“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!
Dignify’s origin story has long been included, in brief, on our about page, and I refer to it whenever I’ve done interviews or podcasts or if I meet someone in person who inevitably asks, how did you get into this?
I'd like to share a bit of a wider panorama of the story, and an update. I have heard some tremendous stories from customers about the meaning that their blanket has had in some aspect of their life or a relationship. I'm so inspired, I would like to share more of mine, too. The story of dignify is very intertwined with my friend, Kathy.
I've taken a Halloween approach (thus far) that is almost entirely of a free-for-all. As in: Go trick-or-treating, have fun, eat candy, keep it in your room, go wild... and usually by two weeks in, it's all gone, forgotten, or lost its lustre. This week, though, our three kids brought over 1200 candies & chips back into our house (!!!). It was, to understate things... a bit much.
When you find yourself with an abundance of junk food, the idea of throwing it away feels inconceivable (at least for me). Maybe it is that candy is non-perishable, and there is a sense that throwing something edible in the garbage is abhorrently wasteful?
A little behind-the-scenes insight here...
As a store owner, there are loads of resources out in the wilds of the internet, ostensibly to help me succeed in my business. Did you know that I start hearing about Black Friday (as in "are you prepared to break through on Black Friday?") in the summer?
It is SO EASY to find ourselves as consumers in the maelstrom of other people's (and corporations') marketing efforts, and not even remember how we got there, or even notice these (very intentional) forces working away on us.
Here are some actions we can take now to simplify the noise before the noisiest time of the shopping year: —