“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.
At dignify, we sell blankets. I (Shelley) focus on the marketing aspect, and Wayne (my husband) focuses on the operations, like ordering new goods and sending your packages. Ashley, our part time lifesaver, picks up the pieces we leave behind. We sell blankets, and that’s all we do.
But, why do we sell blankets? I’ve shared before about the meaningful stories of women in North America enjoying their vintage kantha throws. And that is an enormous benefit — we sell blankets for the meaning and kinship that people receive when they wrap themselves with a throw they have bought or received as a gift.
But also: we sell blankets to hire women.
Robin, who has managed the operations at Basha, our producing partner in Bangladesh, has shared with us about the plight of the Rohingya refugees flooding to Bangladesh from Burma.
“People have escaped Burma after having their homes burned, their children, husbands, family members slaughtered in front of them. Many women were gang raped and left for dead. Around 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh creating a real crisis, as they come to a country that is already lacking space and resources for their own population. This creates a situation where prostitution, human trafficking and crime flourishes.”
Robin’s vision for Basha is that they will always respond to this type of need.
“We never want to stand by and let girls and women be sold and raped and exploited. We know even a little work, even a small income, even a small opportunity gives women a chance to feed their children, protect their family, say no to the traffickers and pimps.”
It may be only September, but believe it or not, the “holiday season” is right around the corner. I try to maintain dignity on all levels of our business, from the production through to ads. But, we also want to sell blankets. A lot of blankets. Because, in addition to supporting our own life & family, we want to respond to the needs of vulnerable women in Bangladesh. To respond to the needs of the Rohingya.
We don’t place orders, ship containers, photograph products, and wrap parcels to sell blankets. We sell blankets so that at the beginning of that process, there is a woman who can come to a safe, loving workspace, and do her job with dignity.
This fall & holiday season, I am hoping that we can continue to sustain (and grow!) our ability to provide this work for women. Let's do it!
Looking back at some photos from last Christmas, I came across this screenshot from my phone that really made me laugh:
My husband was dropping off our parcels recently, and a woman working in our shipper's office said, "I was looking at your site, and I think I might buy some of these blankets this year as gifts; I'm mostly shopping online." Another employee chimed in, "I'm going to do all of my shopping online, too."
That evening, he went with our kids to the mall to pick something up (masked, natch), and as he surveyed the hallways — with some permanently closed stores, some shuttered from lack of employees, etc. — Wayne's thought was, "I think I need to do all my shopping at the mall!"
Recently, dignify received a review on our blankets that addressed the variety of our styles (color/pattern), and the contrast/matching choices that go into our kantha. Let's take a glimpse behind-the-scenes at the number of factors that contribute to these decisions.
How do we choose the fabric? How do we match saris to create the kantha blankets? Why are some combinations bad? Why aren’t there more grey/buttery yellow/navy blue color combos?
I know that many of you have wondered about these questions from time to time, too!