Divine Coincidences Happen in the Strangest of Places

One tough part of this week in Kolkata was that ALL of us were sick. Cold, coughs, clogged sinuses. It was a symphony of sniffles. We needed to find some local meds because ours weren’t the doing the job. Sarah and Cal were sucking down Halls and Ricolas and it just wasn’t settling the coughing fits. We ended up finding this local-brand industrial strength lozenge and it was the only solution to the dingy, soupy Kolkata air. We asked a local doctor about it and he said, “When in Rome.”

One divine coincidence this week was meeting a woman named Janet Rogers. This past year we had more than a few people mention to us that we needed to meet her. This past September, I randomly met a British guy in San Francisco who after hearing about what we’re doing, emphatically said we needed to meet Janet and immediately returned home to make an email introduction. 

We exchanged a few emails, but couldn’t find a good time to connect. Then out of the blue, she emails us and tells us she will be at Freeset the same time that we are! Amazing! She is an artist/designer who built up an amazing network training women in India how to produce crafts for the international market. She is doing some consulting for Freeset and was more than happy to sit down with us for an afternoon. She downloaded to us loads of wisdom and I know we already avoided a few pitfalls just by talking with her. 

Lastly before we left we spent a bit of time with Kerry Hilton, the founder of Freeset. Every time we talk with him we’re so inspired by his selfless commitment to the business of freedom. Recently they decided to go to the source of sex-trafficking about 5 hours north of Kolkata to start a weaving unit that will employ the women most susceptible to human-trafficking. This makes total sense, though the 5 hour motorcycle ride Kerry takes makes me cringe with all the bad roads and insane drivers.

Sarah and I asked him what keeps him going. He said he never gets tired of seeing freedom… women tasting what it means to go as they please, spend the money they earn and chart their own course for their lives. It energizes him to no end. Kerry, his family and his staff all live in the slum that they serve. They eat, laugh and cry with the people they love. There are few examples of really sacrificial love in our world and they are one of the shining examples. 

Until next time Kolkata… off to Trivandrum.



Entrepreneurs unite in meaning : SOCAP Connects the Dots

We were given a spot as one of the 30 entrepreneurs selected out of 300 for The SOCAP12 scholarship! (Check out our profile!) SOCAP’s whole purpose is to bring meaning to the marketplace.

We didn’t quite understand the impact this was until we started digging in deeper with all the rest of the fellows. Many of them are extremely talented and came out of the Ivy League B schools. Intimidated? Just a bit. But I was so aptly reminded that I also did not go to the top design school yet somehow through divine circumstances I ended up in some of the best design firms working with Fortune 500 companies. I am now a freshman again in a new space.

We started our week by showing off our blankets at Google’s Entrepreneurs Week. It was fun to hear how Google is making tools for entrepreneurs. Google-ites are proud of their campus and products. Throughout our workshops there was one prevailing question that we kept on challenging. “What does true impact mean?”

Typically in the tech start-up world it’s about a fast ramp up to buy-out. One entrepreneur challenged that notion because our bottom-line isn’t necessarily for the hottest VC to pay millions of dollars to acquire our companies. Many of us social entrepreneurs are doing what we’re trying to do because we believe in a triple bottom line. That means that social responsibility is at the core of why we do what we do.

I realize that this is a new dynamic in our world today. Most people measure success by how profitable you are as a company, but one must see that profit is just a means of validating you as a company. Profit doesn’t say how you are being responsible as a company. So many companies have decided to only measure their success through profit, which is a dangerous and slippery slope when you start thinking about how they got that profit in the first place.

How do we as consumers start challenging that notion? Does a company exploit factory workers in order to bring you the cheapest goods? Where did the raw materials come from? Were they sustainably harvested? Were harmful pesticides used? There are a lot of questions that we as consumers can ask so that we CAN make a difference.

What are some questions that you would like to ask your favorite companies? Target has been known to “copy” other designers, knock-offs are industry standards. But is that acceptable? Did you know that Coca-Cola was banned from the state of Kerala, India for a time period because it was found that there was a high amount of pesticides? They were also under-scutiny for taking water away from the local farmers. How can we as consumers be the heroes to fight for what is right?






Ellie Fun Day Shin Dig : Part 2 Dry Goods Shoppe

credit: chalk sign hand-drawn by Akiko Ito (our awesome poster and Pinky Promise Badge designer) 

As part of our journey into Ellie Fun Day we are always trying to find ways to fund ourselves to further our purpose. As we travel throughout India we get inspired to bring back good things that we think our friends would love. So as a first time experiment we opened up our very first dry goods shoppe. Everything that was purchased here helps get us back to India to do the work that we need to do.

Wembley bear representing. (I’ve had him since college.)

These handmade wooden combs were sourced through the Kerala State Handicrafts Initiative. They’re beautifully crafted with a smooth matte finish.

Pashmina = ultra luxurious and warm scarves! I fell in love with these once I felt them. On a chilly foggy SF day, they’re so perfect for keeping my neck warm. I think I have a gazillion scarves, but I really NEEDED these.

These Lumberjack and Lumberjill bibs were such a hit! We totally sold out of these. Probably because every hip baby looks too adorable in one of these organic flannel bibs.

India is world reknown for their black teas. This Nilgiri Black tea is from the Nilgiri Mountains that border the state of Kerala. This tea is of the Orange Pekoe species and this batch in particular is of the highest quality due to the unbroken leaf structure. It has a dark and intensely aromatic smell.

I’m so smitten by polka-dots. (Has anyone seen the J.Crew catalog??) These 100% silk scarves are sure to bring your outfits to the next sassy level.

I’m a sucker for Paris…it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. The most magical thing one might see is fireworks over the Eiffel Tower and hence my inspiration for these necklaces! Sparkly pom-poms + tiny bell + silver Eiffel = Fireworks Over Paris. My god-daughters loved them. (note: these were hand-made by me as a “love” project)

My partner in crime, Grace. Again, couldn’t have pulled this off without her! If you are interested in any of these goods, please contact us here and let us know what you want. We’re hoping to get an online shop up soon. go here! Meanwhile check out more pics from our Shindig here.