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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Under the radar

Sometimes, the busiest people are behind the scenes. Jean has been handling sales for us, but met the disappointment all of us have faced since the inception of the project: A windy day with no foot traffic and abysmal sales. The worst, but not the only way it goes. Thank goodness.

Katrina, Anna, Susan, Jaime, and I have been working out some new plans for the women in the group. Our membership grew so fast, we were caught off-guard. We all do this in addition to our real jobs, so we can't dedicate the time we'd like to. Still, we get together every two weeks to talk about how best to proceed so we can go ahead with a plan that will best suit the needs of the women. All fifty of them.

We're going to implement a contract for the participants. Everyone in the program will agree to learn more about different aspects of the project, including financial literacy. They'll have to agree to help with at least one sale or sale preparation per year. They'll also have to agree that, since this is a co-op, they will not sell their creations outside of the program. All supplies are provided to the women for free, but when they are paid, a percentage goes back to the project to pay for supplies and other expenses to keep it viable. We hope that by adding this formalized structure, those who are truly interested will take a greater role in making this a member operated project.

Our biggest news is our imminent incorporation. Yay! Once that's complete, we'll need to put together a Board of Directors and start the process of becoming a recognized nonprofit. In the meantime, we'll have the purchasing power of business owners, and that should save us some money when we buy our supplies.

Supplies. Women who come into our program receive about $75 worth of supplies to get set up, but at no cost to the member. Here's an example of how our supplies--donated and purchased--are used. A jewelry maker receives a bead box with enough beads and findings for at least ten projects. This includes wire, beads, earring wires, head pins, different types of clasps, crimp tubes, accent beads, and stretch cord.

In addition, we assemble a full set of new tools: round nose pliers, chain nose pliers, wire nippers, flush cutters, and a crimp tool. To help with design concepts, each woman also gets a new design board, a bead mat, and alligator clips.

Finally, everything goes into a flat-bottom tote bag. Trial and error have shown that the bags sold at Lowes work the best. They are wide, sturdy, and very inexpensive at about a dollar each.

It takes one person about an hour to assemble one starter kit. We also assemble refresher kits and color coordinated project kits for those women who are color-matching challenged.

Over the course of the first year, we learned a few lessons that still hold. We don't buy cheap quality tools. We only buy 49-strand (sometimes 21-strand) wire because the women are not always gentle in handling their supplies and lesser wires kink far too easily.

There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. The basement at my house is under construction as my husband attempts to install better overhead lighting and an upgraded sink to make the space more A-Little-Something-friendly. It has been a slow process since funds are tight at our house and we still need to hire an electrician and a drywall finisher.

We're always looking for eager, dedicated, competent volunteers and some skilled teachers who can help us on the Saturdays when we teach and correct our eager students. Our email address is at the top of this page, on the right. Let us know if you can join us in some of the many tasks that keep this project going.

For now, it's time for bed. Katrina is coming over tomorrow to learn about our customized system of bookkeeping. Not enough hours in the day...

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