Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

2011 pairs of pants on the wall, 2011 pairs of pants…

Good morning good morning good morning! Well, I know it’s not really morning but January is like the morning of the year, isn’t it?

So, here’s my first proper blog entry for 2011. I’m going to tell you all about or exciting plans and hopes, and then ask you if there’s anything you’d like to hear about that I don’t talk about.

Before looking forward, I need to look quickly back. 2010 was hard. Very hard. I always tried to pull the good out and into my blogs but there were times when it was tough, times we thought we might not be able to move on, or even continue. We are now streets ahead of that – we have a product we know works, and we have £50k committed funding for 2011, and £40k committed for 2012. That makes a huge difference to everything, including my personal stress levels (which themselves make a huge difference to everyone else’s in the office… ) This means that we have a really strong and solid base to plan from. And that feels good.

So. 2011. Our plans fall into two main areas – external (raise our profile, sell more, communicate with funders to report on progress and raise more funds) and internal (tighten up on what we have started to do well; formalise all our admin/finance/HR/legal procedures; begin to monitor and measure the social impact we are having, build on co-operatives training and encourage active membership of the co-op itself) Doesn’t sound much but I think it will keep us busy!

The external stuff falls mainly to me. I’ll be working with the wonderful Chris Smith and Janet Awe on PR, working out how to get us good coverage and encourage people to support us. I’ll also be out and about at events, maybe festivals, selling pants and spreading the word. We’ll be looking for a few more retail outlets, and will be asking you to help us – which shops would you like us to be sold in? Another thing I’ll be doing is working with our fundraising volunteer on a proper fundraising strategy (our current one has evolved quite a lot from the ‘go for everything. EVERYTHING! model I started with but it’s still not what I think of as a grown up strategy) , which I am, nerdily, enormously excited about.

Regarding products…We plan to build on the strong foundations and high levels of confidence the team have developed in being able to make our Aimee style for women for the whole year (introducing a second women’s style in 2012), and will introduce variety by introducing loads more colours and gift sets. We have some scorching burnt orange, laced through with bonfire night yellow and red threads; a gorgeous petrolly blue; a forest green lifted by a touch of reddy orange here and there; some icy ivory with pink, and blue; a new red… We’re planning gift sets themed to occasions – imagine, for example, a lovely ethical Valentine’s Day gift set of our red Aimee trimmed with sassy black lacking down the back, nestled in a pretty box nest to a black Aimee with red lacing, and an ivory and pink Aimee, all pretty, wrapped by us, with a little something extra thrown in. Being a Welsh girl, I’m already thinking that the green with reddy orange that I mentioned above would be a fab St David’s Day knicker! We’ll be launching men’s pants by Christmas 2011 (all being well, we are starting design in spring, will be making up samples for wear tests in summer and producing in autumn)

We’re going to introduce really simple ways of measuring how much social impact we are having as it’s hugely important to be able to show that we are doing a good and useful thing. WE know we are, the women we work with know we are but it’s nice to have some proof. (To that end, by the way, I’m going to be asking supporters for quotes that we can use in publicity materials – if you’d be prepared to give us a quote, we’re looking for short things, two sentences, about the impact and value you think we have – email me?) . Traditional metrics are a bit tricky here but Steve Coles of http://www.intentionality.co.uk has given me some brilliant advice and support and we’re also hoping to work with http://www.globalactionplan.org.uk on assessing environmental impact and looking at how we can maybe do more.

Internal processes may sound dull but for a policy wonk like me they are fascinating and, of course, critical. So much of everything we did last year could come under the rubbish business term of ‘fire fighting’ – we developed stuff when it was needed, not before, as we had no time to be strategic. This year we are going to start with a review of pretty much everything – legal, HR (this is huge for us as our employees are, and will be, refugees or wives of refugees, so we have to be certain every bit of immigration paperwork is totally correct) suppliers of everything from our fabrics to our paperclips, production processes including how to predict when we will need to buy new stuff, reporting.. it goes on and on but I’m ecited by it. It feels to me that we have a big thing to tidy up and organise and that makes me VERY happy (Della may have a different feeling about my excitement, I know! Della, I won’t try to DO it, I’m just looking forward to us planning it!)

Anyway – you probably get the feeling, correctly, that I could go on about this for ages. So I shall stop. I am hugely happy and optimistic at the moment and I hope you agree with me that 2011 looks set to be a lot of fun. Now we are properly up and running, please, do tell your friends. My twitter feed is where breaking news tends to break – http://twitter.com/beckypants – maybe see you there.

A very happy new year to you all – let’s make it a good one, without any fear

Xx

Becky

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So here’s to you 2010…

Hello folks 🙂

It’s with a swing in my step, a tear in my eye and a sigh of relief escaping my lungs that I’m writing this. It’s my last day in the office until we reopen on the 4th January (the office is open until 5pm on the 23rd) and I’ve relaxed right into the year end. Forgive me if this waffles a bit but my brain really has switched out of work mode a bit and we’re all winding down, tidying up and making exciting plans.

WHAT a year it’s been for us. I really don’t think I’m allowed to say ‘I’m setting up a worker co-op’ any more – it’s here, it’s set up. It’s quite honestly amazing. For me, it’s hugely emotional. I say to my friends that whomadeyourpants? is like my baby – it takes all my money, keeps me awake at night and it’s all I think about. And I love it. Deeply, fiercely, protectively. I’m proud if it. Proud of what we do, and of every single person involved in it. I’m scared for it, that it might get hurt, break, go wrong, fall over. But mostly I am hopeful, so hopeful for it. I really believe that it, that we, have the power to change real lives. And when that happens, I am overwhelmed.

The headlines for our 2010 achievements are good reading – after months of struggling with designs and production problems, we’ve a product that works, that makes up beautifully, that women love to wear, and make. We’ve completed a year’s trading. Our income was about £70k, £30k of which was from the wonderful John Paul Getty Junior Charitable Trust ( I keep calling them John Paul George and Ringo, can’t help it) £12k of which was NON grant, which means that we are heading in the right direction towards being sustainable through our own efforts. We’ve a busy team of volunteers doing our admin and a dedicated sewing and cutting team that have stuck with us through what has been, at times, an ‘oh my god will it work will we be able to pay anyone will we ever get paid oh god can we pay the rent argh argh argh’ panic. We’re done events, made sales, we have sales reports and accounts procedures and filing cabinets and list of how everyone takes their tea. We’re a real business.

But the things that stick in my mind, that have made this year so amazing, are harder to measure, and they come under what we might call ‘social and environmental impact’ . Social enterprises are set up specifically to do social good so while ‘regular’ businesses measure just their financial bottom line, we look at triple, or even quadruple, bottom lines – financial, social, environmental. The things I’ll remember and take from this year that two of our workers have their own bank accounts now. They can keep, and use, and save or splurge their own money, for themselves, without anyone else having a say. I love this. One of our volunteers has turned from a timid soul into a proud and amazing women who runs our internal finance stuff (yes Debs, you) and makes us pants shaped cakes and biscuits. Our workers decided, themselves, to upcycle our fabric scraps into cushion stuffing. They also worked out how to amend a knicker pattern by themselves, without our designer even being here. This is awesome stuff, truly awesome. It shows that they were confident in their ability to do it, for one thing. Confidence would never show up on a traditional bottom line but it’s sure as hell what we exist for and measure. Three workers are cautiously showing interest in where we get our fabrics and how we decide on things – this means that they are edging towards team leader levels of knowledge and engagement, and are starting to understand that this is their business, that they can direct. This stuff is hard to measure but it’s why we exist. We’re about empowerment – and we’re doing it.

This time of year is always a mixed one for me and I hope you’ll indulge me for a minute. Long standing readers will know that one of big pushes for me into starting this was the empowerment I gained from having two and a half years counselling with the amazing and wonderful Rape Crisis in Southampton. Well, the anniversary of my rape is coming up – it’s over the 21st and 22nd December, and while every year it’s getting easier, it’s still a bit unknown and troublesome to say the least, and I never know how I’m going to feel or be. But this year, I’m sitting here writing this and knowing it’s coming and I know it’s going to hurt but I am able to look around me and think, bloody hell, all of THIS came out of me getting over THAT. For the first time, I’m feeling Christmassy before then, and it feels like I’ll have a two day drop out, rather than feeling like Christmas can’t even exist until afterwards. I’m not scared to be sad any more, and I’m not scared of it hurting. And while I will never be glad that it happened, I am so glad that this exists. And I am humbled, honoured and privileged to be able to work with so many amazing, amazing, brave and fabulous women. This is my silver lining, my rainbow. I love it, it’s as simple as that.

I personally want to take this opportunity to thank people who have made this year possible. In no particular order…

Allegra, Amina, Della, Joy, Norman, Debs, Aga, Aimee, Julia, Madalina, Margarita, Maryam, Siham, Pratima, Mary, Bernie, Tab, my bro, BW, Jennie, Chris, Dan, Marike and Nynke, Sophie, Rosie and Kevin, Emma, Chris and Janet, Andrea, Chris, Nina, Natalie, Catherine, Rob, Tara, Amanda, Eva, Sarah, Sam, Noelle, Supriya, Clare W… every one of my friends who never lets me go thirsty, and every single one of our customers. YOU make OUR work possible. Thank you.

If I’ve forgotten to mention to you, it’s just that I forgot to mention you, not that I forgot you. I’m sleepy 🙂

Lastly, but absolutely not least, there’s one more person to mention. It’s just over a year since Della knocked on our door and said she’d maybe possibly be interested in doing a bit of voluntary work for few months while she looked for a job. She’s still here, and has made sacrifices to be so. That sentence is tiny but the reality is huge – she has put her faith in this untried venture, with almost no security, and is STILL HERE. Where I am frantic, Della is calm. Where I am uniterruptable and focused on one thing at a time, Della spins twenty plates at once. Where I am the face of the business, Della is the nervous system. I tell her what I want to happen and she makes it be so. Della being here means I can not be I can go selling, exhibiting, talking, playing. And she calms me down when I am so busy I’m in tears, and helps me find my way through it. I’d say everyone should have one but I don’t want to share. And she just walked in with cake for me. Della – thank you.

You’ll have to wait for the January blog to find out what we’re up to next year, so comeback then. It’s going to be great. We’ve new fabric, big plans, possible a pants making tour… Until then, have a splendid Christmas everyone, or Saturnalia, or winterval or whatever you want to call it. If, like me, you plan to over indulge, feel free to buy a bigger size of pants in January.

Thanks to YOU for being here and supporting us. See you in the New Year 🙂

Becky

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Parties and purple pants

Well hello hello hello! It’s been aaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggggesssssssssss.. How have you been? Have you missed me? I have missed you!

As a whole bunch of people have asked where I’ve been, I’m going to skip briefly over what’s happened with me, then tell you what’s been happening here, and then tell you all the exciting things that we’re in the middle of. It’s a very exciting time indeed.

After I went and spoke at a Managers meeting for the fab and wonderful http://www.lush.co.uk in Croydon, I was scheduled to have six days off. That ended up being four weeks as I just conked out. It was pointed out to me that I’d been running on adrenaline for over two years and my body just gave up on me. Being a member of our co-op, I had no choice but to listen to my Committee and I was told, in no uncertain terms, to take some time off and rest. It’s easier said than done sometimes but as it was, I managed it. I soaked my troubles away with Lush Ballistics and read and slept and am now back full of pants passion and fervour.

While I was away, things carried on swimmingly. Della really is quite brilliant at operationsy type work and everything just kept happening. Not only do we have boxes of perfect pants in every colour and size, (I’m going to keep on telling you we have loads of pants – every time I mention it is a hint for you to GO HERE http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk AND BUY SOME) but the offices have been moved around to make better us of the space and people have really taken hold of their work. Who would have thought that removing the control freak would allow everyone else the space to get on? Debs is coming on leaps and bounds with her finance capabilities (and confidence, which is IMHO even more important) and Pratima has come in to help too. We’ve new (wombled) filing cabinets, clothes rails, shelves and stacking trays and everything is getting a lot more organised. Dispatch is so much easier now we have pants a plenty to ship. Even my dear ole Mum has bought some, and she hadn’t told me!

Being away gave me the space and perspective to really see and appreciate how far things have come. I can no longer talk about how I am ‘starting’ a knicker business – it’s here, we’ve filed accounts, we’ve bills to pay and suppliers and rent and products and offices and paperwork (masses) and it’s really here. We’re a real hard core of dedicated workers and volunteers and it’s just a lovely place to be. I’m now based largely out of the office as I’m off at meetings, conferences, speaking engagements and the like, but I can’t stay away for long. I miss everyone! I do love the being out and about though – what I am really good at is talking, and talking about something I love. And I love pants! So getting out to shops, events and conferences is the best work I could be doing. Love it.

Next week, excitingly I have been given a complimentary place at the Media Trust event – we’ve been featured in their Annual Report, with a photo, talking about how great it’s been for me to work with Chris Smith of Swarm Communication. I met Chris, as you may remember, through an UnLtd and Media Trust Media Matching event and he’s been stonkingly brilliant. He has recently introduced me to Janet Awe of Awesome Communication (I love that name) who is sparky and brilliant and has bags of experience, so we hope to get a bunch more coverage soon. Aligned with that, and with my love of talking, we are having a partttttttttttayyyyy with the Southampton Lush store on the 27th and 28th November, and Lush TV are coming to film us! We’ll be making some pants in store and selling them – come along, meet some of the people who make them and have a go yourself!

So, pants, how can I not talk about our AMAZING, SMASHING, COMFORTABLE, EASY WASH, pants?! Our Aimee collection is really beautiful as you all know, and sales are gently ticking up wards – if you’ve helped with this, thank you – if not, you know what to do! We’ve nearly made up all the bright purple fabric, and will be moving onto a darker colour – this is a perfect example of our WIGIG, or When It’s Gone, It’s Gone way of working. We bought 600 metres of the bright purple, as that was all we could get, and then 900 metres of another purple, to make up 1500 metres. This should yield about 1000 pairs of purple pants in total. Simples! However, the bright purple is our biggest seller at the moment, so if you like them.. now’s the time girls!

We’re already sourcing new colours – our faves are basic black and then some cheerful brights as no-one, no-one can feel miserable in happy PINK pants and we’re not about boring beige or grumpy grey. I believe, hard, that one of our key messages to the world is that ethical can be FUN and PRETTY not worthy and dull. What colours would you like? I wonder if we can find an ethical dyer to do a colour match thing, you know, like when you get paint made up to match your, um, well I got mine made to match one of my feather boas. You know the thing I mean 🙂

Anyway, enough of that. Funding is still a big issue for us and we have a new volunteer helping specifically with that. She is halving my work by sifting all the possibilities and telling me which ones we are eligible for, and filling in bits of forms too. We also, hooray hooray, have been awarded just under £6k to fund us recruiting more women, hooray hooray hooray, thank YOU Faiths in Action! There are other new volunteers around but we are still looking for support around our website – if you know anyone who would like to help us with uploading content and testing, please let me know as right now, the burden is shouldered by just one person. We could also do with a free, full time IT/tech support person who knows Linux (ubuntu) as our excellent volunteers are really pushed at the moment. But such is the way of things – we’re good at making do and mending, it’s part of our ethos!

I think that pretty much covers everything that’s buzzing about at the moment. We’re still doing the boring stuff like making sure our policies and procedures are all up to date, and getting reporting structures and routines laid out embedded – but I strongly suspect you’d rather hear the fun stuff. Do tell if not!

Glad to be back folks – more again soon

xx

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I’ve stopped shaking now.

Hello everybody and welcome to this, possible one of the happiest blog posts I’ve ever written. It’s been an immensely busy and productive few weeks, hence me not being here to write. Goodness, apart from a tiny little post at the end of June, I’ve not written since May! So much to report. Where shall I start? At the very beginning?

On the 31st of May, I opened the door of my house to Emma Kidd, a brilliant and experienced lingerie product designer and developer, who left the trade because of a lot of the ethics and what she saw. She had contacted me in November last year off the back of a blog post we’d had posted on Ethical Junction, saying she loved what we were doing and could she help. We’d talked for a while, and arranged that she would come and visit and have a look around. And so, on the 31st, she stepped off a train and into whomadeyourpants? land.

As you’ll know, we’ve had some issues about production – quality has been inconsistent at times and we’ve had troubles with machines. Emma took one look at the place and our design and with her experienced eye, spotted a bunch of things we can improve in quick step short time to make our quality better and our productivity leap. She’s back again today, and thanks to some Southampton City Council funding can come back a few more times. We have a GORGEOUS new design (look here. http://twitgoo.com/1790z9 You’ll have to lean your head to the right as I can’t work out how to rotate the photo – doh!) and it’s easy and quick and gorgeous and has just the right amount of challenge for the women to be able to really own it. It’s perfect. Emma, we love you.

There’s a whole lot more new going on too. We have some new trainees – so many of our went off to have gorgeous babies or were sick, we had to recruit fast. Some of the new women already have skills, which is ace, as they are showing our existing women new ways to work and inspiring them. It’s fab.

I actually took some leave, sort of, in mid June. Apart from the fact that I came in on the 16th to speak to a broadsheet journalist (the article isn’t out yet so can’t say who) and then went off and chaired a Women’s Forum meeting on the 17th. But I had a fab solstice day, digging up my garden and clearing rubble. It was lovely working in the sun, getting tan lines ( I want to be more stripy. Animals have more than one colour on at a time but people don’t. Not naturally at least. It’s horrifically unfair) and building a fab insect house out of old rotten tree stumps. A bee came and had a look straight away, which made me happy.

The first ever Co-operatives Fortnight started on the 17th June too, and I was invited to speak at Co-operatives South East AGM, which I happily did. On the day of an England game. In a room, with windows open, opposite a pub with doors and windows open. Interesting! I also spoke at a Co-operative Regional Membership event on the 5th July, at the Art House in Southampton, which was fun. I was very very proud to accept a Co-operatives UK 2010 award there – we were recognised by them for our contribution to Innovation, Creativity and Excellence. Sadly, I was not able to attend the Congress Dinner in Plymouth and accept the award in person due to admin error, but the lovely Ian Rothwell collected it for us and a pretty handmade plate has now made it, in one piece, to my office.

On a less glamourpuss note, we’ve realised that we really need some support with and for our admin team of volunteers. They are all fab and enthusiastic people who will all turn their hands to anything, and they deserve more time than I can give them in terms of help. I’m always rushing round at a million miles an hour doing 15 things at once and so it’s hard for them to ask if they just have a quick question. We advertised the volunteer post of Office and Volunteer Manager at both local Universities and through Southampton Voluntary Services, and we’ve had some great applicants. So far it looks like we’ve found a person for that post and also someone who can be a bit more PA type person for me. I generate huge amounts of admin and regularly spend half a day on it myself, and I need to be doing MD work (so I’ve been told) so we’re hopeful. Both women have agreed to come in tomorrow for a trial shift. Exciting! We’re looking for some support on bookkeeping too as our current, brilliant volunteer has to leave us. If you can help, please get in touch.

Let’s finish on a high. The reason for the headline this time round is not a song, nor a Sesame Street tribute. It’s just the truth. We’ve had some good funding news. £2000 from Southampton City Council, £3500 from the Hilden Charitable Fund, and then yesterday afternoon, I opened an envelope containing a cheque for £30,000. Look at all those zeroes!

£30,000. £30,000!

On seeing this, I let out an involuntary scream in the middle of the car park, and ran back into the building, terrifying two poor men in the process. I could barely open the door and just ran in screaming for Della. I was having trouble standing at this point, and when Della took the letter off me and read out that we’d been awarded £60,000 over three years, I actually slid down the wall I’d been leaning on and ended up on the floor. I don’t know how long I sat on the floor and I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or what. I couldn’t read the letter, I couldn’t even hold it I was shaking so much.

When I eventually calmed down (a bit) I cycled into town, via the lovely Allegra’s office for a special Allegra hug, and banked the cheque, and came on back to the offices where I had a mammoth adrenaline crash. It’s not really sunk in to be honest but it’s frankly astonishingly good news. It’s specifically to pay rent and a bit of salary for me – life saving. If I sit and think about it for more than a second I get all shaky again. The fact that someone believe in this, and me, so much that they are prepared to put that in is something I don’t know how to cope with.

But I’d like to learn, so if anyone else has £60k lying around, let me know, eh?

🙂

That’s all for today folks, sorry for the long radio silence but I hope you’ll agree I’m back with a blinking great bang 🙂

More soon

Becky

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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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X marks the future.

Good morning everybody! And what a wonderful day to go and exercise your democratic right to put an X in a box. Have you been and done it yet? Don’t forget – I did forget one year and still feel the shame and so now get a postal vote so I will never let down Mrs Pankhurst again. Vive those amazing brave women who, LESS THAN A CENTURY AGO, fought for me and every woman here to have the vote. I’m quite humbled by their actions and suffering for the cause – please do read more about it if you’ve time – wikipedia has a very readable article here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragist and I heartily endorse the Fawcett Society and their excellent ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ T shirts’ http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

Onto matter pants related, before I well up any more. Quality is still improving – when I look at how far the women have come in a few months, I’m thrilled. This does recognise that the pants a few months ago were.. not all great. In recognition of this, we will be offering everyone who bought pants from September 2009 to an as yet not agreed by Committee date, a discount or freebie or special offer sometime in the future to asy thank you for supporting us.

So, what’s happened over the last week. We’ve had visits from the Hilden Charitable Fund, from Alan Whitehead MP, from Jonathan Cheshire of the Wheatsheaf Trust, from my fab mentor Rob Bentley of Wessex Partnerships, and yesterday I had what felt like hundreds of meetings with the women, someone from Serco, and Hyde Housing.

Hyde Housing are interesting me. It would appear that Housing Associations are tasked with providing similar services to those provided by councils/the state – support into employment, debt advice, all kinds of stuff. And Hyde locally have a high number of tenants who are likely to be the same sort of people that we want to support. This is really interesting – from day one, I have wanted to support the women who are most marginalised, the ones not accessing mainstream support services. Right now we are working with women at a higher level, as otherwise we’d have even more problems getting going. But to backtrack, it’s always hard to get to these most marginalised women as most of the access routes are via support services. However, the possibility of access through their housing is a real breakthrough – those women who are stuck at home all the time will be showing up on the HA lists lists of people who they are tasked to support most, so we should be able to offer some really good stuff there. I hope! It’s long term, but a great relationship to kick off.

Serco came along to see me about a personalised employment plan thing they are looking to develop. It was a reasonable meeting but I’m not entirely sure it’s for us. As much as anything I like working with smaller groups and Serco are MAMMOTH. The woman who visited did make it plain from the start that they run places like this http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/managingborders/immigrationremovalcentres/yarlswood http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarl%27s_Wood_Immigration_Removal_Centre which, to be honest, I want us to have absolutely nothing to do with. So we shall see.

We’ve had some good news on funding. £5k from Lush has arrived into our bank account – thankyou Lush! And we have got through the first stage of an application to Ford. And Hilden and John Paul Gettys have had the further information they have requested. And we have been awarded £674 from the Co-op bank customer donation fund for computers, and £400 from local learning exchanges. So it’s trickling in.

It’s not easy though. I am not being paid at all, but am living off my UnLtd award. Which is fine til you do maths and work out that my mahoosive mortgage and having to buy a new washing machine when mine broke (erk) mean I am poorer now than I have been since I started this. I’ve even run out of overdraft. So I can empathise with the few women who, yesterday in our review meetings, made it clear that they want wages. NOW.

Remember a few months ago, I wrote this post https://beckypants.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/rolling-rolling-rolling/ about how the women came up with their own plan about how we’d progress when we couldn’t pay them. Well yesterday, we had a review, two months into the three, to see how things are going. One woman spoke for a few and made it very clear that they think they should be getting paid. She said they think they are good enough to work without the teacher now. The fact that she then went and ran her four thread machine for half an hour without noticing it only had three thread in would suggest that this was not the case. And we are still producing as many pants that need repairs, hand stitching or are seconds as we do ones that are saleable first time round. It’s really hard. I want to pay them, really. I’m no gangmaster, I’m no slave driver. But while we are ticking along with sales through the website, they are not making enough good pants for me to do any sales and marketing pushes and so we are not generating enough income to pay them. We can get grants to pay for training, but we have to show receipts from the trainer so we can’t divert money or use it for different things. We just do not have the money to pay them, and it’s really hard to get that message across. Not all of the women feel like this, and that’s great and wonderful. I do struggle with the idea that, as this woman said, ‘when you pay us we will be better but until then we don’t care’ – that’s NOT co-operation inaction, but something driven by very different motives or perhaps subject to very different pressures. I know that one women became subject to dramatic levels of domestic violence after she engaged with us (and ultimately had to leave us as she had to move away) and so it’s always in my mind that this is a real possibility, even if it’s unlikely. I also struggle with the idea of the women having to leave – it may well be that there are family pressures on them that make going out and earning ok, but going out and having fun less ok. I don’t know quite what to do here and am very glad I have my Committee to go to for help. I’m also glad that we had a very sociable lunch after this meetings, with lots and lots and LOTS of cake.

Think that’s all for today. It’s freezing in our office, again, and we are too poor to put the heating on really. I’m a bit tired of being broke, both here and at home. It seems so barmy to me that something as arbitrary and invented as money can cause such problems. I know it’s relative and that I have a house all to myself (well, I say that. Two cats take up an awful lot of sofa/bed and leave so much fluff everywhere I tend to sit down only rarely) but it’s hard when things like roofs/floors/ceilings/fences/sheds/bikes/heating/showers all break at once and I can’t afford to fix them 😦 And hard when we’ve no money t pay people. Someone find me a lottery ticket or a leprechaun, please.

Goodness me, I’ve written a lot today! Just a last few things. I had a brilliant opportunity to go and meet the wonderful folk of the Mark Thomas Mailing List on Friday night. They have very kindly supported us by donating money and paying for our lovely finance system for a year, It was great to be able to say thank you in person (and drink gin and wiffle at them of course) Big thanks to our smashing bookkeepeer Helen for the ticket and making it possible for me to go, and for the sterling work she is doing on our accounts – we are very nearly ready to have our first ever AGM, nd our first ever accounts. It feels very grown up and totally bewildering but Helen does a very good job of getting me to understand it.

Ooh, those of you who follow me on twitter will know that I have been sadly bike less for a few days. Well, my trusty steed is back with me and riding like a dream. The bottom bracket had failed catastrophically and apparently took quite some effort to remove. My very generous brother paid for the wonderful wonderful chaps at Rock and Road Southampton http://www.rocknroadcycles.co.uk to get the bit and fit it and I picked it up yesterday. We had a joyful cycle together the Common and I feel quite myself again.

Happy voting everyone, more next week… when we’ll know who’s behind the big black door.

Becky

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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

Becky

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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!

Becky

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Rolling, rolling rolling…

Hello again everyone. As ever, it’s been an age since I wrote last – I’ve blocked out Wednesday morning in my diary for things like writing this, but we always seem to have some sort of emergency befalling us. It’s amazing how much time tiny problems take to fix, let alone the big ones.

Let’s think where are we up to? As ever, money is tight – we are waiting on a grant payment, but it’s not here, and so we are having to plead with people to wait for us to pay bills for a bit. Our production rate has been hit by, variously, a collapsing ceiling, set backs due to the weather and having to stay closed, and two of our six machines conking out and the replacements being in containers on the way from Japan. Eek! They were both sorted last Tuesday, and the proof in the pudding is that by the end of today’s session, we should know if they are working well. The women are producing about 40 – 60 pairs of pants per session now, and we expect them to be up to over a hundred in a few weeks. The quality issues we had a while back are mostly gone, so we are getting far more perfect pants made than seconds now, which is a huge relief (even though I am buying quite a few of the seconds, I’d be happier to pay full whack for the perfect ones)!

There are a few more volunteers in place now, and so admin cover is much better. This has a huge knock on effect – if I’m answering the phone, opening the post, opening the blinds and writing letters, I’m not talking to funders, or making sales calls, or doing marketing. We have, regularly, Aimee, Debbie, Janet, Jo, Li and Maryam coming in and doing all the admin support, and Della is still volunteering full time. We’ve managed to find some funding to pay her to do some freelance training, which is great, and supports the volunteers specifically. Excitingly, we realised that we have just as much to offer the women who want to volunteer here as we do the women who learn to sew – most of them are looking to get back into work after as break, or change direction, and so are looking for office experience which will really help them get a job. It’s lovely to find things (I’m not going to call them win win) where we benefit and so do others.

Alongside all my usual work, I’ve been a busy bee, up to the House of Lords with Skillfast for an event on the Women and Work funding stream we have been supported by, and I spoke yesterday for the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) on use of new and social media. I really enjoyed both of these events, and as ever, met some amazing women. At the Skillfast event, a woman spoke of her experience of how accessing training funds allowed her to get a job as a bus driver, which she loves, and how much difference this made to her life. It was very emotional and real, and a very good example of how providing an opportunity to learn allows people to unleash their talents. At the WRC event yesterday, I met their new Head of Communications, Sarah Brown, and others that I have spoken to only by phone or email. I spoke about using twitter and facebook and this blog, and how I really enjoyed being able to keep people up to date on what we do, and how supportive it is to get replies back supporting our work. I hope you appreciate how much it means when you comment or email – it’s honestly fab.

The women are still working hard, and learning, but we’ve realised that our initial training plans have been a bit skewiff and we are still training three months after we thought we’d finish. Our trainers are brilliant professionals, with the associated cost, and we just cannot afford to pay them and the workers. I’m not drawing a wage, and nor are any of the volunteers, but we have to pay our trainers. We explained this to the women (and I’m always terrified that they won’t understand and then be confused) and they came up with a brilliant plan. They said that we should train two women to be supervisors, to take over from the trainers. And they also said that they understood that new business had to start slowly and that perhaps they could take no pay until the end of May, to give us some breathing space. I’m a bit gobsmacked by this to be honest, I had no idea that they would be so supportive. I’m also utterly humbled that they are prepared to do this for the co-op. We talked a bit about what co-operating means, and I hope they understand how much their decision means to me, and to the future of this business, that they are prepared to be flexible. Supervisor training starts today!

In essence, things are just rolling along as chaotically and fast as always – it’s almost March! We’re all running about like headless chickens, trying to put procedures in place and work to them at the same time. Two of our women are about to have babies (one rang in, in what we think are the early stages of labour, to say she couldn’t come to work today, and said she hoped to be back within three weeks) and we’re all very excited for them. We had a fab shared lunch today, with some vibrant green chilli relish – it was so popular, that the recipe is being shared next week. I’m being featured in a whole bunch of International Women’s Day stuff, and we’ll have stalls at the upcoming Women’s Health and Well-being day http://www.southamptonwomensforum.btik.com/calendar/25275327565.ikml . I’ve also been asked to run a workshop at Solent University’s Social Enterprise conference in March. I’m lecturing at the University of Southampton next week, and we have a whole bunch of students coming to do placements here and see a real social enterprise in action. We’re having a web and technology strategy meeting this afternoon to try and establish how we can bring all our systems together and get things working well. It’s all go.

My personal feelings today are a bit mixed. I’m really sad that we had to tell the women we can’t pay them, and really pleased that they were supportive. I’m really pleased to be being asked to go out and speak, and really wanting to be in the office. I’m really glad we’re getting excellent quality pants through and really sad the women have struggled with so many problems to get them.

All in all, I know things will work, and I know this was never going to be easy. I still want to do this, and I’m thrilled so many people support it. I just can’t wait for it to get a bit easier.

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Too good to be true?

As anyone who has been reading this regularly will know, funding has been a constant nightmare. We are aiming to be absolutely self sustaining, and will pay for all the training etc we give the women out of profits, but right now, we have to rely on grants as we are not generating very much income at all. We’ve been awarded (not yet received it all though) just about £60k, and I am proud to say I have made every pound work as hard as two, and I’ve managed, with the help of a brilliant bunch of volunteers giving up their time, to get a lot done.

What I haven’t managed to do much of is generate very much money to pay me personally. It’s easier to get money for a thing that people can see (capital expenditure) than a salary for a person (revenue expenditure) I have been paid very very little – just enough to pay my mortgage really, and I’ve topped it up with freelance work here and there and an occasional lodger. I knew I’d be very poor when I came into this (poor being relative after all, I have wireless internet and a spare room and a roof and running water which make me pretty damn rich really) and I’m not unhappy about it generally – but a possibility has been extended and it’s so tantalising, it would be so brilliant, that I can hardly bear it.

I have got through to the final stage of the UnLtd Level 2 award competition. 70 people applied for £15keach, to go to them, the entrepreneur rather than the business. And I am one of the 12 who has made it to the final stage. I have to go to London on the 5th November and do a 5 minute presentation and then have an interview, and 7 of the 12 will be awarded the money. The email Ihad from them said, ‘I’d like to congratulate you on getting to this final stage. It’s a great achievement and a great endorsement of your work as one of the countries leading social entrepreneurs’ – which is a pretty stunning thing to read.

Ever since I first heard I’d made it through the first stage, I’ve been numb about this. I can’t let myself think it might work out in case it doesn’t. But what if it did? It would make things so much easier, so very much easier. I hate having to go and other work, I really like this work. And I hate having no money to fix the boiler when it breaks. It would be so, so helpful.

So – I wanted to share the good news and if anyone wants to send me happy positive vibes on the 5th November, I will need them,. I’ll be walking around London in a frock and heels so will need help to stay upright if nothing else!

More on the awards here…

http://www.unltd.org.uk/template.php?ID=128&PageName=level2awardsv2

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