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A Mad World, A Revelation & A Choice

I promise this (might) all make sense

I promise this (might) all make sense

The title of this blog is a little like the song ‘So Long and Thanks for all the Fish”, makes NO sense at all if you have not read a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and only marginally more if you have read it. So read on and perhaps you will feel marginally less confused by the end (no promises though, but questions welcome).

The Madness

I have always thought (at some times more than others) that it is a mad world that engenders a little bit (or a lot) of crazy in us all, but that assuming your world is more mad than the person’s next to you on the bus/at work/in a parent group is a dangerous path to go down, because chances are it totally is NOT. However, I always believed that (mostly) my world is maddest for me, while yours is maddest for you.

So, on that note I think it is always good to know that the people who start businesses, want to change the world, do social enterprise and post random stuff on social media to increase the following of said social enterprise are a little mad, just like you.

I, I am quite comfortable saying, am going through a little bit of crazy. We moved house (WHY on earth anyone would do this with small children is beyond me, but needless to say I am now looking for a community support group of fellow ”post movers with children and too many unpacked boxes in their houses”). I started new and fabulous permanent work (because social enterprise and good intentions, alas like clouds, cannot be eaten), which feels great AND draining. Oh and cancer came to our family. I tell you this not  to explain the madness, or garner sympathy, but because I want to emphasis the very human and shared experience that, stress, big change, and serious illness is. That it makes us all a little mad, but hopefully a little more human too.

So muka kids had retreated a little for me, then came back again, both because it keeps me focused on the big stuff that matters in our mad world, and because, well I guess as Leonard Cohen says “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

 

The Revelation

So, I started thinking about how to make muka kids happen on a smaller but active scale for everyone (including me),  until I can build a bigger trading platform for pre-loved ethical and sustainable clothing . What I have come up with is moving muka kids into an active facebook group. One our community can start to trade our ethical and sustainable clothes between ourselves. At this end we will work with the Accredited Brands (here are some that we will approach first up) to get muka ‘ReGooders” (you the group members) rewards for trading on the group page, and each month there will be a  feature on a women entrepreneur in the developing world, who needs a microloan, which members can choose to support if they are so inclined. For this particular aspect we will initially work with existing and trusted organisations like Kiva and Global Sisters, until we can establish a long term relationship with our cotton farming groups in India.

The Choice

So here is the question, what to call this new group? Just stick with muka kids? Or perhaps be more focused on the sustainable wardrobe aspect, something like ”muka sustainable wardrobe”? Love to hear your thoughts on what would bring people in. Remember, this is not just for those people who are already converts to the sustainable clothing movement, but also uninitiated people just wanting to buy better quality, cooler clothes that happen to be sustainable & ethical for their kids (and eventually themselves too – as we include adult clothing). So comment below, or post on Facebook and let me know your thoughts…

Want to be actively involved in the community from here or afar?

If you would like to be more involved than just buying or selling, the new group will need administrators, so any help I can get to move this community along from good thoughts to good deeds, would be warmly and enthusiastically embraced (if a little madly!). Just email (info@mukakids.com), FB message etc etc.

Happily, madly yours

Jess

 

Women – Just not Sufficiently Committed to (Social) Enterprise?

Women in Social Enterprise: Wobbles on the Tracks

Women in (Social) Enterprise: Wobbles on the Tracks

As part of this journey of muka kids I don’t just write about how fantastic social enterprise is, why I want to do what I do, the changes that need to happen in the clothing industry, and the systems that need innovating in the way we buy and use clothes, I write about when the wheels start to come off. Or as we call it in our house the ”Thomas and the Wobbly Wheels” scenario. This particular wobble relates to the best model to ensure social enterprise or business success.

I know from my life as a researcher and psychologist, good intentions are no indicator of success. In fact good intentions without good planing, research and investment are a bloody terrible thing because they raise up expectations all over the place and then drop them flat down on their face. The question I have had to ask myself a lot in the last few days is – am I well intentioned but not well qualified and not well prepared? These are really good questions to ask, all people should ask themselves this a lot, about lots of things, but especially when they are spending a lot of personal resources (all types) on a project that many other people make sacrifices for also. Continue Reading →

Why are ethical kids clothes so expensive?

Why are most kids clothes that you buy so costly and especially ethical kids clothes?

Well a lot of it is to do with the way they are made. Lets start with standard kids clothing. There are A LOT of stages in the long journey from a cotton seed to garment (most kids clothing is made of cotton or cotton mix) and for every step in that journey there is a cost. Here is a pictogram neatly summarizing all the steps in how cotton clothing gets made. Needless to say it is long, with lots of people involved and lots of processing. It is kind of interesting in a ‘how stuff works’ way.

Anyway, what exactly are all these costs and at what points in the chain do they apply? The following infographic sums up the costs nicely….

 

 non ethical kids clothes are costly is many ways

costly huh?

So, at every step there are some serious costs in production. Costs borne mainly by women, by children and by the environment.

So I know you get that I am being ironic to make a point, and that I am kind of beating you over the head with my lack of subtlety. I cannot disagree. But for all my lack of subtlety the point is, I think, an important one. We often talk about the cost of kids clothes (standard AND ethical kids clothes), only in relation to our immediate cash flow, what is in our bank account at the time we are needing to re-dress whatever particular child has worn a hole, grown 2cm, or beaten a piece of clothing into submission. Continue Reading →

Our New Kid

As we get closer to launching (incrementally!), I have focussed a little more on what ‘muka kids’ is all about and how to best convey that in the imagery. With a bit of thinking what I knew was missing from our current design was the ‘quirk factor’. muka kids is all about stepping outside of the way we currently do things in kids clothing.

It is a new model of making and using kids clothing that is kinder, more sustainable, innovative and just happier. Drawing heavily on how clothes were made,bought and used 20, 30, 50 years ago, but looking firmly to the innovation need for the future. The clothes themselves are all about celebrating how kids really live their lives, the vibrancy they bring to world, and the totally unique way they have of being in the world around them (no stereotypes or mini adults here). So what was needed was something that told this story: retro quirky fun.

When you bootstrap a social enterprise you get pretty good at turning your hand to many things (not always with great success I add) and while I am like a pig in muck with design I do draw the line at coding and pattern making.

So I read a heap of kids books looking closely at what elements of kids illustrations work really well..

 

Lost & Found by Oliver Jeffers. SUCH beautiful images

Lost & Found by Oliver Jeffers. SUCH beautiful images

I risked giving the ever willing child a large stick and took lots of photos…

Continue Reading →

Why travel made me a social entrepreneur

Me on my first memorable journey to a different reality

Me on my first memorable journey to a different reality

We are madly preparing for our trip to India next month to meet our producers, and I have become buried in an avalanche of lists: passports, jabs, visas, grumpy bum medications, DEET spray (or as we call it in our house  F*** off spray, seriously been to the West coast of NZ?  The bugs there bring out a fair tirade of foul language), and lists for grandparents on taking care of the children, (includes a detailed  pictogram of how to work the telly). However I had time to reflect on the great gift and burden that travel and immersing yourself in a world of strangeness can be.

Continue Reading →

That little bit of crazy just got bigger

As anyone who has spent any time (like more than 10 minutes) with me will attest to, at the best I times I have a little touch of the manic about me, just a wee glimpse of crazy in my eye and a slight propensity to the 1000 yard stare. This is mainly due I suspect to what psychologists and zen type people will call the ‘inability to live in the present’, and what I call ‘being a working parent who has also decided to start a business’.

 

Well today, I am sorry to say, that little bit of crazy just went full on postal. I put this down to a nasty combination of an overconfident sense of what I could manage a year or so back and some idiot biological function that means humans can only focus fully on tasks if they had a reasonable amount of sleep and down time.

 

Today my day looked like this:

Continue Reading →

Sustainable Business and the Ladies

Chatting recently with another parent, who is also in the social enterprise line, we were reflecting on the difficulties that women with kids have in finding a place in the whole ‘start-up’[1] business culture. I say women with kids because the reality is that women remain the primary caregivers of children in our society even when they work (working part-time more than men etc).

It gave me pause to reflect about our global need to move to economies based on sustainable businesses (business that works with and for the environment and people), and whether we are failing to address a rather large impediment to getting there: the ladies, or rather the lack of the ladies.

So my thinking goes like this. There is a huge market out there providing resources and support for start-ups, but the support that is offered, is in the main structured towards the lifestyle of the young, childless bloke. So all weekend workshops run till 1 am, 6 month incubator programmes, fulltime and more, the full total immersion approach… you get the idea, not a scenario many women with kids can fully embrace, but one which the young and childless can. It will be no surprise to most of you when I say that generally, business (including the new models of start-ups) is structured in a way that does not take into account how a lot of women currently work and live in our society. While there are plenty of young women out there without kids that can do the start-up thing equally with men the reality is that a start-up is often not a single enterprise. Rather multiple business and entrepreneurial adventures are entered into across a lifetime; meaning that eventually most women involved in the start-up life are going to experience the sharp end of this particular stick.

Where the picture looks slightly different is in social enterprise – essentially a social enterprise is a start-up with a social, ethical, environmental mission at its core. In the UK twice as many women run social enterprise than lead small business. Which makes me wonder if there is something about the social enterprise culture in particular that presents fewer barriers and more levers to women when compared to traditional business models, or just that it is easier to push through the existing barriers to business as a woman if you have the extra motivation of a social or environmental mission you want to achieve?

So where am I going with this? Well here is the crux of it: if starting up in business is more difficult for women because of the way the current model of support and incubation is constructed, and if more women are involved and interested in starting up sustainable and social business, then to be really successful at turning our economy into one built on social and sustainable business we need to better understand (and do something about) what impedes or assists women in starting up in any enterprise.

Interested in this issue? here are some more resources…..

Start-up funding success and gender

Why women offer something a bit different to business

Some cool social enterprises for women and girls

 

and here is some of my many different types of work..

and here are just a few of my many different types of work…..

[1] “a company, a partnership or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. These companies, generally newly created, are in a phase of development and research for markets. …” (thanks Wikipedia).