Wednesday, February 20, 2013

For "Not Coming to America," scroll down....

Textile Project Update

Soul of Somanya
Tote Bag Prototype

Many people have assured me that slow but steady wins the race, and I know they're right. But it can be a little frustrating, especially when I also know that some of you who contributed to our Indiegogo campaign are eagerly awaiting our first textile products. And then there are those who want to purchase the fabrics to make fabulous creations of your own.

Well, here's what's going on. Originally, we thought we'd begin by importing some fabric yardage to get some of you started. But on closer examination of the full range of issues, and since we have limited funds to work with (does anyone have unlimited funds these days?), we ultimately had to change our approach. 

Think of it this way: We can buy a 6-yard piece of fabric and sell it for, say, twice our cost (which is probably all that the market here will bear). But then no one in Ghana gets a new job. OR...we can hire a few Ghanaian youth with no marketable skills and train them to sew, and then take that same piece of fabric and have them make several, maybe even a dozen, tote bags or table runners or iPad sleeves or placemats. Now not only do some people who had very little chance of finding work at all get jobs at a living wage, but Soul of Somanya makes...well, substantially more money to recycle back into offering work to more people, who will then make more beautiful products for us to sell so that we can create even more jobs...and so on. 

Prototype in Progress
So we're putting our efforts right now into what will best help us to achieve that long-range goal. This is not to say that we won't eventually have the fabrics for sale by the yard as well. In fact, some day we hope to have our own staff of fabric-makers. But first things first. Baby steps.

So where is the project right now? Well, we have first drafts of a fair number of products, which SoS supporter Johanna Stange of Baltimore and I made up using less expensive, domestic fabrics. Currently, we are remaking the ones we like best using the lengths of beautiful, authentic wax prints that I brought home from my various trips to West Africa. 

Once our prototypes are finalized (or as soon afterwards as funds allow), Johanna and I will be traveling to Ghana to begin training our new staff of workers. That's when the real fun will begin! 

Thank you all for bearing with us during this much-slower-than-hoped-for period of diversification. We are so grateful for your patience and support.

Not Coming to America

Not a day goes by that I don't miss my good friend and co-founder Arkuh Bernard Tettey. So it was with great disappointment (spiced with a huge dollop of frustration) that I received some news recently from the Department of Homeland Security. They didn't exactly deny our application for Bernard's training visa, but they described some pretty challenging hoops we would have to jump through just to continue the application process...and with precious little hope of a good outcome. In fact, they made it pretty clear that, as a small organization without a "well-established training program," we were unlikely ever to be approved.  

After ranting for a few days to anyone who would listen, I finally settled down and, taking a few (hundred) deep breaths, started gearing up to start leaping through those hoops, however high they might be. (After all, my African name "Adanki" means, among other things, "stubborn.") But in the meantime, a window suddenly opened where a door had been slammed almost all the way shut. Within a few days, Bernard received a call from his father offering to send him to school for a degree in marketing!  

This kind of education is something that will help Bernard all his life, and it won't do West Africa any harm either! This young man, with his steady intelligence and unshakable integrity, represents the very best that Ghana has to offer. He, and other young people like him, are Africa's greatest hope for the future. And now he'll be learning things that he'll be able to implement--and teach me to implement--so that we can offer good, secure jobs to more of his country's people. It's all very, very good.

Meanwhile, it will be business as usual at Soul of Somanya Ghana. Our wonderful staff of artisans will be handling the day-to-day operations, with Bernard commuting home from Accra on weekends to oversee their progress. I wish I could be there to help. I so miss being a part of it all. But I'm keeping very busy here right now transforming the fabrics I've been using as table cloths into colorful purses and pillow covers and placemats and such--and having a wonderful time doing it! So I guess I'm where I'm supposed to be right now. And I know you join me in wishing Bernard all the best as he starts this new phase in his life.