A year ago I nervously stood on stage in front of 350 creative entrepreneurs and pitched my idea for Sewing New Futures at The Coalition – TC/1. This year SNF got an opportunity to produce some swag for TC/2. OML one of the conference organizers ordered 250 custom business card holders for a free gift for everyone who registered. It was a very last minute idea but turned out pretty successfully for everyone! Our ladies learned the new pattern and made all 250 in one week. I was so incredibly proud of them.
The week long journey was full of ups and downs. This was the first time we implemented our quality control process to standardize making products for someone. Anika put up the instructions and measurements on the wall. Auntie made a sample. The girls each had to turn in a sample with practice fabric that was “approved” before going on to make the make the card holders with the purchased fabric.
My two biggest learnings during that week were:
1) How important positive feedback is within an organization. I saw how fast the girls would get discouraged when we told them what they needed to fix and that was frustrating. I learned how important it was to reassure them (and the staff) how much they are learning in a short time and how well they are doing. I found by making them point out the positives of their work first before having them point out what could be improved it improved morale.
2) How important culture is to your organization. As a leader what kind of culture are you developing? I feel our centre is a positive, fun, safe space for all the women and children. However, when I am stressed the staff feels it and I need to be a whole more zen when trying to complete a tight deadline. I need to work on showing every worry (cough cough money). It’s an interesting experience being a leader in a country where you are not from. So many things get lost in translation. Work styles clash. I know that without Monika (who runs our centre) we would collapse in a day. She handles so much and is learning how to do many things outside of her comfort zone. She handles it all extremely well. Our whole team is very important to the organization and they need to know their value. When challenges arise (and they will) I need to remind them how important they are before saying we talk about how we need to do better (back to point one).
We are busy following up on some business we got from the conference. Along with that several of our girls are helping with St Art Foundation and OLEK’s crochet installation. They are helping sew together the pieces and in a few days a night shelter in Delhi with be transformed by a beautiful installation.