Kylie Gersekowski may be in Australia but she had a vision that Sew Powerful would need her talents globally. And she sure was right. As the founder and original member of the Sew Powerful Purse Project on Facebook, Kylie pulled together other Aussie bag makers to sew for Sew Powerful. But soon the word spread far and wide and behold, we now have a 4000 member Facebook group that supports and encourages each other. Listen as Kylie gives her history with Sew Powerful but then ends with a very important announcement about her role and a new person on the scene in Australia.
Lets Say G'Day Mate to Kylie Gersekowski
IN THIS EPISODE
Australia, Purses and Bags, Facebook groups, Country Purse Collector, Pat Grafton, Jason Miles
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Kylie Gersekowski
Jan Cancila, Host 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
On July 15, 2015, an amazing thing happened. Well, it might not seem so unusual if it happened today, but six years ago it was truly remarkable. You see, that is the date that Kylie Gersekowski decided it was about time that people who supported the fledgling Sew Powerful Purse Project should have a place to share information, post photos of their purses, and just do what people in Facebook groups do now: visit with each other, ask questions, share sewing techniques, store files, and so much more. Yes, Kylie was truly a visionary in 2015, and now she is our guest today on the Sew Powerful podcast. We are going to explore what led Kylie to start the group, and how it has grown since. And oh, if you don't know, Kylie lives in Australia, but more about that in a minute. For now, let's just welcome Kylie Gersekowski. Kylie, how are you today?
Kylie Gersekowski, Guest 01:25
Hi, Jan, I'm going great. So excited to be here with you.
We are excited that you're here, too. Should I say g'day mate? Is that.. how close did I get?
Do we say "mate" to a woman? Is that okay?
You can say g'day mate.
We do. Mate is to anyone that's a friend. Definitely.
Okay. Cool. All right. So you are in Australia. Are you a native Aussie?
Yes, so born and bred Australian. I live in Queensland, so it's summer here now. It's nice and warm. And yeah, it's beautiful.
I know last year there were wildfires in Australia that affected the wildlife. And I'm, well I'm sure, the people too. So what's happening now in Australia?
So those fires were down in New South Wales and some other parts of Australia. But um, yeah, I think it's been recovery for the past 12 months. It was pretty, pretty scary, actually, so much was lost, but yet people are rebuilding. And I know lots of wildlife have been released back into the wild, and people have done so much work to make that happen. So yeah.
That's good. Kylie, you own a very successful business. Tell us about your business.
Yes. So as you said, I'm Kylie Gersekowski from Little Moo Designs. So, my business is writing bag, clutch and accessory sewing patterns. And I sold them online on my website and that's actually how I got into Sew Powerful, was my interest in bag making. So, I love making bags for friends and family and that flipped into pattern writing about, probably, eight years ago now. And it's just gone from zero to 100 quite quickly.
Wow. That's amazing. And so how did you initially find out about Sew Powerful?
So as I said, I love sewing bags. And I was looking to do some charity sewing, and a quick Google search, and I think I'd seen Sew Powerful in a few bag sewing Facebook groups had popped up. And it sparked my interest, firstly, because it was a bag-related and that's something that I love and something that I'm good at. And then as I got reading more and more about Sew Powerful, I was quite quickly on the huge difference that more than just the bags were making, but the whole Sew Powerful charity or movement was making really, and I've just, yeah, seen it. Same thing goes zero to 100 in the years that I've been involved, it's absolutely amazing.
Well, and so that had to be 2015 or earlier, right?
I think so. Yes. So that's nearly six years ago. Yeah, time flies.
And you know, if you look on the Sew Powerful Purse Project Facebook group, you can click on About and it says when it was founded, and it was 2015 in July, so.
So what led you to form a Facebook group about this?
Alright, so it was all based from the website, that you went to the website, you typed in your email address and downloaded the pattern, made the bags, sent them over to the US headquarters. I had a few friends of mine who were bag makers who wanted to join in, and I guess we wanted to encourage and support each other. So actually, started it as an Australian group because a lot of Aussies were jumping on board at that stage. Now when I say a lot, it was only a few 100 people at that stage, not the 1000s that are involved now. And it quickly grew. We started getting all these members from everywhere around the world. So, I messaged Jason and Cinnamon and said look, this is what I've done here. It was, you know, started as this, what do you think? And it's just evolved and evolved over nearly six years to what it is now, which is, say, 4000 members.
So, until you told Jason about the group did he know it existed?
I don't think so. I think it was just a bit of a place for us to gather and share our photos and support each other. That's how it started. But I think within about six months, it had really evolved to this worldwide presence. And like I said, it's just kept growing since that time. Yeah.
Shirley Utz talks about discovering that group and asking if she could join, even though she was living in Texas in the US at the time, right?
Yes. Okay. So, when we started realizing that everyone wanted to join, we pivoted, and I guess it's to be inclusive of everybody. And the whole purpose of the group was to create the Sew Powerful purses. So it made sense to include everybody worldwide in that process in the group. And it's grown to be such an amazing, beautiful place to share what you make for Sew Powerful. I really love it.
Yeah. Well, and I always say that our group (and I say "our" - you started it, but I joined it so it's like our group), I always say it's the kindest group in all of Facebook land. And why do you think that is? Why are we so different?
I think everyone's so supportive and kind and encouraging. Like, it's such a nice place to go and ask questions or share what you're making or even the process. I know we've had some fun challenges in there to get people moving. So, it's fun, it's positive, it's uplifting. There's never any drama, which I love as well. And again, we're all in there with the sole purpose of helping other people, is how I see it. We're not just making bags; these bags have a very specific purpose. And I love that. And that's what means so much to me about Sew Powerful is these bags are going to make such a difference to the young ladies in Zambia and their families and help them develop their education. So that always, I guess, is the heart of it for me personally. It's not just making a bag, it's so much more than just a bag. I make bags every day for my business. These bags have a special piece of my heart in them because I know what the outcome is going to be for (I hope I know what the outcome is gonna be) for someone else, to help them better their education, which I just think is invaluable.
Right. Well, besides starting the Facebook group, you've also served Sew Powerful by agreeing to collect the purses or bags from the people that live in Australia and also New Zealand too, correct?
So what is that, like?
It's awesome, I get packages. I get to open them and see what beautiful work people have done. So you're right, people will make their Sew Powerful purses and they'll bag or box them up, send them to me. And I get them, I actually get them from quite a few places, not just Australia and New Zealand. I got a box the other day from Malaysia. So, people will send them whether they see that I'm the closest point of contact to them. They'll send them to me, I unbox them, and I get them ready to post over to the US to the Sew Powerful headquarters. It's quite a simple thing to do, I guess. But it's so exciting. I love getting mail, of course. But you know, again, seeing what people have created, all the amazing work that people have put into it is really special. So yeah, it's so much fun.
Well, so does that take a lot of your time to do that?
No, not at all. So, this is how I do it, I keep a register of who has sent me. So, I got a box the other day from someone, I just have a little book where I write their name, X amount of purses have have arrived from them. Australia Post is our post provider. I use big post boxes. So, as I get the purses, they hold about 45 purses. I put the straps inside so that they transport better and I package them in the boxes. And when that box is full, I take it to the post office and send it off to Sew Powerful. So, I guess it's trying to work out the most efficient cost effective postage method. And that's the way that I've done it, is by filling these big boxes. And when they hit about 45 purses, I then take them and post them.
Oh, well. That's cool. And so, who pays the postage from Australia to Washington State?
Yes. So, I outlay it, but I get refunded from Sew Powerful for that.
Okay. All right. Well, that's cool. And you've been doing that for a while. How did that start up, that you agreed to do that?
So I think following the opening the Facebook group Jason and Cinnamon asked me would I like to, because it just incidentally happened that people were sending me their finished purses, and I was sending them over there. So, we had some further discussions about that. And they asked me would I like to be the Australian and New Zealand purse collector. I guess we made it official and that happened. I've also done some sharing of information about Sew Powerful to my Australian audience. So it kind of just went together with that. So, it just evolved. Yeah, and like I said, now I get parcels, I wouldn't say, it's not daily but at least weekly, I get a few in the mail. So, it's quite regular and again, exciting to fill those boxes up, send them off to their next destination and know that they're going to make a difference.
Well, why don't we take a quick break and when we come back, we have a very exciting announcement. So please stay tuned.
Have you gotten the second edition of the We Are Sew Powerful book? This updated version of the original bestseller (4.9 out of five stars by the way) is again authored by Sew Powerful co-founders, Jason and Cinnamon Miles. It is available on Amazon in paperback or for your Kindle reader. This latest edition is packed full of moving stories about how Sew Powerful came to be, the volunteers who make it happen and the way this small movement has grown into a global mission to break the cycle of poverty through education and the dignity of work. And don't forget, when you place your order, if you use smile.amazon.com and designate Sew Powerful as your preferred charity, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase right back to Sew Powerful. And now back to our podcast.
Welcome back. We've been speaking with Kylie Gersekowski, and she's telling us about how she started the Sew Powerful Purse Project Facebook group, and how she, well I was gonna say got roped into, maybe, being the country purse collector for Australia, for people who were in that part of the world, to send their packages to Kylie, and she reboxed them and sent them on their way. But we do have an announcement, as I mentioned before the break, and Kylie is retiring from her official duties for Sew Powerful. She's been doing it for a long time. You're really one of the original volunteers for Sew Powerful, and you were a volunteer for Sew Powerful and Sew Powerful didn't even know you were a volunteer. You were a secret.
I've never done it for anything other than trying to help other people. And of course, yet that's just who I am. But it's time to now pass the baton on to someone else, as they say.
And we want to thank you for everything you did. I think starting that Facebook group was instrumental in the ongoing success of Sew Powerful. I found out about Sew Powerful through that Facebook group; I was referred there by someone else. And just the encouragement and the opportunity to learn from other purse makers has just been invaluable for me. But the sad news is that Kylie is retiring. But the good news is that we do have a replacement, and her name is Pat Grafton. Hello, Pat, I hope you're listening to this podcast. And Pat lives on the western side of Australia over in Perth, and she is going to become the purse collector for Australia. And Pat has a really interesting career. She's now retired, but she was in reading instruction and education for her career. And she has dozens and dozens of certifications on top of advanced degrees. So, you can just imagine how important education is to Pat Grafton. And so, I'm sure the mission of Sew Powerful really resonates with her. So, we're really excited that we have somebody who's going to fill Kylie's shoes. So, Kylie, what are you going to do? I imagine that people have a little note on their bulletin board with your address to mail those purses, and what do we need to do to get them to go to Pat?
So I think on the website that the address will be changed over in the coming weeks.
Days, there you go, good. And I think we would put an announcement up in the Facebook group to that effect. If some do come to me, that's okay, I've still got half a box here. So, when that box is full I'll then forward that on so don't worry if there's a little bit of crossover, it's not a problem. I've spoken to Pat a couple of times on the phone. She's absolutely so excited to be joining the Sew Powerful team. She's a really lovely lady. So yeah, I think it will be fine.
Oh, well, that's fantastic. Okay, any words of encouragement or words of wisdom that you can give us as we say, how do we say goodbye in Australia?
We just say goodbye. So yeah, my words of wisdom are, just know that when you're making a Sew Powerful purse, it's not just a purse. These little purses makes such a difference to the people in Zambia, the young ladies in Zambia. It's giving them opportunities to further their education that they may not have otherwise without this. And I'm not just talking about the bag, it's the whole process. It's just amazing. So, know that you're making a huge difference by making these bags. And I encourage everyone to jump on board and have a go. They're so fun to make, yeah. And you're really making a difference to other people. And I thank everybody for their encouragement, support. The Facebook group is, again, such a fun place to be. So, if you want to just check it out and see what Sew Powerful is about, you can jump in the group, join in and have a look at what people are doing all around the world. It's just amazing that people worldwide can come together for one purpose, and that's to help other people. I think it's awesome.
Isn't that just amazing? That's fantastic.
Well, Kylie, I really regret, and I said this before we started recording, I really regret that I never got to meet you until the day that we're saying thank you so much and good luck on your next chapter. So, we pray that you'll continue to support Sew Powerful by making purses and talk about Sew Powerful in a positive way that, clearly, I think you will. So.
Yes, definitely. And I'm also here to do the handover with Pat as well. So, any questions or any issues that pop up, know that we're there to support each other. So, so exciting, exciting times ahead.
Yes, absolutely. Well, and if you're listening to this and you live in a country outside the US and you would like to volunteer, we do need purse collectors in just about every country in the world. So there's unlimited opportunities for contributions and volunteerism for Sew Powerful and Kylie has set the bar high, but I know if you're listening to this podcast that you are thinking about volunteering for Sew Powerful. And we would love to have you on board. There is a job description on the website for a Country Purse Collector and if you'll fill that out, the application will come right to me and we'll get back in touch with you about how you can serve Sew Powerful. Well Kylie as they say in Australia, goodbye.
You can say "see ya," I don't know. We don't have anything that we say for goodbye.
Well, I looked it up, and it was like cheerio or cheers or, I'm thinking, oh, I never heard that.
That's a couple of new ones, I think. G'day is definitely one that we say though. But how about we say goodbye, mate. We can say that.
Okay, well, goodbye, mate, and please don't be a stranger and it's been a delight talking with you.
You too, Jan, thank you for having me.
Okay, thank you. We'll talk with you soon.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org. That's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.