My laptop and smartphone died on my two hour commute home from the centre. For some reason I was on the only metro in Delhi without those fabulous plug points. I usually use the time to work smushed amongst all the bodies but this forced time out from electronics gave me time to think my day and more importantly my business.
For anyone who have had the pleasure of visiting our centre… it’s exactly that a pleasant experience. It’s really impossible to have a bad day there. Everyone that makes up SNF:the women, girls, kids, Monika (who is the heart / badass / brain / powerhouse running the centre), Sunita aka Auntie our sewing teacher, and our new education teacher Deepika since our last two have gotten married are all wonderful. Everyone is so happy to be there and it’s just a fun work environment.
It’s been a year since we opened our centre. Our lease is up and we need to move to a bigger space! I spent the morning looking at buildings with Monika. This process is both wonderful (growth) and heartbreaking. It’s hard to say goodbye to our first centre that we have built from the ground up.
We have our first promotion from our first training batch! We have a pretty strict media policy to never use anyone’s real name and I am mentally too tired to think of a good fake name.
<- She is going to be a manager and will be filling in for Auntie on days she absent. She will be given more responsibility over the other girls cutting fabric for their pieces, quality control checks and helping process orders.
Mid-day while Monika and I were sitting in a pile of beautiful silk saris, matching them for skirts, bags, ties and other new accessories that we are making. I noticed that someone pretty essential to SNF was missing. This is a girl who lights up the room with her joy! Her name is proudly displayed on her sewing machine, chair, and every product she beautifully sews.
“She is getting married this week and has shifted to Prem Nagar…”
It was like someone punched me in the gut. That is three girls since we have started a year ago that have gotten married, had a baby, and due to intense family pressure that we can’t fight they have to drop out and are forced to start prostitution. It’s still the mindset in this community to be the only source of livelihood to support themselves and their families. In addition, the community practices bride price and the men pay INR 50,000 – several Lakhs. For my overseas readers this is at least $1,000 – $3,000. This practice further exacerbates these girl’s vulnerability towards forced prostitution, as there is pressure on her to repay the bride price. I have seen this again and again. These girls lose any choice over their life.
SNF is just not financially stable enough yet to get these girls earning what they need to in order to fight the family pressure (INR 8,000 / $150 per month). Right now our business model is to make our own products which will sell B2B both in India and aboard but sales are slow as we don’t have a lot of (re. any) capital to hire design help and marketing. It’s been homegrown efforts. The second part is trying to work with businesses and custom make products for them. This second part is ideal in our current state because the girls get paid for their work and we don’t have any dead stock.
I think anyone running a one year old business grows through ups and downs. You choose to either fold like a pussy or you dig deep, find your passion and work harder towards your goals. Today was the slap in the face I needed to do whatever I need to do to hustle and find those girls the work they need.