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 imprisonedgénocidaires 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!
We've listened to the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman countless times in my house (or, as my music app tells me: around 30), and the chorus of this song — "Never Enough" — keeps ringing through my head.
The song itself is about love (ie. without you, all the amazing things in the world will never be enough), but as we head into the busiest shopping season of the year, I feel like "Never Enough" is the battle cry of retail marketing.
“We don’t hire homies to bake bread, we bake bread to hire homies.”
I have often written about my love & admiration for Father Greg Boyle (Father G) and the work he has done with the gang population in Los Angeles with Homeboy Industries. It is not an easy thing to promote the dignity of people who have been involved in violent criminality, finding kinship in mutual love and respect.
This line — “We don’t hire homies to bake bread, we bake bread to hire homies.” — is a perfect description of the complex dynamic of running a business that is, at its core, motivated to employ a marginalized population.
For many of us — perhaps especially if you have kids in school, or an affinity for fall —, September is the perfect time for a fresh start. I wrote last week about my fresh exercise start after a summer of indulgence!
Whether it is the new calendar year, or a new school year, milestones offer a great chance for fresh starts. I think it is a fantastic time to dream about what will be different, what systems can change & improve, and how to begin well.
But here we are, mid-way through September, and I want to offer another thought:
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