When you purchase an OM bag - designed by me, Susie Taylor - you'll fuel demand for Munni's goods. Through her work with us, and our work with her, we will build out the structures she needs to support her current business and grow. Through this unique crowd-funding platform we'll build a community of people intimately connected to Munnis development, and vice versa. As Munni's business starts to grow we'll experience the transformation with her through the power of documentary and multi-media.
Did you know that female entrepreneurs make up 35% of small-to-medium enterprises in emerging markets?
Did you know that females represent 80% of the consumer market, globally?
Did you know that in spite of working with a third less capital than their male counterparts, women demonstrate 12% higher returns on investment?
And finally, did you know that women return up to 88% of their earnings back to their community? ... depending on health and abudance for the prosperity of their children and families.
Want to know more?
Our Team & Ethos
In short, we’ve started a for-profit company to generate wealth, keeping the focus at the beginning of the supply chain. The OM Project is creating fair employment opportunities, rather than charity, because dignified work spurs personal empowerment and a broader sense of agency.
We seek to connect artisans around the world with mindful consumers, and we do so by fusing journalism with design in the way we source our products. This project is about transparency.
Did you know?
Dhaka is the world's most densely populated capital, and Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries. Garment making accounts for 80 percent of the country's $24 billion in annual exports and provides employment for roughly 3.5 million people. On average, workers are able to secure $0.18/hour and face overtime in hazardous conditions to make ends meet.
Roughly 88% of assembly line workers in the industry are female. Despite the sometimes brutal labor conditions, it is common for underage girls to lie about their age and begin working to support their families. These girls face severe occupational hazards and gendered pay discrimination.
We found these pockets on floor of the SMART factory in Mirpur, Dhaka. A young girl, Rajina Akter, was sewing them for winter vests bound for Europe when the fire broke out. Knocked unconscious by the smoke, her co-workers carried her to safety. 8 women died in the fire. January 2013.
What's the story?
In early 2013, Susie Taylor spent time in Bangladesh investigating its garment industry in the wake of the Tazreen Fashions fire. During the course of her reporting, she confronted the systemic problems that continue to claim hundreds of lives each year as manufacturers cut corners to meet global demand for cheap clothing. To date, pledges to clean up the industry have not resulted in lasting investments that protect workers.
Investigation turned into investment. In Dhaka, she visited the lead artisans for Bangladeshi-American label SourceFK - an innovative social business model. The OM Project is working to expand sourceFK and models like these in order to empower the women artisans they employ.
At Saidpur Enterprises, a successful women's co-op in the rural city of Saidpur, their commitment to women has allowed them to successfully expand abroad over the past 40 years. Employees earn a daily minimum wage for an 8-hour workday, and even accrue savings. They are free to take their work home with them, and enjoy financial planning help, heath care, and advancement within the organization.
Agency and a broader sense of responsibility grow hand in hand.
We believe that when consumers are offered the chance to see where products originate, they will likewise be empowered to make better choices and choose to invest in the people who make them.
We've designed a working bag made of locally sourced plant fiber and repurposed sari cloth. Made entirely by hand in dignified conditions, the bag is a symbol of fair and honest work, and a commitment to productivity. Purchase of the OM bag will fuel a local-global collaboration, providing a healthy alternative to assembly line work in Bangladesh.
We're here today on Indiegogo because you're the solution.
The OM Project is about generating fair employment opportunities because dignified work spurs personal empowerment and a broader of sense of agency. We seek to connect artisans around the world with mindful consumers, and we do so by fusing journalism with design in the way we source our product. We document every step of the creative process because we believe inter-personal knowledge generates the trust needed for a new business paradigm. When you purchase an OM product, you know where it came from, who made it and how.
At its heart, the OM project is about relationships: with you, and with the artisans who make our goods.
What's in the Name?
OM stands for One More. It started from the vision to employ One More Woman, after one more woman, after one more woman. We wanted to formulate a business model that could produce sustainable growth for female-led enterprises, and allow them to grow their business and employ others in their community. We don't want to exclude men in keeping a focus on female entrepreneurs, so the name became employ One More. Simply, OM.
Where does my investment go?
First, we believe that crowd-sourcing is the most effective way to address this problem. As consumers, we're using our purchasing power. We want to learn who, what, when, where, and how are goods were produced before they make it to our local big-box retailer or artisan boutique. We're innovating.
Second, we've done the math and found that to pay a living salary to a employee of Saidpur Enterprises for one full year, we need $561.00. To pay a living salary for an employee in Dhaka we need $935.00. Your donation to our project will fuel the demand for this bag and put the money aside to secure a daily wage for workers in these two locations. That's why on the sidebar you see we have perks set to those amounts. This way the artisans we work with are not so vulnerable, and they can immediately begin to accrue savings to use at any point during the year.
The fun is in the bag. The wages we secure for each employee equals a certain number of OM bags, depending on what material we use. So when you support the OM project and employ one more woman you'll receive a really personal story, and have the ability to get to know the artisan you're working with. You'll be part of micro-community of consumers who have come together to support that woman's employment for the year. OM bags will display the number of artisans employed, and provide consumers with an interactive channel to learn more about the artisan who made their customized OM bag. We're very unique.
In addition to developing the OM bag for retail, we're developing our project, in the spirit of collaboration, with international designers through Fashion4Development and appropriate retail outlets. You'll be able to purchase OM bags both online, fall of 2013, then in retail stores and boutiques in 2014. We're expanding.
Why Saidpur and sourceFK?
Saidpur Enterprises has been run by the tireless M. Ghayasuddin for more than 40 years. It has developed a tried and true model whereby women are paid a daily minimum daily wage, with the ability to earn more.
We interviewed well over a dozen women in Saidpur, some of whom were raised in refugee camps following Bangladesh’s bloody war for independence, and we found they unanimously choose to use their money for education and home improvements; and delay marriages that many families acquiesce to in order to ease financial burdens. A generation later, many of their children are graduating with degrees from higher education programs.
Women at the co-operative work 8-hour days, alternating between the workshop and their homes. They make a daily minimum wage that is adjust to the cost of fair living, no matter what, and for an 8 hour work day. If they choose to produce more bags, the extra money they earn goes to a savings account, which allows them to accrue credit and invest. At any point during the year, an employee can borrow up to 50% of what she’s saved. If and when she decides to leave the co-operative, she can take the sum of her savings with her.
It’s never easy being an entrepreneur, and certainly not in inner-city Dhaka. Starting as a child garment worker, Munni has amassed over 15 years of experience in traditional silk weaving and hand embroidery. Because of her work with sourceFK she now employs six full-time weavers in her workshop. Her business growth has allowed her to access better schools for her four children, clean food, and housing. She needs opportunities to grow in order to solidfy this progress and push forward. She needs those opportunities to be shared with support networks in financial managment and business development, as well as healthcare and education.
We’re working with sourceFK founder, Faizun Kamal, to enlist the financial and business development partnerships, together with the healthcare and education opportunities that facilitate sustainable growth. We're investing.
We need to return to Bangladesh in July to report our progress in Saidpur and Dhaka. We'll document the connections we’re building between Munni of sourceFK and M. Ghayasuddin at Saidpur Enterprises, as well as the state of the garment industry since the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza building.
We’re commited to tracking the changes generated by The OM Project specifically, and their implications for what’s possible in the Bangladeshi garment industry in general. We will then market our OM documentary with Fashion4Development and other global partners looking to take part in the project.
The trajectory is clear: if more people purchase the OM bag, well established designers will want to collaborate with us and raise our project profile. The more bags we sell, the more women we’ll be able to employ. Without a doubt, it's a win-win.
There are challenges to every worthy endeavor. We face several, and the time we’ve salready spent on the ground coupled with our in-depth investigations have prepared us to tackle them.
a) We are well aware that in the wake of deadly accidents in Bangladesh's garment industry, consumer stigmas have developed. And with good reason: how can we trust that our purchases are not tainted by bad labor conditions? Our goal is to turn these perceptions inside out by thoroughly documenting production and the lives of the people involved. By focusing on individuals and the skills they bring to their work, we want to make "Made in Bangladesh" a source of pride, for artisans and consumers alike.
b) It’s important to maintain a cross-cultural perspective going in to this project. Our Dhaka-based partner, Munni, lives on the site of a former Pakistani refugee camp where ethnic divisions contribute to an environment of turmoil. Hard times call for a female entrepreneur. Women like Munni need support.
Fortunately, our other partner organization, Saidpur Enterprises, has been up and running for more than 40 years. Director M. Ghayasuddin has guided the cooperative from its infancy as a small start-up in a refugee community to a thriving operation with international clients. From the start, empowering women artisans has been a guiding principle.
Government corruption |
Bangladesh falls near the bottom of all global corruption and transparency indexes. Lax, selective enforcement of the law has fostered a culture of impunity in the garment industry. Politically-connected factory owners make fortunes at the expense of workers who endure dismal conditions, at risk to fires and other industrial accidents. When things do go wrong, such figures are rarely held accountable. Too often, justice is bought and sold. note: not all factories are bad, and the good players should be supported.
In this climate, new businesses with progressive goals may be unsettling to the establishment. Bribery and graft are systemic problems, and our commitment to transparency will be on trial. While we are a small-scale venture, our long-term goal is to grow and demonstrate that despite the industry standard, it is possible to run a profitable operation where workers enjoy dignified conditions and a stake in their future.
Political Instability |
Political turmoil has been a constant in Bangladesh since the country’s founding, and today is no exception. A youth-led protest movement that has risen against paralysis in the government and legal system is being targeted by Islamist groups quick to use violence. An already fledgling economy has been hamstrung by frequent worker strikes. Street clashes between protesters and police have claimed dozens of lives and further polarized the country.
Bangladesh’s unstable political scene is a legitimate concern to would-be investors. By keeping our goals modest and production centered in the north of the country, a region that is relatively quiet, we believe we can mitigate the knock-on effects that strikes and street violence have had on urban industries. There still may be instances where the delivery of raw materials and the shipment of finished goods to market are threatened, making reliable partners essential.
So thank you for being here. We are in this to make a tangible difference in people's lives by providing an outlet for fair work, and to establish a credible way for consumers to have a relationship with the people producing their goods. By producing the OM bag and selling it on the open market, we hope to initiate sustainable change for everyone involved. We hope that you will join in the effort.
Thank you for your time and consideration.