August 2016

1) Monthly Video

2) Description of Activities

A. Two Full-Time Seamstresses / Tailors Begin

A seamstress with a physical disability and a tailor with no experience with disability begin working together at Matilda Flow Enterprise under the mentorship of Matilda. Our seamstress has previously worked at a low-paying job at a sewing workshop, and she is unfamiliar with sewing men's clothes. Nonetheless, she shows an eagerness to learn new techniques and is soon able to sew most of the designs. Our tailor is fully competent in all of the techniques upon arrival. The shop manufactures shorts, headbands, aprons, and sweatshirts using the initial organic cotton materials.

B. One Full-Time Workshop Assistant Begins

Matilda's daughter begins working as a workshop assistant. In the morning, she washes and cuts apart water sachet bags into strips for creating reusable, recycled bags for packing our clothes. During the day, she assists Matilda around the shop with sweeping and organizing. A search begins in the community for an appropriate teacher for her to undertake her tutoring. A candidate is selected. However, the man delays coming for several weeks, resulting in a new search being started.

C. Two Part-Time Workshop Tag-Makers Begin

Since many people with disabilities are eager to work in Ghana but do not live in geographic proximity to the shop, we created a pilot work-from-home program, so that workers would generate income on a commission basis. Our tag-makers are two adults with physical disabilities, who live about an hour from the shop. They start their commission work by making hand-written product tags for clothes.

D. Completion of Workshop Wall

The surrounding cement wall is completed on the open side of the facility. The wall is used for two sides of the bathroom structure, so once the wall construction project is complete, the bathroom and toilet construction project can proceed. 

E. First Inclusive Product Photoshoot

As the first few products are manufactured, we photograph the products and ask our work-and-learn program member to model them. Our workshop assistant is an incredible model, whose favorite activity appears to be having her picture taken. 

F. Website Designed

The first iteration of our website goes live via the website hosting software, Squarespace. We chose this platform due to its high potential for customization. The website included pages for mission, transparency, sustainability, and stories. The stories page posted the 'Ruby is Respectful' story in full with artwork done by a talented Nigerian artist. By including people with different intellectual disabilities in our product photos, we hope to convey our mission and commitment to inclusion. The Squarespace website platform proved frustrating however - due to the slow downloading speed over the internet in Ghana, which is 3G cellular and very often disconnects.

G. Product Feedback Survey Sent Out

A product feedback survey was sent out to project supporters via email, individual messages, and via social media. 11 responses were received. Responses indicated that bags, sweatshirts, and headbands were the most popular items and also suggested that we should mix up color options between bright and less bright colors. 

H. Facebook & Instagram Pages Created

A Facebook and Instagram linked page system was created. Pictures are posted every other day from the site of the workshop to show the activities and materials in use.

I. MailChimp Email ListService Started

An email listserv is created using the Mailchimp tool to advertise new products to interested customers. Though the hope is to eventually share project updates via this newsletter, initial emails contain mostly product features.

J. Explored a Shipping Partnership

After shipping sample headbands and our first sales to customers via Ghana Post, which offers two-week shipping from Ghana to the USA, we decided that it was necessary to partner with a distributor in the USA - to ship to customers on our behalf. We wanted a distributor who would agree to use eco-friendly materials, and we selected MojoCrate, an emerging start-up due to their commitment to using biodegradable shipping materials.

K. Reconsidered Work + Learn Program Activities

Originally, we planned for the main work activity of the work + learn program for people with different abilities to be washing, cutting, and reassembling plastic water sachet bags into larger reusable bags for shipping our products. However, we learned at the end of the month, that Ghana Post only allows shipping in their packaging materials. For this reason, we had to revise the program activities. We decided to move into the paper-making space, involving our workshop assistant in the production of the paper and then in coloring it using crayons and colored pencils before the tag-makers write on the paper.

L. Housing & Transportation Options for Workers

Our seamstress, is traveling over an hour to get to work. She is also having to cross a busy road, which given her physical disability, can be a challenge if there is no policeman or woman who is willing to stop traffic. For this reason, she believes it would be ideal to have a nearby apartment where she could stay during weekdays. Affordable rentals are in-high demand in Ghana, but Matilda and her husband begin searching the neighboring community.

M. Establishment of Workshop Rules & Policies

Workshop rules were established through discussions with Matilda, workers, and Matilda Flow Co. board. These included an attendance policy, procedures for calling in sick, parental leave and family leave, and standardization of wages for various skills. Workers sign an agreement to the rules upon starting at the workshop, and any revisions are posted in the shop on the wall.

3) Quantify

Expenses This Month: $2547.61

Workers: $828.09

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
8/1/16 200 51.95
Seamstress (Advance on 700 GHC Total Payment)
8/1/16 200 51.95
Tailor (Advance on 700 GHC Total Payment)
8/22/16 655 170.13 Tag-Makers (131 Tags, 5 Cedis per Tag)
8/29/16 500 129.87 Seamstress (Remainder of 700 GHC Total Payment)
8/29/16 500 129.87
Tailor (Remainder of 700 GHC Total Payment)
Manager, Prototype Designs
11/5/16 450 112.50 Workshop Assistant (Payment Delayed Until Parents Agree to Learning Program)

Materials: $880.32

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
8/11/16 800 207.79 Import Duties on 50 Yards Organic Cotton, Threads & Zippers
8/11/16 59 15.31 First-Aid Kit
8/11/16 220 57.14 Tie-Dye Colors, Caustic Soda, Hydrosulfate
8/18/16 53 13.77 Hydrosulfate, Caustic Soda
1794.45 466.09 30 Yards Organic Cotton from Organic Cotton Plus
8/30/16 461.80 119.95 Import Duties on 30 Yards Organic Cotton

Construction & Expansion: $839.20

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
8/1/16 350 90.91 Digging of Hole for Toilet
8/1/16 700 181.82 Rocks for Wall & Bathroom Construction
8/9/16 150 38.96 PVC Piping for Sewage
8/11/16 105 27.27 Matilda Flow Enterprise Registration Form
8/11/16 258 67.02 Fire Extinguisher, Two Irons
8/11/16 40 10.39 Repair of Industrial Sewing Machine
8/12/16 460 119.48 Toilet Bowl, Washing Bowl, Plumber & Carpentry for Bathroom
8/18/16 235 59.2 Cell Phone with Camera for Workshop Communications
8/19/16 100 25.97 Bathroom Lights & Buckets
8/20/16 300 77.92 Masonry for Bathroom & Wall
8/25/16 400 103.9 Masonry for Bathroom & Wall
8/30/16 140 36.36 Iron Rod, Steel Benders & Carpentry Work for Toilet Installation

Sales This Month: $242.32

Summation of Activities This Month:

  • 6 workers employed
  • 30 yards of organic cotton ordered 
  • 1 workshop wall constructed
  • 4 sales made
  • 2 distinct customers

Progress Since Launch: -$7,731.25

Matilda Flow Co. has been in operation for three-months. Sales started on our online store at the end of August and yielded four transactions with two customers. 

4) Interviews

No formal interviews were conducted this month.

5) Analysis

Financial Sustainability:

The project has incurred a loss of $7731.25 in operational and construction expenses since onset and started sales this month. Financial losses are expected for the first six months to the first year. At the start of the project, Matilda Flow Co. had $3000.00 of grant funding from the Boston College Shea Accelerator. The founder has personally donated the remaining -$7731.25. We expect up to $15,000 or $20,000 of investment may be necessary before the project is fully sustainable.

Environmental Sustainability:

Additional organic cotton is ordered from India through our organic cotton supplier in the United States so that production can continue. However, identification of a new supplier in West Africa becomes a business-wide priority. A potential lead in Burkina Faso falls through, but a contact in Mali proves promising. 

Health-Related Sustainability:

A first-aid kit is purchased for the workshop along with a fire extinguisher. Safety procedures for any on-site injuries are established in the workshop policies, which are posted in the shop. All employees are required to register in the national health care scheme if they haven't already. Worker policies also include three months paid paternal leave and two-years unpaid paternal leave. 

Social Impact:

The workshop opens - providing a seamstress with a physical disability, a mother of a daughter with intellectual disability, a woman with intellectual disabilities, and a tailor with no connection or awareness of disability - with equitable, meaningful work. An inclusive photoshoot occurs with a model with different intellectual disabilities, and as these photos are released online, they challenge conventions of inclusion in commercial product marketing.