“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!
Six years ago, my family unknowingly set ourselves on a journey toward starting a children’s clothing company.
It didn’t start with a business plan, it started with a single choice — a simple “no”.
On April 25th, 2013, the four of us — me, my husband, & our two daughters — were sitting together at the table, eating lunch. The news was on, which, in hindsight, was really unusual; we are not typically TV watchers, especially during a mealtime. I don't remember why the TV was on, but I do remember getting out of my chair, picking up my daughter, and walking closer to the television.
I received a big shipment of blankets a few weeks ago, and on Instagram I posted this photo of me with the pallet of 16 large boxes towering over me.
Subsequently, I received several DM questions about when the new blankets would be added to the site. The answer is not now but also always — both are true!
This seemed like a good time to give you all a tour into our dignify back room to explain more of how we make this colorful business work.
I've joked for many years that I think of parenting as "a slow death to self".
The death to self part (or maybe, less dramatically, a minimizing of self) is obvious : as a parent, your own "needs" & desires shuffle down a little lower on the list of importance when you have a dependent. (With the notable exception of that oxygen mask on an airplane, where I'm told you're supposed to put yours on first!).
The "slow" part is maybe a bit more arguable... When a child arrives in a parent's life, things change pretty quickly! But, in my experience, it has overall been a slow process of giving myself up for others, with acute times of change that are particularly noticeable.