Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

Power to the Small Massive, 2 Faces and a 52 day old sweetheart

Morning everybody,

Today’s blog is brought to you by the Asian Dub Foundation songs 2 Face, largely because my experience of today has been one of two distinct halves already, and Power to the Small Massive because I feel that we are tiny in a giant sea, and the number 52 which is how many days whomadeyourpants? baby number 2 has been outside his mum and in the world.

I wrote the first part of this this morning, and the second part after 52 day old young man came in. He lifted my spirits and the love and joy on his mum’s face reminded me of why I do this. So while I make no apology for the downbeat nature of the first part of this, the second needs no explanation. I suspect you clever lot will see where the join between the two parts is and where he came in!

Blimey, what a day I am having. I can hear laughter from the sewing room, and I’m glad the women are having fun. But I’ve been having a hard day. I was undecided about whether or not to share it with you but I thought, we’re all about honesty and this is the truth. Today has been, already, very hard.

Out of the 15 women we expected today, 10 arrived. Four let us know they would not be in. They are due in at 9.45 to be ready to start at 10. Four were here before 10, the rest late. We’d dealt with this timekeeping issue, and so I’m really worried that it’s slipping again. Why is it indicative of, I wonder? I had planned to have a talk with a few of the women one to one just to review last weeks meeting and see how they feel about things – I’m aware that we heard a lot from a vocal few and want to make sure the quieter people have a chance to speak. But they weren’t here in time for me to do that. So I couldn’t. And I still have no idea how they feel, or whether they are happy to keep on training. I really want them to understand deeply that they are key to this and that we need them, and they need themselves – we’re not a support agency, we’re one that rewards putting in and once they are qualified and able to work without a teacher, that will mean they are capable of producing enough product to support their wages. Right now that is not the case and I’m entertaining all sorts of possibilities – will they all leave? Are they erally unhappy, are their families? Do they really expect to be paid when they can’t do the job? We can’t support passengers, especially not at this early stage.

Alongside this, on my to do list for today is: prepare our Annual Returns, our AGM, our next Committee meeting, our invoices. Map attendance, fix computers, finalise six policies and associated procedures, find new suppliers and arrange visits, prepare for another co-op AGM I’m speaking at, work on writing four funding bids and trawl for more opportunities. Do the Quality check of all pants made today. Work out how to get the NVQ we have been promising delivered. Find a college partner. Contact our new Sector Skills Council. Task volunteers with getting an answerphone, scanner and computers working. Build a year plan of key dates including training, intakes, sales, production, designs volunteers. Customer Service. Website development issues and planning. Plan some marketing and sales, do some of each. Work on some broad refugee issues and one specific query from one of the women. Send details of people who have approached me as about volunteering to one of our team who collates approaches and arranges inductions. I feel like I am drowning and I have spent much of this morning gripped by panic. I don’t give up easily, and I don’t want to give this up, but there are some days when it feels very very hard and it’s really difficult, lemon difficult, to feel that this is cared about by the people it’s being built for. And then I feel terribly presumptive – no-one asked me to do this, I decided to do it and I’m not in it for glory or fame or money – but I’d like to think people actually wanted to be part of it. And I can;t help but feel a bit hurt when there’s an intimation that it’s all about the cash.

I’m clinging to the fact that I know a lot of this is down to the fact that right now every aspect of EVEYTHING here is hard and do there are no safe and easy areas I can retreat to and reassure myself they are going well. I know it’s would be easier to cope with the difficulties if we were more stable financially. I know I’d be less worried about money if we were producing masses of saleable pants. But we’re broke and producing just enough to cover our current orders. To grow and succeed, we need to get me out selling pants and that’s just not possible right now.

Ooooh… what a lovely interlude! One of our lovely women has just popped in with her little boy, whomadeyourpants? baby number 2. He is GORGEOUS and was doing that determined sleeping that babies do. Mum decided that I needed to see his big brown eyes and so poked him gently til he woke up – in a very loving way, but there was poking. He’s adorable. They were able to stay for lunch and so everyone cooed and looked and congratulated. The women shared stories of what cultural things happen around birth where they are from – in the Sudan, apparently, in both Muslim and Christian areas, the mum stays home for 40 days after birth. Visitors are allowed, but mum stays home. In the Emirates, where some women have lived, this is not the case and mum can go out but often stays home for a week to recover. We had a lovely lunch together again, and now the women are back to work and so am I.

So, let’s think, what’s been going on over the last week. I’m sure there’s been some big story in the news.. oh yes, that’s right, there’s been that small matter of the election. I’m very unsure of how things will pan out, as of course are we all, we’re none of us soothsayers. I have to say though, I am very reluctant to think that Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ idea will clean up all the problems. I found it very odd to hear a Tory campaign talking about worker ownership, and on reading their Manifesto ( I am such a policy nerd, really) I found little to persuade me that it was about anything more than cheap outsourcing of service delivery.

In other news, I had a long weekend and needed it. I cycled to Winchester and back on Friday with a friend, and had vegetarian fish and chips for lunch, which was fun. And I had a smashing day in a bluebell wood singing the teddy bears picnic song at the top of my voice with my niece. We also went to the Romsey Green Fair, organised by Transition Town Romsey, which was fun. I had a day to myself on Sunday, which nearly drove me spare – I cope badly with having nothing to do – and then on Monday I did chores and met someone who has applied to be a Committee Member for dinner. We’ll find out at the next meeting if she is to be elected but I will certainly vote for her – she has a wealth of commercial experiences that will be really helpful, and she ‘gets’ me which will also be fab.

I’m feeling far better now than I was earlier (and thank you my twitter friends for the advice and support) and I’m riding a wave of calming tranquilliser-ish hormones. My wonderful counsellor at the Rape Crisis used to say that tears had a reward, a dose of natural calming tranquillisers. I like them. I’m still worried though. It seems that fully one third of our lovely women have serious hospital related ongoing health issues. This seems hugely disproportionate to me. And, to be very frank, when they have appointments on Wednesdays, as many do today, we really notice that they are not here. As this group only come in on Wednesdays, losing one session really hits productivity and ongoing learning. And it baffles me – how can people say they want more lessons, they want longer lessons – and then not show? We’ve talked about trying to get hospital appointments on days that are not Wednesdays, and we’ve also talked about letting us know about appointments in advance, for example, when the letter arrives. But it’s always last minute and that makes it immensely difficult to plan.

This is all a learning curve for me and for us, and no doubt for you too. I hope my honesty about how hard things can be comes across as it is – a report on the reality rather than a whine. Please let me know. I want to be open about what we do, and how we do it – and I think that means sharing the highs and the lows, the successes and the slog to get there Today of all days I want to say thank you for reading and supporting. Even when the office is full, I can feel very alone here and knowing there are people out there cheering us on really helps.

Excerpt from Power to the Small Massive

This one goes out to the people
Under pressure Under ground
Out to the voiceless to the restless
Stirring the nation with their sound
Can you feelin the vibe generate new energy
Got to rise up from the ashes got to restart history
Power 2 U if you wanna break loose

Until next week

Becky

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5 Responses

  1. Harry says:

    Keep us posted, Becky!

    Let’s face it, you never expected it to be easy, and I doubt anyone else did. If it was easy, you would have been beaten to it by 1000 other people!

    • beckypants says:

      I will do – writing this proved to be enormously therapeutic . I’m not one for the easy option, I get bored without a challenge. Just looking forward to the days when it’s not ALL challenge 🙂

  2. Angela says:

    Always a fascinating read and I wanted to ask a) if the workers understand what you are doing b) if they know how important they are in the scheme of things and c) if you get opportunities to just sit and talk socially to get to the bottom of some of the frustrations you are having?

    At my old co-op we found that some really basic stuff came out in social situations that didn’t come out in meetings. Are there other ways to get the feedback you need?

    Just some ideas. You’ve probably covered all this already, but your business is so interesting I just wanted to ask.

    All the best.

  3. beckypants says:

    Hi Angela,

    Yes, we do talk over lunch and that’s really helpful. But we’ll have a conversation and I’ll think things are understood and then we’ll find out there’s been either a huge misunderstanding or no understanding. One day I went in and said, right, see you in TWO weeks as I’m on holiday next week’ and then one of the women came to see me and said ‘see you next week’ We had agreed, a week ago, that yesterday we would run the session til 2.30 and then have a meeting to see how it went. Everyone actively agreed. And then only four people could stay yesterday. I’m a bit baffled – do they not remember? Are there social/cultural pressures keeping them away? Is forward planning not usual? We’ve explained, eg, that we need to know about hospital appointments when the women get the letter – and they tell us the morning of the appointment. We’re still providing English lessons., and I’m just not sure what else we can do.

    Your old co-op? Wanna be part of a new one?

  4. sarahsfleeces says:

    YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m always here to cheer you on mate 🙂 I love reading your blog each week as it shows how ‘normal’ and ‘human’ you are and it inspires me on in my own ickle version of your business 🙂

    I too feel like it’s an uphill battle and has been for 18 months and will probably remain so for the next 2 or 3 years! We too have issue after issue to wade through and my list of things to do well….

    One thing I can highly recommend is a lovely lady called Clare Evans, here’s her link http://www.clareevans.co.uk/TimeManagementAudit.htm

    She does a time management site and I went on one of her courses here in Hastings in the autumn. I have to say that along with my business mentor from 1066 Business Enterprises her ideas have probably been one of the biggest influences over how I run my business. It’s taught me how to divide tasks into either ‘important and urgent’ or ‘important but not urg’, how to be proactive rather than fire fight all the time, how to feel in control rather than like you’re running to catch up all the time. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% there yet but my goodness it’s done me alot of good. It only takes 10 mins to fill out her questionnaire and the results and recommendations you get afterwards are massively useful 🙂

    Hang in there mate – go find a pillow to scream into or a punch bag to let rip on that helps hugely too 🙂

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