November 2016

1) Monthly Video

2) Description of Activities

A. Completion of I Found the World Collection

Matilda, the seamstress "G", and a newly hired tailor finished manufacturing the I Found the World Collection, which included aprons, sweatshirts, shoulder bags, headbands, bow-ties, and shorts. Products were shipped to our distributor in Portland. We hired our tailor from the central tailoring workshops in Makola Market where hundreds of seamstresses and tailors work independently. We wanted someone who could do the embroidery and the tailoring, and we hired a tailor at the end of October for this. However, he stopped coming after two weeks into his trial month due to personal matters at his hometown village. He referred us to a friend, who was skilled in the embroidery and decent enough with the tailoring that we tried him for the month. However, at the end of the month, we concluded that his tailoring skills were not up to the level needed, so he would continue with the embroidery alone on a part-time, commission basis. 

B. Switch to Repurposed Cotton and Reclaimed Zippers

The other major barrier to expanding this project was the high-cost of locating organic cotton materials. After several weeks taking a step back and analyzing other social enterprises to come up with an idea, the founder proposed that we switch the clothes and accessories to repurposed cotton. Makola Market in Accra is brimming with used clothes that have been imported from abroad including plain white cotton t-shirts and cheap used sweatshirts that we could reclaim zippers from. Making this change reduces our costs from about 500 USD for 100 yards of fabric to less than a 100 USD. More importantly, it is enormously environmentally positive, meaning that no new cotton needs to be grown for our clothes, saving energy and water and reducing pollution. Using reclaimed zippers also represents a major environmental savings in metal materials and energy used in production. This change also enables true logistical sustainability for Matilda Flow Enterprise to execute the project. Without having to rely on an external supplier to send materials, the workshop is able to control its work schedule. Finally, the stretchiness of the cotton t-shirt material is actually ideal for making comfortable, loose-fitting products that customers will love. 

C. Facebook Store & Sponsored Product Adverts

Products from the fall collection were added to a facebook store, which linked back to our main website. Facebook ads targeting friends of those who had liked our page, and demographics with interests in tie-dye were targeted. Feedback about the ad campaign was that we needed to use pictures of customers in the products - rather than only Ruby at the workshop - so that customers could better imagine themselves wearing the clothes and accessories in familiar contexts. 

D. Eco-Friendly Bumper Stickers

We identified an eco-friendly bumper sticker printer in the U.S. - EcoBumperSticker - who agreed to print our newly redesigned logo as a bumper sticker at a slightly reduced rate. We printed sixty stickers and started sending them to friends of the project. 

E. Conducted First RISE-Style Interviews with Workers

We developed a preliminary survey of questions for workers about their life experience before MFC and their experiences at the shop along with their aspirations and hopes for the rest of the project. Matilda facilitated the interviews, and the interviews were transcribed on-the-spot. The main conclusion regarding methodology was that a more simplified series of questions is needed moving forward - because the survey took almost a full hour, which ate into the work-day. We interviewed "G", our seamstress with a physical disability, and "C", our cloth-maker with a child with different intellectual disabilities. 

F. Family Dynamic & Transport Project

Though Ghana is a society of strong women and men, there is a general perception - at least in Matilda's family - that the man is supposed to be the breadwinner in the family. The woman can help raise income too, but it is the man's social role to be contributing positively to the family - to be feeding the family, saving funds for school fees, and caring for the children's wishes. Matilda's husband, James, was working as an electrician; however, due to the electricity crisis and the changing nature of technology, his business has been running at a loss for several years. With Matilda working productively on this project and earning a steady wage, James has felt increasingly abandoned and frustrated, causing stress in the family relationship and a lowering of morale in the workshop. As the situation grew more severe, we had a series of meetings together, and James expressed his interest in stopping his electrical shop and starting work as a taxi driver. Given our existing needs with transporting workers and our desire to make impact in the accessible transport space, we began to explore a pilot taxi expansion project that would give work to James, provide transport services for the workshop when needed, and generate data to support a larger transport project in the future.

G. Insurance for the Workshop

We explored getting the workshop structure insured and visited Star Assurance, the major insurance agency in Accra where we learned that they will not even consider insuring a building in Ghana - unless it is made out of 100% cement or another very solid material. If we had known this during our construction stage, we would have spent a little more money to build the workshop walls out of cement blocks rather than plywood sheets. In a few years, when the workshop needs some repairs and refurbishment, we can change the plywood walls for cement blocks and consider insurance then.

3) Financial Report

Expenses This Month: $1519.57

Workers: $730.00

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
11/16/16 120 30.00 Guest Embroiderer (2 Cedis per Embroidered Item, 60 Items)
11/10/16 500 125.00 Matilda Lartey, I Found the World Collection, First Order
11/18/16 500 125.00 Matilda Lartey, I Found the World Collection, Second Order
11/23/16 200 50.00 Tag-Makers (40 Tags, 5 Cedis per Tag)
11/29/16 700 175.00 Seamstress
11/29/16 450 112.50 Cloth-Maker
11/29/16 450 112.50 Workshop Assistant

Materials: $575.95

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
11/15/16 100 25.00 Stiff Fabric Liner
11/16/16 100 25.00 26 Used Cotton T-Shirts
11/22/16 100 25.00 30 Used Cotton T-Shirts
11/22/16 55 13.75 Collection Fee for 72 Meters Mali Organic Cotton Fabric
11/27/16 120 35.50 35 Used Cotton T-Shirts
11/27/16 20 5.00 Backpack Clips for Prototype Adjustable Straps
11/27/16 38 9.50 Caustic Soda: 20, Hydrosulfate: 18
11/28/16 1480 370.00 Transfer for 72 Meters Organic Cotton Fabric & Shipping from Mali
11/30/16 268.80 67.20 Colors 1/2 kilo (Blue: 40, Green: 70, Dark Blue: 40, Yellow: 40, Violet, 40, Active Charcoal: 30, Transport: 8.80)

Construction & Expansion: $112.50

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
11/17/16 450 112.50 Electricity Utilities Bill (June to November)

Shipping Expenses: $101.12

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
11/18/16 230.00 57.50 Posting I Found the World Collection - Shipment #4
11/28/16 174.48 43.62 Mojocrate Shipping to Customers from Portland

Sales This Month: $305.00


Summation of Activities This Month:

  • 7 workers employed
  • 72 yards of organic cotton ordered and used
  • 91 used cotton t-shirts tie-dyed
  • 5 sales, 5 distinct customers

Progress Since Launch: -$12,184.83

Matilda Flow Co. has been in progress for six months. Sales efforts were increased this month via a marketing campaign on facebook. However, more exhaustive efforts in the U.S., interacting with customers and vendors, are going to be necessary to advance.

4) Interviews

Seamstress (Friday, November 11)

This seamstress joined the Matilda Flow Enterprise team at the start of August 2016 when the workshop began piloting and developing clothes. She is thirty-five years old and originally from the central region of Ghana. She did not attend school because she lived in a village where her parents were farmers. She enrolled in a three-year sewing apprenticeship to learn seamstress work. She now lives with her daughter, who is in junior high school.

Though she only lives about ten miles from the workshop, in traffic, it can take almost two hours to get to and from work. She also has to cross two highways, and if there is no police man at the crosswalk to stop traffic, she finds this difficult. Sometimes, she coordinates with other employees, so that they can lead her across the street. For this reason, she is hoping to find a room in the surrounding community that she can stay in on weekdays, and the Matilda Flow Enterprise staff have also made it a probity to identify such a room by the start of next year when rentals normally begin.

Before learning to sew, she sold biscuits, toffees, and candies at a school. She chose sewing because she felt it was a job that was meaningful and that was tailored to her as an individual because she can't easily carry things around in the market, and sewing is stationary. She found a job near her house sewing where she worked six days a week for a wage of 300 cedis, which was not sufficient for her needs. Her brother stepped in to pay for her daughter's school fees. With the extra income she earns, she does savings.

Her aspiration someday would be to save enough resources that she would be able to open her own shop.

She was recruited by the Operational Director of the Disability Needs Foundation, who is also a tag-maker at MFC and they met through the Portraits of Ability research project, which our founder developed and supported.

She describes her state of mind as excited about the work, and she has not come across any products like Matilda Flow's in Ghana, which makes her feel like the company is a different kind of company. She wanted to move forward, and she sees that the work can help her, so she is happy

She has a physical disability that she credits to polio. She describes her disability as "not walking fast." During childhood, she used a walking stick, but now she walks without any mobility aid. In her community, she does not experience social discrimination. Many people with disabilities find difficulty, in her opinion, because they do not access education, and they encounter marriage problems due to social discrimination.

She believes some changes are occurring in Ghana around disability rights because the government has some wages available for unemployed persons with disabilities.

B. Cloth-Maker

Friday, November 11

Our cloth-maker joined the Matilda Flow Enterprise team in mid-October of 2016 as a cloth-maker in our business creation program. She is a forty-year-old mother with a daughter with different intellectual disabilities, who she considers to be the most important person in her life.

She lives in Greater Accra – about half an hour from our workshop – and commutes to our shop after dropping her daughter off at school.

After completing several years of primary school, she could not continue her education due to financial restraints, so she then pursued a career in hairdressing and trading shampoos and other hair products.

She is involved in her community through her Church where she serves as an usher.

Since being trained in tie-and-dye cloth-making, she has enjoyed the work and finds it meaningful because she has now realized and seen how to create a different thing that will help her in the future. As a hair-dresser and trader, her monthly income was 300 GHS, which wasn’t sufficient to take care of her daughter and her own needs.

She now earns a monthly salary of 700 GHS – 250 GHS of which is set aside at the end of each month and pooled together as a business creation start-up grant of 1500 GHS upon program completion. Using this grant, she plans to establish her own tie-dye cloth-making business where she will produce cloth and then go around in the markets and in the community, selling it.

With the additional income she is earning now and with the income she will generate from her business, she plans to save and buy or rent her own place to live in. She currently lives with her sister. This is her goal for the next five years.

She heard about this opportunity through a local NGO, who we shared our project with, who referred her to the workshop. She was excited to receive the opportunity and thinks the work we are doing and the ways we do our work are different from other businesses in Ghana.

If she were in the car and someone asked her where she worked, she would describe Matilda Flow as an enterprise that helps people with disabilities and they make different clothes. So if you really need to work, and you work, you can achieve something.

Her daughter is seven-years-old, and she was originally not able to walk. But after surgery, she started walking. Her speech however is not coming, and she has what she describes a hyper-active personality.

She goes to school and is presently completing Kindergarten Level Two where she has learned to write. At school, her teachers and classmates don’t disturb her, and she does not experience discrimination – perhaps because when you first look at her, you would not know that she has a disability.

Her daughter receives health care but not always fluently. If she faces malaria for example, they go to the hospital. She is very active in the community, playing with other neighborhood children. She enjoys dancing and playing, and her aspiration for her daughter is that she gains speech and memory so that she can learn in the future.

She is excited about starting a cloth-making business and feels comfortable with the prospect because she has operated a hair-dressing and trading business before. Her hope and expectation is that the work will go, and to achieve this, she believes she has to be serious about the work and actively go around selling the tie-dye cloth in the community.

5) Analysis

Financial Sustainability:

The project has incurred a loss of over $12,000 in operational and construction expenses since onset. However, the store is accumulating an inventory worth several thousand dollars, so with more exhaustive marketing efforts, hopefully, this loss can be recuperated in the next six months for investment in impact projects. Our major barrier to expansion - the high-cost of fabric - was solved by transitioning to repurposed cotton materials. This will also allow us to cut customer costs, further assisting sales work.

Environmental Sustainability:

Producing cotton (even organic) requires significant water resources. Similarly, zippers product a significant amount of metal or plastic waste. By reusing used cotton and reclaiming zippers from old clothes, we are repurposing existing resources and helping to change the narrative of dumping old clothes in Africa, which puts local seamstresses out of business. Instead, we are taking these clothes and providing work for local tailors using them.

Health-Related Sustainability:

Emotional well-being has been a key contributor to workplace morale and productivity. As discussed above, the family relationship has been strained by the disparity in income and work activity between Matilda and her husband. Addressing James's work situation will be important for maintaining optimism and morale in the workshop - even though it was not on the original agenda. 

Social Impact:

Seven workers are currently employed through this inclusive work environment - five of whom are persons with disabilities or caretakers of children with disabilities. In our marketing locally and abroad, we are raising awareness about the value of ethical fashion and the importance of supporting inclusion in Ghana.