How the Secret Pillow Project Began
My name is Fritha and I am the founder of Secret Projects. Here's my story from the beginning.
Secret Pillows have been in my life for a long time. I was introduced to them by Stefanie, the beautiful entrepreneur and inspirational mother of my three school friends Anna, Alexa, and Natasha. The happiness I felt snuggled under a Secret Pillow alongside my dear friends secured the concept of Secret Pillows to memory. It was only as I started wanting to have my own children that I remembered the promise I had made to myself all those years ago – my children would also enjoy the delight and comfort that comes from snuggling on a sofa under Secret Pillows.
|This is Stefanie in North Carolina in 2015. I flew to meet her during our first USA Crowdfunding campaign. Stefanie is holding a Secret Pillow made by one of our Makers in India. Stefanie and I had not seen each other for other 20 years.|
The story continues: Clare's Challenge
I really like sewing and decided to make my friends Secret Pillows when they got married and moved house. My friend Clare was very happy with her Secret Pillow and challenged me to start a business making and selling them. I dismissed this idea immediately because I was busy building my own coaching and fundraising business, Believe YOU Can Make a Difference.
Becoming an entrepreneur was a dream inspired by Stephanie and other business women I had met. I am delighted to say that the real life experience of running my own business has met my high expectations and, as a result, I feel much more confident, independent, and creative. Overall I feel truly empowered. Clare's challenge, that I too quickly dismissed, had planted a seed that nagged at me along with the question – how could I also inspire others? Then, eureka! I realised I could share the comforting aspect of Secret Pillows with women in other parts of the world so they also felt a sense of entrepreneurship through making and selling.
The story continues: The Pilot Project
Immediately, I started to network with organisations in India linked to women's groups with basic sewing skills, who could attend my first Secret Pillow workshop. Ammichlabs, a department of Amrita University in South India, invited me to come and visit a group of women from Meppadi, Wayada District in Kerala who had just graduated from a month-long training course via a computer programme. The training was in tailoring and fabric printing. The workshop was booked in for July 2013. I made all the necessary preparations and flew to India.
Click play below to find out what happened next...
This film went on to inspire 50 orders for Secret Pillows. The demand proved to me that people thought Secret Pillows were as charming as I did.
True to their word, the Meppadi Women’s Group (now known as Peace Valley) delivered its order on time and the bag of Secret Pillows arrived in London in October 2013, delivered by a member of the Ammichlabs Team. Ripping the Glad Wrap off and unzipping the bag was so exciting. The high quality of the workmanship and fabric choices amazed me. They had done it!
The story continues: The discovery
Whilst we had successfully made and transported Secret Pillows from India, I knew the true success was yet to be measured. I needed to find out how the women felt about making and selling. How did their families feel? Could they sew at home and still watch their children? Had it awakened their creative skills and inspired them to make other products? How had they decided to spend the money they had earned? I had a million questions and knew the only next step was to fly back out to India and call a meeting with the women.
Meeting the women again was incredible and the insights they shared about their experiences making and selling blew me away.
I discovered 3 things:
A place on a Secret Pillow workshop acts as a kickstarter to financial independence
Becoming a Secret Pillow producer is possible to all women, not just talented seamstresses
Being involved with Secret Projects provides a sense of entrepreneurship in the women - they felt like true entrepreneurs
Now this is what I call a complete success!
The story continues: Gaining Credibility
From working with Ammichlabs, I realised the Secret Pillow Project was more than just a ‘lovely’ idea, it was a solution to a genuine need. Over the last 10+ years there has been a global movement to empower women worldwide by offering basic training and microcredit loans. Cottage industries have flourished, but there is still a huge gap in the market for companies / charities offering products that make the producer a low risk, with a sizeable start-up profit. I worked with Ammichlabs from Amrita University who have trained 3,000 women in India in basic job skills including sewing. They understood only too well that lack of confidence, connections and diversity of products to sell outside local markets prevented women realising themselves as true entrepreneurs. They see the Secret Pillow Project as a solution to this problem.
The story continues: Scaling UP
Throughout my fundraising career I have worked for charities with deeply inspirational founders. I always used to wonder if I would uncover a solution to a need that would lead me to start up my own charity. I realised that empowering women through the Secret Pillow Project was my calling and the way for me to realise my dream of living in a world where all the women are able to make their own choices and look after their children to the best of their abilities.
To realise my dream of offering the opportunity of making and selling Secret Pillows to women all over the world, I decided to scale up the project by running a crowd funding campaign to secure 500 Secret Pillow orders. (click here to visit the incredible campaign)
It was a huge success and with the resources I gathered, I travelled to South India and ran five workshops and placed 700 Secret Pillow orders, much to the women's delight. Press play below to watch the film made from this life-changing trip.
I am delighted to report that all the Secret Pillows were chosen and sent out to our customers within a year. We have come along way in 4 years, and I am so proud to say that we have now trained over 500 Makers.Love Fritha