In this concluding episode of Season 1, Sew Powerful co-founder Jason Miles gives the background information behind his first Quarter presentation. He recaps Events, Chapters, the Facebook Group, the Purse Count, Funding, Expenses, and we talk about the new shipping option. In addition, Jan and Jason take a short walk down memory lane recounting the many great experiences in the previous 98 episodes of Season 1 of the Sew Powerful Podcast. There will be a Season 2. Dates TBD.
A Look in the Rear View Mirror with Jason Miles
IN THIS EPISODE
purses, our community, quilt shows, chapters, sewing, Atelier Angels, Q1, costs, Phoenix, Branson, donations, podcast season 1, Sew Powerful, Give Back Box, shipping
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
Atelier Angels: https://www.sewpowerful.org/pages/atelier-angels
Donate to Honor a Loved One: https://www.sewpowerful.org/pages/donate-to-honor-a-loved-one
Legacy Giving options: https://www.sewpowerful.org/pages/legacy-giving
Ship to Sew Powerful through Give Back Box: https://givebackbox.shop/collections/international-help/products/sew-powerful-shipping-label
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: Jason Miles
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.
Hello Sew Powerful podcast listeners. Today we are going to speak with Jason Miles. And a couple of days ago Jason gave us a Q1 recap for the year-to-date 2022. And we're going to delve in depth with some of the behind the scenes thinking when he was putting this together. So, this should be an interesting conversation. But in addition, here's a big announcement, breaking news, this will be episode 99 of the Sew Powerful Podcast. And this will be the concluding episode of season one. We're going to take a little break. And we may reformat the podcast going forward when we resume but for right now, we're going to take a little break. And there will not be a new podcast next week. There will be one when we resume with season two, and that timeframe is TBD. So anyway, welcome, Jason, how are you?
Jason Miles, Guest 01:14
I'm great. Thank you so much. It's an honor to be here. And to participate in the concluding episode for season one. This is fantastic. Let me just say that the first season of this podcast has been absolutely amazing to behold. And we've been guests a couple of times on episodes, and that was fun, and had some great in-depth conversations with you. But also, all of the community members that have participated in making the podcast successful. It's just been really, really amazing. And I hear these ricochet comments frequently, like, oh, did you hear that person's story in the podcast episode or other people will reference conversations that they've heard in the podcast and how meaningful it was to them to hear it. So, congratulations. It's really, really awesome.
Well, thank you, it's been an honor. And I have felt so privileged to be able to talk to our community members and talk to some industry influencers, and just get to know people on a one-on-one basis. And you see the purses that people post and then you start talking to them and find out how they learn to sew, how they learned about Sew Powerful. And then everyone concludes with how meaningful Sew Powerful has been in their lives. And, to me, it's just been a really bonding experience with the people that I've gotten to know by talking with them on the podcast. So, thank you for giving me this opportunity. I really appreciate it.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Okay. So earlier in the month on April the 5th, you did a special presentation. And you talked about the 2022, Quarter one; it was a recap. Let's just talk about that in a little more depth. And as I listened, I had a few questions. And I think maybe people who watched it may have had questions as well. So, let's let's just get into it. You started out and you sort of gave a recap of events and chapters. Tell us a little bit about that and why that was an important part of the presentation.
Well, it was just so fun to be able to acknowledge the kind of, I guess you could say post-COVID locked down changes that are occurring in terms of our community, the ability to go to shows. And we had two phenomenal shows that happened, Phoenix and then Branson. Those were test cases for us. We didn't know whether the sewing community at large would come back to large scale quilt shows and sewing shows, and whether our booths would make sense again, like they did so well a couple years ago. So, we wanted to report back to the community, first of all, just that they were working, and people are showing up. It was a success at Phoenix and in Branson. And that bodes so well for us for the rest of the year. Really excited about the shows that are going to be coming our way in the summer and fall. And so, I think that was a point of importance for our community to get out there and for us to not only celebrate together, but just let people know people are back at Quilt shows, and sewing shows. And it's fun and and you know, we were masked up in Phoenix and it was fine. And that was the protocol there. But as the restrictions come off in different counties and different states and all that people are coming back and having a good time. So yeah, that was the first thing we wanted to talk about. And it was very exciting.
Well, and you know, our podcast last week was with Sue Kirby and Sue sort of took us through point by point the Branson and Phoenix shows and then all the upcoming shows we have on our calendar. So yeah, we're really excited about being able to participate again.
Yeah. The other thing that was shared at the beginning of the conversation for Q1 report out, was all the successes with chapters. And you, Ma'am, are the global leader for chapter creation. And it's really been something that you pioneered and sorted out over this last year, and we reported that we have 78 chapters either fully launched or in process of launching. And that is just absolutely incredible. And so, what are your thoughts and reflections on that? It's so exciting, you know?
Well, well, you know, we started out with five beta chapters, and special thanks to those people who've raised their hand and then became a leader just a year ago. And from their feedback, we were able to move forward. And now we're getting about two new chapters a week, but we do welcome the people who are raising their hands and saying, I want to sew with people that are like minded, want to sew for charity, I found Sew Powerful on the internet or through Pixie Faire, which is a very common doorway to come to Sew Powerful. So yes, and the amount of purses that they've made and the friendships that are developing, it's just really rewarding to see. And we've provided some resources. And we restructured our field organization to support chapters. We did that on January 1 and eliminated the Regional Coordinator position because it didn't have enough coverage. It was really sort of spotty. And in this new organization, we divided the United States up into eight different regions, and then international as the ninth region and assigned a regional chapters manager for each and they're there to help and guide and answer questions for chapter leaders. So yeah, so it's been a really exciting journey. And as things open up, and people feel more comfortable meeting, I expect that the growth will just be exponential.
Yeah, it's so exciting. And these things are working in harmony. Of course, you know, it was fun to have the local chapter members and chapter leaders hear about a show that's happening in their area, and then use that as an opportunity to rally together to hang out and to spend some more time and energy volunteering. I think that'll happen more and more as we grow both the shows again, as well as the chapters
Well and if I could say to that point, I mean, chapter leaders and chapter members actually do want to participate in these shows. And I have to give a shout out to Linda Ronk and chapter member Juanita and I'm sorry, I don't know your last name. They drove from Texas, to Branson, Missouri, to volunteer in the booth there. And we had Chris McMillan who is the projects manager come from Kansas City to Branson and Jill Riffe traveled to Phoenix from Minneapolis to volunteer. So, geography is not a restriction. We welcome volunteers from all over. And it's such a fun activity.
Yeah. The other thing that we talked about in the Q1 update was this announcement that we have exceeded 5000 members in our Sew Powerful purse maker group, which is really, really nice milestone. That's a biggie. You know, that's, that's a fun milestone. And so, we just wanted to let people know, and it's growing really quickly. Actually, we passed 5000 and then it was like a day or two later, we were 77 more people. So you know, this, these things do on the internet, the bigger they get, the faster they get big, you know, type thing, some weird loop there. But it's, it's great. The group is so vibrant, and so kind and so nonpolitical, nonjudgmental, non-snarky, non-unkind. It's just a fun place to be. And so, it's neat to see that working really well. And people getting a lot of satisfaction out of it. I I love it when I see a new person come in that says thank you for letting me join this group and here's my first purse people just shower, shower them with congratulations, and acknowledgement and you know, warm welcome. It's a special place, you know, special community.
Well, and just one more quick thing about that, In 2020, we had the "iSewlation Challenge." You know, we thought we were going to be locked down for 30 days or something when the cell first started. And the late, great, Shirley Utz created a tip of the day for 30 days. And we have resurrected that. And as this airs originally, we're in the process of reposting those tips of the day. The graphics are just so engaging, and the tips are so helpful. And we're getting lots of comments from veteran sewers, who have said, Oh, I didn't know I could do that. And then of course, everyone who's new since the last two years, never saw those tips, probably and just so excited to be able to share those again. So those are out there too.
Yeah, totally right. Okay, so that was the Q1 first topic. Just those signs of what's happening. And then we talked about purses as well. Yeah.
Jan 09:24 Yeah. So, you talked about the purse count how we're doing compared to a year ago. How are we doing?
Really, really well. We track sort of month by month, and it's been really great. So the bottom line is for the first quarter of 2022, we've collected 3,578 purses, against our annual goal of like 19 [19 thousand]. Last year, we collected 2580, so we're 1000 purchases over, almost 1000, over where we were last year at the same time, which is really exciting. And you know, Dana, our inbound purse box collector guy, he gets them all sorted and prepped in put together, you know, for processing work. He's been telling us for the last couple of months, hey, the volumes here a lot higher than last year and the big boxes with a lot of purses is being shipped in. Not very many USPS packages with one purse. It's mostly like, you know, 20 purses or 30 purses or whatever. And so, it's really exciting to have the volumes back up over last year. And so, you know, praise God for that.
Well, and I would expect our volume to grow because we have a new shipping option for U.S. purse makers that we announced in that same presentation that you did in early April called Give Back Box. You want to talk a little bit about that and how that might impact our purse volume too?
Well, yeah, you can share more than I can probably but all I know is that Kathy, in our community, heard about it, referenced it to you, we've tested it out and it's a beautiful option for shipping boxes to us inbound and it's inexpensive. And it's a charity that is their mission is sort of save the cardboard out of landfills and stop the waste kind of environmental focus. But the way they do that is ask people to reuse their boxes. And they do that by letting them ship to charities. And we found out and behold, we are added to the list and and now, you too, can send us a box full of purses for $15, which is a huge, huge savings for our community members. Because one of the things that is a real cost of participation for our wonderful volunteer purse makers is that they have to ship us the purses. And so even if they have the beautiful sewing machine and scraps of fabric laying around in their stash, that's all free in essence for them to use. The costs do become real when they have to ship them to us. And so, this is a great, great option. Prior to that, the other option that we had for sort of free delivery of purses was you could bring them to a show and drop them off at a show and we collected a good number. In Phoenix, I think it was almost 300 that we collected so but this Give Back Box option is a new alternate shipping method that really is going to save people a lot of money. And and we're excited about that. So that's my take on it. What's your thought on Give Back Box?
Well, yes, so it's $15 in the United States, $15 to ship up to 40 pounds. And our friend Jan Paul discovered, she could put 107 purses with note cards and a few extra note cards, and it weighed 37 and a half pounds. So, the benchmark, I guess is around 100 purses. You don't have to you don't have to fill up a box with 100 purses. I think anything where you would have paid more than $15 in the past for previous shipping method, go ahead and send them in. But when you had that presentation, Dana Bob made a really excellent point. And he said, If you were spending $30, to ship to Sew Powerful, and now you can ship for $15 to please consider taking those savings, that $15 extra that you would have paid to the post office for instance, and instead donate that to Sew Powerful so that our ministry can continue to thrive and grow. And so, I want to segue into the next topic that you covered, which was the funding. And how we're doing with Sew Powerful donations?
Yeah, it's a great tie in and actually it's a great sentiment because these things are linked, of course. You know, what we're trying to do is fund the program efficiently but also have as many purses as we can. Those two are linked, we have to have the funds to to do the field side, the program side. Giving year over year for Q1 is down about 7% over 2021. So that's sort of not good. Obviously, it's not ideal. So we wanted to put that out in front of the community. That's both designated for Sew Powerful purse programming, and also the general fund. We separated out the 3 Esthers Farm feeding program giving but for those two categories we're down 7%, so the the funds, in essence that we can use to run the program, the purse program. And so yeah, that's a key part. The other part of it though, that's even a more concerning was the cost structure of the pads and underwear and soap and the items that go into the purses. The cost structure is really kind of scaled you know quickly, and many people are just aware obviously in the US that inflation is a big deal. And shipping has become expensive for many reasons. You know, we used to say for the last six, seven years that the cost to fill a purse with those items was about $5 we would say. It was when we did the work originally to cost everything, it was $4.92. Doing the costing work you know, the last couple months, it's closer to $11 to fill the purse, which obviously means it's twice as expensive to deliver a purse filled with these items to a girl in need. And that takes cash. We don't solve that problem with anything other than becoming super-efficient in our system on the field side, but also just the cash to make it a reality. And so that's a key element of Q1 for us. As it happens on the lowering our costs, on the field side, we are exploring new options for sourcing materials. You know, we're buying fabric by the massive, massive quantity to make pads and we're buying underwear by the massive, massive quantity. I mean, like last year, we imported 40,000 pairs of underwear from Indonesia into Zambia to serve the program. And then the fabric has always been acquired locally in Africa. So, we're we're looking at how we can save money and do things differently. And that won't be fast, but we do think there is some efficiency that might be gained there. We're trying to be as super-efficient as possible. The one thing that we are clear, though on is the fact that our core thesis, you might call it our theory of change, and we've talked about this in prior podcast episodes, is our goal, I guess you could say as a ministry is local employment, for local impact. That's the most concise way I know to say it. You know, we're trying to create this local job opportunity for the moms there and Lusaka and Livingston that have local impact in terms of what they make. So for example, that gives us a framework to use where we can't say, let's just have all of this made by the Americans. You know, we don't want to do that because we want local employment in Zambia, as part of our theory of change. We can't say let's have all of this made in China, you know, for a fraction of the cost potentially, because again, that wouldn't be in keeping with our theory of change. So these are the tension points that we're trying our best to explain to the community, and to walk people through and explain our logic. But it does come down to funding and donor stepping up and helping us underwrite the costs of doing the ministry on the ground. In Zambia.
We have a donation program called Atelier Angels. Can you talk a little bit about that? And how, how that might be part of the ongoing contribution to the cost issue?
Yeah, sure. Well, first of all, it's a monthly recurring donation program. So, you sign up and your recurring donor. Atelier is the French word for workshop. So, it might be too fancy by half or something. But we could have called it workshop angels, I suppose. But it's the idea that when you're giving, you're helping us directly underwrite the cost of the the sewing effort and exercise in Zambia. And we use that money designated just to underwrite the monthly budget for the seamstresses, their monthly stipends they get, and the cost of the machines, the fabric on and on all of the associated expenses. And so, we would love to have people join Atelier Angels. There are a couple of different giving levels and it's found right at our menu under the Donate tab. I think we're probably going to do a campaign here in the next few months to really do a big push for having people join Atelier Angels and join us in that. And it's really incredibly helpful for that level of monthly recurring income to be consistent, so that we can you know, plan well, and we know things are covered by the incoming pledges. And that's just a great way to support the program. And I would just challenge anybody who's really passionate about Sew Powerful and making purses to please consider joining Atelier Angels at whatever level makes sense for you. And that will be tremendously helpful in terms of us getting after these past issues and challenges.
Well, and I do want to say one more thing, if besides being an Atelier Angel you wanted to do or instead want to do a one-time donation, you can do that as well. But we also have something where you can donate in honor of a loved one and graduation season is coming up, Mother's Day is coming up, Father's Day. Those are all occasions where you can go to the SewPowerful.org website under donate and donate to honor a loved one for any of those occasions. And then there's a way to to notify the honoree that you've made a donation in their name. So, an easy way to make a donation and make somebody really happy at the same time.
Yeah, absolutely. And Facebook fundraisers is a nice way to do it as well.
There's a lot of ways in which people can be creative and helping us if God puts that on their heart. And we'd love for that to happen. So overall, I guess in summation, Q1 is just an incredible, incredible blessing. It's an honor to be able to rally people to the cause of serving the least of these in this creative way. And we just never ever get tired of hearing people learn about and become enthusiastic about their opportunity to serve directly by making a purse. It's just a joy to be able to to coordinate the program and we're excited about what 2022 holds for us.
Well, Jason, thank you very much. And thank you for being the final guest on season one. And I'm going to wrap this up with what I normally say except I'm going to change it out where I say, Listen next week.
So, if you've enjoyed what you've heard today, I urge you to visit our website sewpowerful.org and please listen to this and any of our past episodes until we resume with season two. It's been a pleasure being your host. Until then 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, as the Region 8 Chapter Manger. 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