October 2016

1) Monthly Video

2) Description of Activities

A. Arrival of 100 Yards Organic Cotton from Mali

Starting in July, we searched exhaustively for an organic cotton supplier in West Africa - to reduce the environmental and financial cost of shipping and importing materials. After contacting cotton farmers and organizations across northern Ghana, we identified an international fair-trade organization based in Switzerland called Helvetas, which has an organic cotton farming project in West Africa. they connected us to a farm in Burkina Faso, who did not get back to our inquiries. We contacted them again and they connected us to a farmer in Mali, who had about 175 yards of organic cotton in-stock. We ordered a sample, and upon receiving it, we ordered 100 yards of material. The material is a thicker weave, more ideal for bags and aprons than clothes.

B. Hiring of Cloth-Maker for Six-Month Business Creation Program

Matilda has identified an unemployed mother in her community with a daughter with different intellectual abilities. She interviewed her, and they agreed that she would be an ideal candidate for a six-month position in cloth-making - at the end of which, she will receive a grant to start a small independent business. She participated in a week-long tie-dye apprenticeship, run by Matilda to train her for the job, and they decided to start her on the work as soon as organic cotton from Mali arrived, which occurred in mid-October. The first shipment of Mali organic cotton products from our I Found the World winter collection were shipped at the end of the month along with the second shipment of Ruby Is Respectful products.

C. New Product Prototypes

During the first half of November, the workshop was essentially frozen, waiting for new organic cotton to arrive. We took advantage of this time to prototype new products. These included bow-ties for people and pets, shoulder bags, and backpacks. 

D. Diversification of Workshop with Peanut Cake Production

To diversify the income sources of the workshop to improve sustainability outside of Matilda Flow Co. orders, Matilda received a small grant to expand her peanut cake-making business. She bought a large bag of peanuts and sugar from the market and an expanded table for cutting and preparing the cake. She identified three local vendors, who agreed to sell her products in the short-term.

E. Social Media Campaigns for Free Headbands

To get people talking about our work, we introduced an online campaign for distributing fifty free headbands to customers, mailing them in the recycled water sachet bags that we manufactured in the workshop. .

F. Relaunch of Website on October 22

The website was placed back online with significant revisions - eliminating the emphasis on stories alongside products and instead placing emphasis on the ethical fashion processes and the impact of inclusion in Ghana, which our marketing analysis last month identified as our key differentiating factors.

G. Workshop Meeting and Discussion of Workshop Policies

Matilda held her first workshop meeting with all employees at the end of the month - to get group feedback about the collective experience of working in the shop. the workers requested tie-dye uniforms to be worn once or twice a week. Matilda reviewed attendance policies and emphasized that any absence, which a worker does not call ahead about or inform her in advance, will be considered unexcused - unless it's an emergency or otherwise unusual situation. She also encouraged employees to speak to family and friends about their work, and as a result, one worker's partner visited the workshop to undertake a soap-making tutorial .

H. Frustration with Internet & Marketing Barriers

Internet service generally occurs via a cellular modem in Ghana, which charges users by the byte. Not only is this service slow and expensive, working with an IP address in Ghana poses a serious challenge for most websites. Facebook marketing, shopify, and many other online services locked down our accounts several times. It was possible to unlock them due to our project being based in the US. However, they frequently got locked again. Not only did this waste time and internet resources, it poses major barriers to other projects and businesses in Ghana, who do not have the time or resources to overcome these barriers. Now that the workshop is constructed and producing clothes and accessories, our work is increasingly shifting to marketing, which means that more of the leadership's work will need to occur from the US with stable internet.

I. One-Month Trial for New Hires

All the workers with disabilities or who are caregivers of children with disabilities have been absolutely stellar with work ethic and attendance. Surprisingly, finding workers without disabilities who were committed to attending work diligently and reliably and willing to contribute and work collaboratively with the other employees was a major challenge. After our tailor stopped coming after numerous attendance violations, we began searching for replacement candidates. Rather than just hiring a replacement and experiencing the same problem, the workshop instituted a one-month trial period for workers to have an extended interview. Candidates are paid at a slightly reduced rate of 500 GHS for the trial month and are assessed for work ethic, attendance, and attitude toward the community. If they do well, the workshop welcomes them permanently.

J. Future Transport Program

The cost of transporting the tag-makers with physical disabilities to the workshop to deliver their work is extremely expensive (70 to 80 GHS per round-trip). Fortunately, our seamstress lives in reasonable proximity to our tag-makers, and so a family member delivers them to her to bring to work with her in the morning. Transport is the most significant barrier facing persons with physical disabilities in Ghana according to our Portraits of Ability research project, and we seek to make an impact in this space in the future - perhaps first by solving the needs of our employees.

K. Lack of Logistical Sustainability in Using Mali Organic Cotton Supplier

While the Mali organic cotton supplier is cheaper than the imported India organic cotton, it still is not great for financial sustainability or logistical independence. Our goal is for the workshop to be 100% operationally independent of Matilda Flow Co. - other than our role in assessing impact, ensuring that best processes are followed, and placing orders of clothes and accessories to sustain the shop and raise funds for other impact projects. The Mali supplier required coordinating payment through Western Union outside of Ghana, which the leadership would have to submit in accordance with the workshop's schedule. Then, if shipping were delayed, the entire progress of the workshop could be stopped. In this way, importing the organic cotton from Mali is not a sustainable plan.

3) Financial Report

Expenses This Month: $1753.00

Workers: $902.24

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
10/5/16 600 103.90 Tailor (Advance on 800 GHS Total Payment)
10/10/16 120 30.00 Tag-Makers (24 Tags, 5 Cedis per Tag)
10/15/16 1000 250.00 Ruby Is Respectful Collection, Second Order
10/18/16 95 23.75 Tag-Makers (19 Tags, 5 Cedis per Tag)
10/28/16 145 36.25 Tag-Makers (29 Tags, 5 Cedis per Tag)
10/28/16 250 62.6 Guest Embroiderer (2 Cedis per Embroidered Item)
10/28/16 700 175.00 Seamstress
10/28/16 200 51.95 Tailor (Remainder of 800 GHS Total Payment)
10/28/16 225 56.25 Cloth-Maker (Half-Month)
11/15/16 450 112.50 Workshop Assistant

Materials: $579.64

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
10/7/16 40 10.39 Transport to Pick Up Organic Cotton Fabric Sample Shipped from Mali
10/18/16 135 33.75 Collection Fee for 100 Yards Fabric: 100, Carrier: 5, Transport: 30
10/22/16 840 210.00 Transfer #1 for 100 Meters Organic Cotton Fabric & Shipping from Mali
10/24/16 142 35.50 Colors (Red: 45, Brown: 45), Caustic Soda: 24, Hydrosulfate: 28
11/2/16 1160 290.00 Transfer #2 for 100 Meters Organic Cotton Fabric & Shipping from Mali

Construction & Expansion: $61.25

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
10/13/16 150 37.50 10 Gallons Peanuts: 138, Half Bag Sugar: 85, Bags: 14, Knife: 10
10/15/16 95 23.75 Table: 45, Table-Top: 40, Transport: 10

Shipping Expenses: $219.85

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD): Details:
10/7/16 115.00 29.87 Individual Order Posted by Ghana Post Shipping
10/14/16 112.30 29.17 Individual Order Posted by Ghana Post Shipping
10/23/16 207.40 13.48 Posting Ruby Is Respectful Collection - Shipment #2
10/28/16 405.00 112.50 Posting I Found the World Collection - Shipment #3

Sales This Month: $236.00

Summation of Activities This Month:

  • 7 workers employed
  • 100 yards of organic cotton ordered
  • 1 workshop bathroom completed
  • 6 sales, 4 distinct customers

Progress Since Launch: -$10,989.48

Matilda Flow Co. has been in progress for five months. Sales resumed on October 22 with a redesigned website and online store.

4) Interviews

No formal interviews were conducted this month.

5) Analysis

Financial Sustainability:

The project has incurred a loss of nearly $11,000 in operational and construction expenses since onset but started intensive sales efforts in October, which have been hampered by the founder of MFC being physically in Ghana with unreliable internet. A small expansion project was funded for Matilda Flow Enterprise to begin producing peanut cake and selling it on the roadside by the shop and at other small stands around town. Having the workshop develop alternative sources of income that can supplement its core tie-dye activities is viewed as a favorable step toward true financial sustainability of this project.

Environmental Sustainability:

Matilda Flow Co. is excited to introduce products made from cotton fabric grown and manufactured in Mali under organic, fair-trade conditions. Our old organic cotton was grown in India and then shipped to two different continents - once to the USA and then to Ghana. Reducing this shipping process improves our environmental sustainability.

Health-Related Sustainability:

Six of the seven of the workers at the workshop were healthy this month with no reported illnesses or missed work. One worker called in-sick with malaria, and she was given two-days off to visit the hospital and recover her strength. 

Social Impact:

Seven persons are working with Matilda Flow Enterprise - four of whom are persons with disabilities and two of whom are parents of children with disabilities. High quality, organic cotton clothes and accessories are being produced, encouraging consumers to buy sustainable, eco-friendly cloths rather than environmentally harmful fast-fashion.