Secret Pillow Project is a social business established in 2013 to unfold women's power through making and selling Secret Pillows.

You are invited to become a Secret Pillower and join our powerful community

Hi, and welcome.

I am delighted you are here to receive your invitation and hear the incredible story of the Secret Pillow Project. Become a Secret Pillower Global Crowdfunding Campaign invites the whole world to buy a Secret Pillow and empower women everywhere.

This is your personal invitation.

Love Fritha

P.s. A Secret Pillow is a charming pillow and unfolds into a snuggly blanket and also a powerful vehicle for social change. Watch the video if you haven't already and me unfold it.

About the project

"One of the biggest myths is that children in orphanages are there because they have no parents. This is not the case. Most are there because their parents simply can't afford to feed, clothe and educate them."

Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive, Save the Children

When Fritha Vincent, Founder of Secret Pillow Project, heard these words from Jasmine Whitbread, she knew she had to do something about it. Fritha carried these words with her on trips to and from India while she searched for a way to make an impact. Secret Pillow Project grew from a genuine desire to empower women. To give them the confidence and resources to make their own choices. So women can look after themselves and their children to the best of their abilities. So no family would have to give up their child because they couldn't afford to keep them.

Secret Pillow Project unfolds women's power through making and selling Secret Pillows. A secret pillow is not just a pillow that unfolds into a charming blanket, it is a powerful vehile for social change.

"Secret Pillow is a clever start-up combining the best elements of microfinance and retail. By creating a shop with a powerful social slant, the consumer can feel good by doing good."

Rebecca Burn-Callander, Enterprise Editor, The Telegraph. Click here to read her article about Secret Pillow Project

Established in 2013, Secret Pillow Project has developed, tested and proven a four steps to empowerment model. The project has been commended on by its customers,  by its suppliers, by the media and development partners. It is witnessing huge changes in the economic and social status of the women's groups it works with, and has seen the demand for its products grow on an almost monthly basis.

"Real empowerment is when someone is able to actualize their innate potential and make for themselves the life they wish to have. The Secret Pillow Project has planted, watered, and nurtured this seed of empowerment in all of the women who have participated, and now a full crop of amazing and talented women have come up, ready to change their worlds for the better."

Chris Coley, Ammachilabs, Amrita University, South India

On the back of this success, Secret Pillow Project is ready to grow. To work with more women. To impact more lives. To do this we will sell more pillows by inviting everyone in the world to be Become a Secret Pillower

What is a Secret Pillower?

A Secret Pillower is somebody who shares the vision of the Secret Pillow Project and supports our project in some way either by buying our products, sharing our story or giving their time, skills and advice. Secret Pillow Project's vision is that women have confidence and resources to make their own choices for themselves and their children. Do you share this vision?

Why is there a need?

Secret Pillow Project is a solution to a geninue need. Over the last 10 years or so more there has been a global movement to empower women worldwide by offering basic training and microcredit loans. Cottage industries have flourished and there is still a huge gap in the marketing for companies and charities offering products that make the producer a low risk, sizable start up profit. Secret Pillow Project has worked with Ammichilabs at Amrita University who, with funding from United Nations Democracy Fund, trained 3,000 women in India in basic job skills including sewing. They understood only too well that lack of confidence, connections and diversity of product to sell outside local markets prevented women realising themselves as true entrepreneurs. They see Secret Pillow Project as a solution to this problem.

All of the producers involved in Secret Pillow Project face challenges to realising their personal pwoer. They weren't brought up to believe they could make their own choices and certainly very few had ever had any personal income of their own. Secret Pillow Proejct aims to provide a vehicle by which women can make their own choices by driving their economic opportunities and achieving social progress.

Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation has stated that women globally reinvest 90% of what they earn into their families. The means that women are the ultimate economic accelerators.

Nina Kabeer, Professor of Gender and Development at London School of Economics has stated that a wide range of economic research shows that investing in women and girls is one of the highest return opportunites available in the developing world. Bringing more women into the labour force can significantly boost per capital income and GDP growth. Women's higher propensity to use their earnings and increased bargaining power to buy goods and services taht improve family welfare can create a virtuous circle.

How does the project work?

Secret Pillow Project works in partnership with charities who set up womens group ensuring the women's are supported and encouraged through our involvement with them by people who understand their challenges and who see them on a regular basis. We know we aren't a charity, we play a different role.

The womens groups go through 4 stages of empowerment, explained below. We currently have 200 producers from 3 South India states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karanataka. 140 are in stage 1 and 60 women are in stage 2. The success of this campaign will ensure they all move up 1 or 2 stages and up to 233 more women will be welcomed into the programme. That would be a total of 433 women and their families.

Stage 1 - The Empowerment Stage

  • Secret Pillow Project runs a workshop teaching the women's group how to safely and succesfully make a SAMPLE Secret Pillow. A SAMPLE Secret Pillow might not be perfect but it is made with great love and offers a women a life changing opportunity.
  • The women are given an advance order to buy the materials to make their pillow.
  • On collection the women are paid a generous trade price per pillow, which are collected and then shipped back to the UK where they undergo quality control checks and are then sent out to waiting customers

Stage 2 - The Professionalisation Stage

  • The pillows are made using specially printed cotton (which we provide, along with wadding) and are made to a professional standard ensuring top quality and fabrics that are guaranteed of a high standard for the Western market. 
  • At this stage pillows can now be sold for a higher price as 'In Stock' pillows.

Stage 3 - The Development Stage

  • The womens groups are now confident enough to work independently and teach other women to make and sell Secret Pillows.
  • Women are able to borrow a loan from the project, at a low interest rate, in order to further their skills and upgrade their machinery if they so wish.

Stage 4 - The Diversification Stage

  • Women begin to upskill their groups and work to find their own routes to market via local suppliers and also internationally.
  • They now receive a trade price that is bench marked against other ethical India based homeware producers.
  • Women can choose to continue making Secret Pillow Projects

The most important part of the empowerment process is that the women are free to be independent from the project at the end. The subsisdy is simply there to help them get going on their journeys to financial independence.

What evidence is there that it works?

The proof is always in the pudding. When Secret Pillow Producers where asked what is different now from before, they said they felt like entrepreneurs, they said people looked up when they walked in the room, they said that when they are walking through their village they were stopped and asked how their business is going. One producer Manjusha said "now I have felt what it feels like to be an entreprenuer, I am not going back."

Amrita University have identified 8 key indicators and prove whether a women's sense of power has increased. If we compare what our producers have told us about how they feel againist these indicators, we can see that yes our project works.

Key indicators of empowerment:

1. Improved self confidence to earn a living

2. Improved self esteem

3. Earning money from new skills

4. Accessing new resources and services

5. Participation in deomocratic process with community issues

6. Formed a group to earn money or particpate in solving community issues

7. Formed a group to earn money or particpate in solving community issues

8. Increased particpation in decision making at home

9. Interest in learning new skills

Meet the incredible Secret Pillow Producers

Introducing the Irula Women's Group from Tamil Nadu and Morhanna from Odanadi Women's Group

Who is the UK team?

We have a  two teams in the UK and India, an advisory board and our Guardians of the women's groups. An awesome team...

Meet our UK team. From the left, Fariha, Fritha, Aimee and Elsa

Fritha Vincent is the CEO and Founder.  Fritha works as a fundraiser and performance coach through her own business, Believe YOU Can Make a Difference.  During her 14 year career in the voluntary and not for profit sector she has worked in organisations both in the UK and abroad, including Save the Children.  Her current clients include international adventurer's charity, Adventure Ashram and national charity, Alcohol Concern.  As part of her work she has travelled extensively and been actively involved in field projects.  Secret Pillow Project was Fritha's idea and she recruited the team, identified the women's groups and led on all aspects of operations, sales and marketing to date.

Aimee Faunt is the Associate Project Manager. Aimee has a background in event project management, leading on large scale artistic commissions and unique events across the corporate and charity sectors. Aimee joined Secret Pillow Project, managing the pop-up retail activity in December 2014 and has continued part-time with the project since then. After representing the project in India, networking and training additional women’s groups to further the mission, Aimee will focus on developing projects and working with Fritha on logistical management.

Fariha Syed is the Finance Assistant.  Fariha is a trainee accountant who is currently in her final year of a BA in Accounting and Finance.  She is also a student member of the professional Management Accounting body, CIMA, and has completed 9 papers of the qualification.

Elsa Findlay is the Communications and Customer Relations Assistant.  Elsa is curently completing her MA in Creative Writing and has a keen interest in social and environmental sustainability in the fashion industry.

What will you do if we achieve the target?

Achieving a target of £30,000 will enable us to invite up to 233 women to join our empowerment programme and move all our women along 1 or 2 stages of the empowerment process.

But inviting more women to join our programme is not enough, we need to maintain sufficient pillows sales into the future to take the all the women through all 4 stages of empowerment. The surplus income after advance and payment to the women and cost of shipping has been made, we will  cover the small overheads of the project and salaries of our small, UK based, part time team, who you have just met. During the months of July, August September and October 2015 we will try out 5 routes to market. We will measure their success. From these results we will finalise our business plan with our successful, tried and tested sales and marketing activities and continue to sell Secret Pillows as a sustainable social business.

The routes to market we are going to test are:

  • Encouraging people to send Secret Pillows to place of a bunch of flowers
  • Selling through our online shop by developing our content marketing
  • Summer Pop Ups
  • Secret Pillow Parties
  • Creative Partnerships with like minded brands

Our track record

The Secret Pillower Community has already formed. A year ago Secret Pillow Project ran another crowdfunding campaign called Discover the Secret of the Pillows Here is what the backers told us about their feelings of receiving their Secret Pillow.

“We ordered 3 pillows for our grandchildren. They loved them. We like the design enabling the quilt to be folded into a pillow”

“A very good product from an excellent project empowering women to produce attractive, reasonably priced secret pillows as a route into their own sustainable businesses”

“I’m hugely impressed…I consider the work is vital for women’s empowerment and feel it would be wonderful to extend it to others”

Happy backers...

Check out the wonderful rewards we are offering starting from £10 and ranging to £15,000. There is no limit though on how much you can pledge.

All Secret Pillowers are given or receive..

  • the title of Secret Pillower and a special place in our community
  • a social media badge to post, tweet and share telling the world they are signed up to our vision
  • an invitation to our annual Secret Pillower gathering
  • exclusive viewings of our in stock collections, with the opportunity to reserve
  • our email update POWER, highlighting stories of our producers, news pieces about the global women's empowerment movement and stories of our projects growth

There are many ways you can get involved in the community and feel the joy of giving.

  • Straight way and during this campaign you can share our story and help mobilise the crowd through your networks online and/or offline by hosting a Secret Pillow Party at work or with friends.
  • Give your time, skills and expertise by mentoring a member of our team over coffee in London or over skype
  • Give your time at one of our pop up events, share our story and help sell beautiful Secret Pillows
  • Join in on one of our focus groups to explore the motivations of Secret Pillowers so we can creatively think of ways of extending our community to help more women

So just to recap...you are invited to become a Secret Pillower and join our mission to empower women everywhere.

 Thank you for reading all about us. Pledge NOW...

 

 Frequently Asked Questions about Secret Pillows

  • Are Secret Pillows suitable for babies? Secret Pillows are a craft item, they are enjoyed by mobile children and adults, ending up in all sorts of places on sofas, in cars, on beds, on airplanes, in garden houses, in offices, in camper vans, in boats - the list is endless!
  • What are Secret Pillows made of? During the workshop the women are asked to make their Secret PIllows out of 100% cotton fabric and a fire proof 100% polyester wadding.
  • Have the Secret Pillows been tested? Yes. The Secret Pillows have been tested to confirm they are non-flammable. They are made of the materials the care label specifies.
  • How do I wash my Secret Pillow? The suggested washing instructions are suitable for the product, i.e, wash at 30 degrees in a washing machine. Do not tumble dry, dry clean or iron.
  • How do I fold my Secret Pillow away? Click here to watch a film on how to fold it away.
  • How long does it take from ordering a SAMPLE Secret Pillow to receiving it? Secret Pillow Project aims to deliver within 12 months of ordering.
  • What happens if I receive the email with the fabric choices and I don't like any of them? You will keep receiving emails with new fabric choices for 12 months from the date of placing the pre-order. If you have not chosen within that year, we will choose a secret pillow for you and send it out to you.
  • Where can I read the full story of the Secret Pillow Project? Click here
  • How do I get to the online shop? Click to shop
  • Who made the dress Fritha is where in the photo? The dress is made by one of London's leading ethical fashion houses, Beulah. Click here to visit their online store.

This is not an exhausted list of questions, if you still have questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or visit our website www.secretpillow.org.uk

 

 

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