September 2016

1) Monthly Video

2) Description of Activities

A. Completion of Ruby Is Respectful Collection

Matilda and her fellow seamstress and tailor finished the Ruby Is Respectful fall collection for the Matilda Flow Co - manufacturing 10 sweatshirts, 10 jackets, 12 aprons, 17 shorts, 4 backpacks and 86 headbands in two months using organic cotton grown and manufactured in India, imported from the Organic Cotton Plus supplier in the U.S, from whom we also imported zippers with organic cotton tape and organic cotton threads. The first box of the Ruby Is Respectful Collection was mailed to our distributing partner. An embroidery team was organized on a one-day commission basis to embroider the MFC logo onto clothes.

B. Accessible Workshop Bathroom Completed

Construction of the expanded workshop facility was finally completed with toilet installation and roofing occurring in the bathroom. Though the community surrounding the workshop has plumbing, water has not run in the local public pipes for several years, so the bathroom is a regular toilet over a concrete pit. A water jug, sink, and shower were also installed. The bathroom was designed spaciously to maximize accessibility.

C. Homemade Recycled Paper for Tag-Making

Matilda Flow Co. is committed to environmental sustainability in all its processes. Our first iteration of product tags was printed on sustainable computer paper that was grown and made in South Africa, planting one tree for each destroyed. However, our preference was to use recycled paper made locally. Since we could not find any local sources, we decided to make our own paper, creating a wooden mould and deckle from a picture frame and a mosquito net. We purchased old newspapers that were collected and sold at Makola Market in Accra and a blender. Our workshop assistant, who works in the Work + Learn program for adults with different intellectual abilities, started tearing the newspaper into pieces to blend into a pulp with water and starch syrup. The paper pulp was poured into the mould and deckle and sun-dried. The core work activity for the Work + Learn program thus transitioned into dying and decorating this paper using colored pencils.

D. RISE Assessment Tool Development

To assess our impact on the ground in real-time and communicate it with the public and customers, we started designing a social impact assessment system called RISE (Real Impact for Social Enterprise). We mapped the stakeholders in our project and conducted a preliminary interview with our seamstress with a physical disability about her holistic experience to aid in designing the assessment system. We also began consolidating our observations and data from the first three months for analysis in monthly reports.

E. On-Going Inclusive Photo-Shoots, Photos Released on Social Media

Our first Work + Learn Program member is an incredible model. Whenever we completed a product, we did a photo-shoot with her modeling the latest design. As we posted these online through social media and shared them via our email bulletin of about twenty people, we communicated our intentions of including models of all different abilities in our marketing - to challenge norms in marketing.

F. Website Taken Offline, Replaced with Countdown to Launch

An initial version of our website was taken offline after two weeks online and a few sales - to give us time to reassess and better coordinate our marketing efforts and to send our products to our shipping partner in the USA. A new launch date of October 22 was set and the phrase "ethical fashion toward inclusion" was added to a simple online landing page with a few pictures from the photo-shoots and a get updates link for subscribing to the email news bulletin.

G. Not-for-Profit, Impact-First Structure

When we initially conceived of Matilda Flow Co., we imagined it as a fundraising mechanism for social impact projects. However, as the project unfolded, it soon developed its own internal social impacts - providing equitable employment to persons with disabilities and caregivers, using environmentally sustainable processes to counter the negative impacts of fast fashion, and committing profits to projects that will advocate for inclusion. We planned a social enterprise structure guided by an impact advisory board, but since our impact is more involved than expected, we are placing our impact first and want the leadership structure to be guided solely by the desire for sustainable impact, we have decided to transition into a not-for-profit structure with a board of directors.

H. Electricity Instability

A major threat to the workshop's operation is unstable electricity. Over the last two years, Ghana has experienced a very severe power shortage where power would be out for up to fifteen or sixteen hours a day - usually during work hours. Since our sewing machines are electric, this presented a major barrier to productivity in the workshop this month due to the unstable electricity. It also significantly damaged morale, causing boredom in workshop and stress whenever power was on due to the pressure to work fast. We contacted a solar panel supplier, and they gave us an estimate of over $6000 for solar panels and a battery system for our workshop. Due to talk on the radio that the electricity would improve leading up to the election in December and that the new administration would fix the problem, we decided to not take any action. However, we agreed it was a priority to develop productive activities that workers could undertake during outages.

I. Marketing Landscape Analysis

We conducted a twenty-page, exhaustive marketing analysis of the ethical and tie-dye fashion spaces, profiling nine other companies and their marketing efforts - to generate ideas for our future marketing efforts and how to differentiate our products. We concluded that we were the only ethical fashion company producing tie-dye and that our greatest differentiating factor was our social impact of inclusion for persons with different abilities. Thus, all marketing efforts should seek to communicate those ideas - "tie-dye," "ethical fashion" with an impact of "inclusion." We also concluded that our initial focus on stories attached to products was unnecessary and distracting to our real mission and impact.

3) Financial Report

Expenses This Month: $1441.96

Workers: $1032.50

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
9/1/16 100 25.97 Seamstress (Advance on 700 GHS Total Payment)
9/13/16 750 194.81 Tag-Makers (150 Tags, 5 Cedis per Tag)
9/19/16 400 103.90 Tailor (Advance on 800 GHS Total Payment)
9/23/16 200 49.87 Guest Embroiderer (96 Items, 2 Cedis per Embroidered Item)
9/25/16 1100 285.71 Manager, Ruby Is Respectful Collection, First Order
9/30/16 600 155.84 Seamstress (Remainder of 600 GHS Total Payment)
9/30/16 400 103.90 Tailor (Remainder of 800 GHS Total Payment)
11/15/16 450 112.50 Workshop Assistant (Payment Delayed Until Parents Agree to Learning Program)

Materials: $152.11

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
9/4/16 350 90.91 Tie-Dye Colors, Caustic Soda & Hydrosulfate
9/14/16 78 19.50 Paper-Making (Paper: 25, Frame: 12, Starch: 2, Net: 5, Nails: 5, Rubber Drum: 25, Rubber Cup: 4)
9/20/16 55 13.75 12-Yards, Non-Organic Cotton Fabric for Prototyping
9/20/16 111.80 27.95 Machine Oil: 15, Sieve: 22, Machine Needle: 20, Embroidery Thread: 16, Transport: 8.80

Construction & Expansion: $37.50

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
9/14/16 150 37.50 Blender: 80, Scale: 70

Shipping Expenses: $219.85

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
9/2/16 115.00 29.87 Individual Order Posted by Ghana Post Shipping
9/4/16 112.30 29.17 Individual Order Posted by Ghana Post Shipping
9/23/16 51.90 13.48 Individual Order Posted by Ghana Post Shipping
9/23/16 51.50 13.38 Individual Order Posted by Ghana Post Shipping
9/30/16 515.72 133.95 Posting Ruby Is Respectful Collection - Shipment #1

Sales This Month: $256.73

    Summation of Activities This Month:

    • 6 workers employed
    • 80 yards of organic cotton used for manufacturing
    • 1 workshop bathroom completed
    • 4 sales, 4 distinct customers

    Progress Since Launch: -$9456.48

    Matilda Flow Co. has been in operation for four-months. Sales started briefly in August, but our online store was taken offline to give time for a comprehensive marketing analysis to occur with a launch date of October 22 set.

    4) Interviews

    No formal interviews were conducted this month.

    5) Analysis

    Financial Sustainability:

    The project has incurred a loss of over $9000 in operational and construction expenses since onset and is beginning intensive sales in October. Currently, the cost of our clothes and accessories is high - ranging from $15 to $75 with shipping and sits above the rest of the market in cost, which is posing a marketing and sales challenge. Much of this cost is from materials expenses. The materials we are importing from Mali are much cheaper per yard (half the cost) and due to the West African free trade zone, there are no tariffs. 

    Environmental Sustainability:

    Our recycled tag-making program represents a major step forward in our environmental sustainability efforts, reducing plastic and paper waste that would otherwise occur. The Ruby Is Respectful collection was made using organic cotton tie-dyed with rainwater that was gathered during the month of August. The water level of the tank decreased significantly as we discussed how to better conserve and reuse water. 

    Health-Related Sustainability:

    We checked with employees to ensure they were registered in the National Health Insurance Scheme to cover their health needs. Workers take approximately one or two days off each month for sickness or personal care, which the rules of the workshop allows as long as the employees call Matilda in the morning before missing.

    Social Impact:

    During our second month of work, Matilda Flow Enterprise provided on-site work for a seamstress with a physical disability, a tailor, a workshop assistant with an intellectual disability, and Matilda, a parent and caregiver. We also provided part-time, commission work to two persons with physical disabilities at-home in tag-making. An unexpected impact occurred when Matilda brought our workshop assistant, our Work + Learn Program member, to Makola Market to participate in shopping for materials. The reaction to our workshop assistant among vendors and other shoppers was generally positive but also surprised - with many observers asking about who she was and interacting with her. Some called her names, which she responded loudly and confidently to in retort. One man gave her ten cedis as a gift because he said he had never seen a girl with an intellectual disability out shopping.