Hello, my name is Fritha, I run a social business called Secret Projects.
Through the making a selling of foldable, useful, purposeful and charming products, we empower women in India. I started this business after I found out that 80% of the world's children, living in children's institutions are not there because they don't have any parents, it is because their parents can't afford to feed, clothe and educate them. This situation must end.
I am proud that the vision of Secret Projects - a world where all women have the confidence and resources to make their own choices for themselves and their children. We know our project is realising this vision through our 4 stage empowerment programme. The stages are training, professsionalisation, development and independance. Over arching these stages is our POWER Mantra; we believe in ourselves, we support one another, we persist, we take time to think, we trust our instinct, we take pride in everything we do, we work with joy and we pretend until we know how (aka fake it until you make it!)
We began making and selling Secret Pillows, a pillow that unfolds into a blanket, and most recently sold many Secret Sari Dresses. Selling these much demanded products globally has given us confidence to launch an ethical clothing line called Secret Clothes.
Producing clothes requires our makers to advance their cutting and sewing skills. With the increased technicality in production more of the product cost will be passed onto the makers. And with the new skills they can look for higher paid tailoring work. The aim of our project is not to offer women a monthly salary for production, instead we want to empower them to become micro entrepreneurs, making and selling things in their communities and elsewhere. We pay a premium price for stitching our products and we cover the cost of training. We are constantly talking to our makers about survival as an entrepreneur and reiterate the importance of having a number of different income streams, so that if one disappears there are others to fall back on.
Makers have told us that it is not the money that makes Secret Projects so special it is the team and our customers appreciation for them that makes the difference. They are proud to make products that nobody has ever heard of in India and very proud they bought by customers all over the world. Somebody said to me "appreciation is the medicine that heal anyone", this sums up the power of our project perfectly.
After much designing and sampling, we have decided to launch Secret Clothes with scarves and wrap skirts, which fold up into a Secret Projects pouch with zipper. We hope you love them like we do.
We are transparent with our makers and customers about how we arrive at the price we set for our products. We are proud we pay our makers twice the minimum hourly wage for the work they do. And we give each maker a Empower Fund when they join the project of 2,000 ruppees (approx. £24). They can spend this on whatever they choice, it helps them to relieve some of the immediate financial stress of every day life.
As part of our impact measurement we ask them how income is spent. Makers tell us they use the income for the most urgent things like buying food, paying rent, paying for the visit to the doctor, paying for school fees and paying off loans with crippling interest rates.
I am delighted to introduce you to Shaheena, she trained to make Secret Pillows six months ago. With the income generated from making 10 Secret Pillows, Shaheena has paid for her son to go to school for a whole year. Shaheena will train to make Secret Clothes. The training will take place in September ready for the clothes to be sent to each backer directly from India in time for Christmas.
Like our makers, Secret Projects will need to invest in itself to be able to make Secret Clothes possible. We must develop our production support and fulfillment unit in Bengaluru to accomodate a cutting room and stitching centre that can hold 3 industrial machines. The support unit will provide essential production support for our makers producing at home or in their community centre. For example, cutting fabric for clothes has to be done on a wide table at waist height to get an excellent cut needed to make great clothes. One room homes and shared community centres will obviously not have this facility so cutting will have take place in our production support centre and then the cut pieces will be sent out to the makers through the leaders of their network. We will look to employ makers from our groups who live near to the production support unit. We hope to raise £10,000 in donations towards the development of the unit through this crowdfunding campaign. The unit is owned by Secret Pillow Project India so the investing it will enhance the unit as an asset of the social business. Secret Projects, a social business rather than a charty, therefore we are unable to claim gift aid on the donations.
I would now like to invite you to back our campaign and help us launch our ethical clothing line. Choose one of our rewards and buy a piece of Secret Clothing for you and/or a friend and/or make a donation towards the development of our essential unit.
You will be proud of the clothes you wear and the money you donate because you are having an impact on women in India and their children.
I look forward to welcoming you into our growing, global community determined to empower women.
Back our campaign now...
P.s. All our products come with a certificate of production signed by the maker and information about how Secret Projects unfolds women's power.
Rewards in more detail...
Secret Skirt = £45 including international shipping * scroll down for breakdown of what this pays for.
|Reward 1: (£45) ( A Secret Skirt for you. This beautiful, denium wrap skirt can be dressed up for down, wear it to the beach or to a meeting. The skirt arrives folded up in a pouch with zipper. Once you hang the skirt you can put the matching accessories to the outfit in the pouch, zip up and hang of the skirt hanger. After the campaign you will be asked to choose from light or dark, 100% cotton denim and asked your size. There are 3 sizes available. Small 8-10, Medium 12 - 14, Large 16-18.|
Reward 2: (£90) 2 Secret Skirts for you. If you want a light and a dark Secret Skirt, then you must have them! If you like it buy 2 - laws of the minimalist wardrobe...(See reward 1 for detail)
Secret Scarf including international shipping = £40 * scroll down for a breakdown of what this pays for
|Reward 3: A Secret Scarf for you. These stunning scarfs are 2 metres long, so plenty of material to achieve a great style, the pom poms add a sense of fun. The scarfs come in a pouch with zipper, which you can use to fold the scarf away in when you are not wearing it. Great to travelling or popping in your hand bag for when it gets a bit chilly. After the campaign you will be contacted and asked to select the colour/s you would like.|
Reward 4: A Secret Scarf for you and one for a friend. Treat yourself and a friend and a women in India. After the campaign you will be contacted and asked to select the colour/s you would like.
Reward 5: Get Christmas wrapped up now. Buy 4 Secret Scarfs to gifts at Christmas. After the campaign you will be contacted and asked to select the colour/s you would like.
Reward 6: Get Christmas wrapped up big time. Buy 8 Secret Scarfs to gift at Christmas. After the campaign you will be contacted and asked to select the colour/s you would like.
Donations towards the development of our fulfillment and production support unit
|Reward 7: £10|
Reward 8: £20
Reward 9: £40
Reward 10: £50
Reward 11: £100
Reward 12: £250
Reward 13: £500
Reward 14: £1000
Reward 15: £2000
Reward 16: £5,000
Reward 17: £10,000
Anyone who makes a donation will be sent a personalised video from me and the makers and also receive regular email updates on the development of the unit. With your permission your first name will be sewn onto a wall hanging that will hang in the office of the unit.
Questions relating to Secret Skirt
- What is a Secret Skirt? A Secret Skirt is a simple wrap skirt that unfolds out of pouch with zipper.
- What sizes are available? There are 3 sizes available. Small 8-10, Medium 12 - 14, Large 16-18.
- What fabric will the Secret Skirts be made out of? We have selected a lovely range of blue cotton denim to make them out of. Dark and light denim.
- What is £45 retail price cover? We pay the maker's fee for stitching (maker is paid twice the minumum wage per hour for producing the skirt and zipper pouch, it takes 2.5 hours to produce). We pay for each maker to receives free advance sewing and cutting skills training. We buy the materials and label for skirt and pouch, we cover the cost of designing sampling the Secret Clothes and running the focus groups. We pay a contribution per item of clothing made to Secret Pillow Project India to help them run their business, pay taxes and cover the running costs of the office and unit (e.g. wi fi, monthly accountant fees). We cover the cost of transportation, some of our maker groups live 8 hours drive away. We have to drive to train and drop off the materials and then pay a courier to move the completely product back to the production support uni. We need to pay 5% to this crowdfunding platform and a small percentage to Paypal or Stripe for processing the payment via your card. We keep some money back the running of Secret Pillow Project UK and finally we pay for the packing and fullfilment of each item to sent one by one from India. Phew! Your £45 goes a long way....and there is none left at the end!
Questions relating to Secret Scarf
- What is a Secret Scarf? A Secret Scarf is a beautiful scarf that folds neatly away into its own pouch with zipper.
- What sizes are available? This product is one size. It is 2 metres long and 52 cm wide.
- What is £40 retail price cover? We pay the maker's fee for stitching (maker is paid twice the minumum wage per hour for producing the scarf and zipper pouch, it takes 2 hours to produce). We pay for each maker to receives free advance sewing and cutting skills training. We buy the materials and label for scarf and pouch, we cover the cost of designing sampling the Secret Clothes and running the focus groups. We pay a contribution per item of clothing made to Secret Pillow Project India to help them run their business, pay taxes and cover the running costs of the office and unit (e.g. wi fi, monthly accountant fees). We cover the cost of transportation, some of our maker groups live 8 hours drive away. We have to drive to train and drop off the materials and then pay a courier to move the completely product back to the production support uni. We need to pay 5% to this crowdfunding platform and % to paypal or stripe for processing the payment via your card. We keep some money back the running of Secret Pillow Project UK and finally we pay for the packing and fullfilment of each item to sent one by one from India. Phew! Your £40 goes a long way....and there is none left at the end!
Tell me more about Secret Projects, as a social business...
Secret Projects is the home of Secret Pillow Project and Secret Sari Dress Project. Secret Projects empower women in India through the making and selling of foldable, useful, purposeful and charming products. For example, a Secret Pillow is a pillow that unfolds into a blanket.
Established in 2014, Secret Pillow Project operates as a social business training and empowering women who are economically challenged. The project connects to them through Indian, grassroots charities/NGOs which support the women to establish government backed self help groups. Secret Projects invites the women’s group to become makers of its products, trains them anf shares the project’s simple POWER mantra.
We believe in ourselves, we support one another, we persist, we think and think again, we trust our instinct, we take pride, we work with joy and we pretend until we know how.
As the women make and their products are sold internationally their resources and confidence increases.
Through this process the vision of Secret Projects is realised. The project’s dream is a world where all women have the confidence and resources to make their own choices for themselves and their children.
The project has 7 networks of makers. Over 500 women have been trained as makers since the start of the project.
How the project empowers
Secret Projects uses are variety of models to empower women. The basis of these models is a 4 stage empowerment programme, starting with support and introduction from the NGO. The 4 stages are training, professionalism, development and independence.
Manjusha from Kerala is a Secret Pillow maker, she says now I can feel what it is like to be an entrepreneur nobody can put me back.
Secret Projects products are far more than just a product on a shelf, each tells a unique story and each product is a powerful vehicle of empowerment.
"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
The empowerment of women is the business of Secret Projects. To assess impact the project has 4 measures; the number of makers, quality of production, progress of the women through the 4 stages of empowerment, progress of the women on an individual basis. These social impact measures are overseen by a group of Guardians, who are women independent from the business, who act as an external and largely independent scrutiny.
Thanks to partnering NGO’s Amrita University, Brothers and Grace Charitable Trust.
How the business works
Secret Pillow Project is a UK limited company, established in 2014. It has a partner company in India established in 2016, Secret Pillow Project India, responsible for training, production and logistics. Secret Pillow Project UK is leading a steady expansion of its sales bases through a social franchise model. This model is being piloted with Secret Pillow Project USA.
The project operates as a social business, any surplus is ploughed back into development. The growth of Secret Pillow Project has been rapid and a dedicated, global customer base (2000+) has grown through effective pre-order crowdfunding campaigns that have run in UK, USA and most recently India. With crowdfunding, direct sales through an online shops, stockists and the support from passionate philanthropists and social investors, Secret Projects has grown. Confident in the demand for its product, Secret Projects UK sort a loan from Virgin Money.
The global business currently turns over in excess of £75k per year.
Secret Projects Customers
Secret Project Customers are a key strength to the business. They share the project’s vision for women. Many of them play a role is telling the story of the project and inspiring further sales of Secret Pillows. The customers are a tribe who feel connected to the makers because every product comes with a signed certificate from the person that made it. Customers are encouraged to send in photos of their products in use and these are printed and send to the makers groups whenever there is training or connection over material drop off and product pick up. Customers are encourage in some cases to send back postcards of thanks to the makers and feedback is constant requested from the customer base.
Secret Project Business Partners
Secret Projects benefits from pro bono partnerships with legal firm, Hogan Lovells, customer service agent, Service Tick and cloud computing support from Brunelit.
Links to online shops, crowdfunding history, film and social media
Secret Projects UK: https://www.secretpillow.org.uk/
Secret Projects India: https://www.secretpillowprojects.in/
Secret Projects USA: https://www.secretpillowproject.com/
Secret Projects Crowdfunding history: https://www.secretpillow.org.uk/pages/crowdfunding
Secret Projects Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/user39354434
Secret Projects can be found on Instragram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter