expectations. Two women in our training class have decided that they don’t want to come any more as we are not paying them. I’m not sure they understand that they are still having lessons, they are not able to work without the teacher, and so we can’t employ them yet. I’m worried that they don’t understand why we’re not paying them as I’d hate to think they felt exploited. But the reality is they are not yet doing the job, they are still learning. And that’s got to be understood, one way or another.

We hosted a lovely visit from The School for Social Entrepreneurs the other day, me and pants as a case study. It was fun to talk it through and show people around, and as a tip top tastic bonus, we sold four pairs of pants for cold hard cash too. Brilliant! I’ve also been invited to be part of a case study for Co-operatives South East AGM in June, and we’re going to be part of Total Coverage’s http://www.totalcoverage.co.uk Greener Together initiative, and an event in Co-operatives Fortnight in June/July which will be great fun. I’m very excited to be going to see Refugee Action in Brighton in May too. The seaside, lovely people, and cake!

It’s clearly election time – not only have the women been asking questions,but we’ve been talking to the local MPs too. We’d hoped that both John Denham and Alan Whitehead, the two incumbent MPs could come in, but things have changed as a particular meeting needs them both. I wonder how keen they will be after the 6th? I do really want to get them in, or at least Dr Whitehead for the constituency we are in, as I want the women to see that MPs are available for them to talk to – they are not just distant figures for someone else.

My timing is perfect – I’m finished just in time for tea break. Then it’s all hands on deck for the funders. Hope you are warm, well and enjoying the weather

More next week



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4 Responses

  1. sarahsfleeces says:

    Hi Becky, Sounds like things are going well there 🙂 I can SO relate to the unrealistic expectations thing as I’ve had exactly the same with one of my sewers that I was training. It’s actually the only thing I really don’t like about ‘being in charge’, you spend all that time building friendships with the people that you work with and then when either you or they don’t like something you have to ‘pull rank’ on them – not an easy situation to deal with…so I guess my main lesson learnt on that one would be that saving the relationship and you remaining in charge and with a clear conscience is vastly more important than any money or time you might be quibbling about…

    hth Sarah

  2. Lisa Hunt says:

    Hi Becky, I have been following your blogs each week and I am so pleased with the way things are going for WMYP? I agree with Sarah – but I appreciate how passionate you are about your ladies.

    Keep up the good work and I hope to get over to see the set up soon – how would you like to be one of our case studies too??

    Best wishes, Lisa

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