Investing in the people business

When our online store Refumade celebrated its first birthday recently, we had a close look at how much it costs to run and what impact we were having in Cyprus.

There were 2 things that leapt out:

  • If it was a standalone business, Refumade would have made a financial loss in its first year
  • Being one of the Sewing Cooperative members is a transformative experience

When we set up the Sewing Cooperative in July 2019, we wanted to see if we could make it a financially self-sustaining business. We still believe that is possible with some scale but right now it needs to be supported by donations.

Of course the market is crowded with many much cheaper options but we invest huge amounts of time and energy offering more than the chance to earn a small wage.

We have described it in this People Investment Cycle:

Thanks to the wonderful Brighton Website Design for this infographic.

When someone comes to the Dignity Centre, they have the opportunity to join the Sewing Cooperative. No-one needs to have any previous experience. We have a fair system to manage who can join and when.

Then we will spend all the time that is needed for them to become part of the team, feel safe and welcome, get fully trained on the machinery and learn how to make the products.

As soon as they make something that is of high enough standard for us to sell, they will get some critical funds. Those can make the difference between survival and living with dignity for example, data for their phone, a new pair of shoes, the food they love…

We have seen the huge difference all of this makes by seeing how people change for the better even after just a few weeks of being part of the Cooperative.

People are learning new skills and getting financial support but it is so much more that that. It is having somewhere they can call their own, where they are given the freedom to rebuild their future on their terms, where people are good to each other and all looking out for each other’s welfare – this is priceless.

We are grateful to all our donors who are helping to rebuild lives in this way.

And we will leave the last words to one the Members Eva:

Without Dignity Centre life would have been so much harder, all day at home doing nothing. I like to be busy doing something I like and best of all coming to a place that is friendly and welcoming, where I meet people who care about me.

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