The Accidental Entrepreneur, Or, Why I’m Not Convinced About “Follow Y | dignify
October 25, 2012

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The Accidental Entrepreneur, Or, Why I’m Not Convinced About “Follow Your Passion”

Given the wildly common theme in career advice and success-talk, I should be ashamed to say that this project did not, at all, arise from a long love, desire, or passion. I’ve never had a passion for textiles, for importing/exporting, for entrepreneurship… even my affinity for social justice, at the start of this business, I would have described as little more than average.

Nope, dignify did not grow from years of yearning, saving, planning, & wishing. It began with an almost offhand comment – one of many, from my idea-filled, entrepreneurially-minded husband – about distributing some blankets in Canada. We knew this gal Robin, an American, running her business out of Dhaka, Bangladesh, selling blankets made by women from exploitative (at best) and sex trafficked (at worse) circumstances. We were big fans of what she was doing, and I loved the blankets; they were so unique, hip, and beautiful, sewn by hand from vintage saris. The look, the craftsmanship, the weight… I hadn’t seen anything like them. I’d never even considered starting a business before, much less a retail operation, with inventories & shipping waybills & import numbers…

But, something happened. A switch was flipped. I simply could not get to sleep at night without plans, dreams, ideas, details, and a vision for this business all floating through my head. I couldn’t sit down at the computer without scouring the internet for other products that I would want; other things that were made by real people, people who had names and even pictures (smiling, too!); people to whose lives were brought life, dignity, and value, along with a paycheck.

And so my “passion” grew.

And it continues to grow, each time I find out that a Dhaka woman who has been “signing” her thumbprint to receive her paycheck is learning to write her name through her employer’s literacy program. My passion grows when I learn that a Rwandan cooperative that makes our bangles is staffed by widows of the genocide, working alongside wives of imprisoned génocidaires who killed their families, seeking unity & reconciliation through economic community.

And, of course, it grows with every like, sign-up, follow, and excited face that tells me that this is, indeed, something that we-the-people want. That it isn’t just about passion, but convergence.


So, I don’t know about “Follow Your Passion”, but I’m delighted that you’re here to follow mine.

Off we go!

Shelley Jones


dignify has provided over 50,000 hours of dignified employment to women around the world, AND has been transforming shopping habits at home for good, all because
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