What if you, an entrepreneur, experience a profound change, such as a death, in your personal world that drives your life off the road into a ditch? You know you need to move your business forward but it’s difficult to get out of bed in the morning and impossible to string a few meaningful sentences together. You feel exhausted from grief or worry. You’re afraid to admit that you can’t “perform” when your business needs you. You feel ineffectual, weak and even ashamed.
How do you get back on track while giving yourself essential space to process your feelings?
Having experienced this situation myself during the last three months due to the death of my beloved life partner, I’ve decided to share the results of my search for a path back to productivity in the belief that you will undoubtedly need this advice in the future. While I am obviously not a therapist, I’ve included some observations of my own experience that have led me back to the right path to begin moving forward.
I was planning to write a post about the fast vs slow fashion this week, but decided instead to write on what has been on my mind for months now. I’m in a “put up or shut up” mind set after re-reading my LinkedIn profile the first sentence of which reads
“Business is about putting our beliefs to work. It’s not enough to talk about what you think is wrong; you must apply what you know best to create change.”
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is … the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice…..Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
I’ve been delaying writing about the place of racism in business for two reasons, neither of which I could be faulted for. First, obviously, racism is a controversial topic. As a small business owner, honestly expressing my opinion about it could potentially damage my business in multiple ways not the least of which is alienating potential customers. As you undoubtedly realize, small business owners have a very close relationship with the brand image of their businesses. It is therefore, fair to assume that the business would suffer if the views of the owner are seen as misguided.
From the largest to the smallest, every business creates waste of some kind. Paper, old copier cartridges, used motor oil, shopping bags, metal shavings, outdated tech, Brian’s lunch from last week that he left in the break room fridge. Much of the material that ends up in your trash destined for the landfill doesn’t have to go there. I introduced some methods to implement for reducing the amount of waste that your business generates in my blog post of July 20th about closing the consumption circle. All of the materials I listed above, with the exception of Brian’s problematic lunch, already have recycling methods in place preventing those materials from being added to landfills.
Here are some additional, nationally available resources for diverting material from the waste stream into uses that provide meaningful work opportunities, sustain businesses and non-profits, support our economy, reduce dependence on social safety nets, and make your company look good.
It’s so easy, when you’re an entrepreneur, to keep your head down and just plow forward. There’s so much to do! Lead generation; contracts to complete; meeting with customers, vendors, and contractors; sorting out what government programs are right for your business, etc., etc. We often forget to take the time to step back and reflect, evaluate, and seek advice when necessary.
A common definition of a “social enterprise”(SE) could be, “a profit earning business that has, as its primary goal, creating the maximum positive impact possible in society and/or the environment.
As you can see, from this definition, SE’s are profit making unlike not-for-profits. And, unlike a typical business, their primary goal is not to produce maximum profits for owners and shareholders as in a typical for-profit business, but to create positive change in society and the environment. If you’ve read the “About” page on our website, or my profile on LinkedIn, then you know that United Sewing and Design is an SE.
First, a caveat with my explanation. My business is an LLC and so, is not registered as an SE according to the State of Connecticut. The reason that I chose not to participate in that designation, also known as a “B Corp,” is because in CT, to start a B Corp., you are required to register as an “S,” or “stock corporation,” to sell stock, have shareholders (obviously) and a board of directors. This earns significantly more in fees for the state. Additionally, it also requires a layer of reporting to the public about the social or environmental good created by the SE. My contention is that a business can be labelled by its activities as an SE and participate voluntarily in the public reporting without paying burdensome fees. We’ll see how that works out.
You’re really excited about the new product you’ve envisioned and rightly so! It’s made of a flexible material (fabric, vinyl, felt, rubber, leather, etc.) so you know it needs to be sewn. You don’t know how to sew but you’re sure you’re ready to take the next step to have it manufactured. At this point, you realize you want to maximize your investment in time and money but you’re concerned about how to explain what you want and get the best quality result. What to do?
There are ten things you can do before you meet with United Sewing and Design or another sewing contractor to insure that you are prepared. These tasks are what I wish all of my customers had done ahead. Thought invested doing these will save money during the consultation period and speed up the time it takes to get started. Sketches do not need to be attractive or perfect. None of the answers to these questions need to be exact at this point. Actually, it’s better if you’re open to suggestions from the sewing contractor you are hiring. They should be able to suggest changes that are right for your product and might save you materials, time and money while delivering the best possible results.
Ever bought a shirt or blouse that you wore once then never again? Perhaps you just plucked it off the rack in that trendy store you like without even really thinking about when, where or how often you’d wear it? Maybe you even bought the same item in 3 colors! Did you take a minute to think about whether or not purchasing something you really weren’t going to use is a good idea? How about what impact your purchase would have on the fashion industry, the environment or the people who made the shirt?
One of the purposes of my blog at unitedsewinganddesign.com, is to present different ways of thinking about consuming and manufacturing soft goods, ways that have less negative impact on our environment, that are sustainable both environmentally and economically and that are fair to workers. Often, when I mention the fine points of conscious manufacturing to fashion professionals, they roll their eyes and sigh or wonder aloud how they are supposed to compete in an industry fueled by constant consumption of trendy clothes and accessories if they don’t take part in the same overproduction/overconsumption cycle.
On Twitter last week, I ran across a post by one of the most insightful organizations that I follow.
We all know that being a business owner is beyond time consuming. Making decisions to move your business forward, managing people, looking for customers, “can I please have an extra day in the week to do all this”? Why would you possibly want to burden yourself or your staff with finding a way to close the consumption circle at your business? What are the benefits?
First, let’s define some terms as they relate to manufacturing.
Waste—materials that you have left over from manufacturing.
Upcycle— reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original. Ex: turning moth eaten, cashmere sweaters into a coat by cutting and recombining them.
Repurposed—using something for a different purpose than that for which it was intended, altering it superficially in the process. Ex: creating pillows from the leather of a used couch.
Recycled— convert (waste) into reusable material, breaking it down and altering its form during the process. Ex: shredding discarded textiles to produce stuffing for quilted boots.
Closing the consumption circle means taking all of the materials that are not used in the products you manufacture, (the waste), and either up-cycling, re-purposing or recycling it so that nothing ends up in the waste stream on its way to a landfill.
Here are three ways to close the consumption circle at your business and some of the benefits each method offers.
I just retweeted a post on Twitter from Trusted Clothes this morning about the consequences of buying cheap fashion. My previous post on what buying clothing on sale really means, discusses why you should care about where and by whom the clothes you consume are made. Something to always keep in the back of your mind:
Your impact on the apparel industry can be controlled by you! Your purchasing habits directly impact wages and working conditions for garment makers, the health of the environment and the volume of waste that ends up in landfills.
For starters, here are four easy rules to follow to create positive change in the apparel industry:
Understand your personal style so that you aren’t sucked in by the latest fast fashion trend and end up purchasing a garment that you only wear once.
Purchase clothing that is timeless. Timeless doesn’t mean boring! Timeless means outside of current trends or fads, part of your personal style and constructed to last.
Consider purchasing through a consignment shop or service retailer such as Goodwill where you will find items diverted from landfills and can get better quality at a lower price.
Buying American made items will reasonably ensure that wages are fair, production occurs in a safe place for workers and the environment is undamaged.
To make it even easier for you to choose well when making your next apparel purchase, here are some shopping resources to help you find out where your clothes are made.
This list of U.S.A. made apparel and footwear from ratherbeshopping.com is from 2016 but I recognize numerous brands on the list as still American made.
The Brothers Crisp is a Hartford handcrafted shoe brand, calling Park St. home, which employs local talent to create beautiful, outside-of-the-trend, shoes and boots for men and women.
Impact Mart, also a CT company, sells apparel and shoes as well as personal and home accessories. Everything sold on the site is manufactured in a sustainable way. Profits benefit causes such as education, the environment and ending human trafficking.
Hartford Denim Company, HARDENCO, hand crafts items of such good quality, that they come with free repairs for the life of the product.
“If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” I’m not sure where that quote originates and I don’t particularly care to research it. Truth is truth. In a modern world where “women are doing it for themselves,” this doesn’t even begin to touch on what life is like for a middle-aged woman, raising a […]