A Wellington high school has started receiving free sanitary products thanks to two young social entrepreneurs.
To continue our inspirational stories series we're joined by two entrepreneur's from Wellington, Miranda & Jacinta who are on a mission to provide affordable and accessible sanitary items to ALL women through their buy one, give one model Dignity. You can learn more at https://www.dignitynz.com!
With an aim to empower both women in the workplace and girls in school, two young entrepreneurs have launched a drive to provide free sanitary products through corporate partnerships. Jihee Junn talks to Jacinta Gulasekharam of Dignity to find out how it all works.
So we all know that the majority of workplaces are constructed in inherently competitive ways. While we all do group projects in our classes and grad roles to try and teach us how to ‘work in a team’ we still are taught that at the end of the day, you need to succeed on your own. You only need to look at the now fabled origin story of Facebook to see how throwing your teammates (and best friends, yikes) under the bus is totally cool so long as you make it.
It’s a culture that many companies are trying to stamp out, for example millenials in business are doing away with the corner office in favour of open plan workspaces. Workplace environment is valued more than ever with companies like Google and Buzzfeed providing food, gym memberships, and rec/nap rooms to their staff. Despite this however, competitiveness in the workplace still reigns. A few years ago The New York Times came out with a pretty sickening article on Amazons corporate culture (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html). It an interesting read, but basically employees are expected to work to the bone and either overcome extreme exhaustion and stress, or they are fired. Most don’t last more than a few years. It’s a use ‘people up until they drop’ kind of system, and entirely unsustainable. While not to this extreme, many companies make huge profits on employing similar systems, hidden as graduate programs.
Gender has an interesting role to play in this. I don’t like arguments that say things like in the prehistoric era ‘women gathered and so needed collaboration to tell each other where the berries were, while men hunted and needed to be quiet’ or some other kind of nonsense as to why women are better communicators. A) the human evolutionary path basically shows being able to communicate made us way better at hunting so we could eat more meat so more brain power so better communication so on so forth so men and women developed communication skills and B) conditioning is so powerful. Girls are taught to talk through their feelings, often in unhealthy ways such as gossiping (whole other issue there), whereas boys are taught to respond if not with violence than with some other kind of triumph, like beating them on the sports field or in the classroom. Women, as a marginalised group also have developed better cultures of collaboration to keep ourselves safe (pretending to be best friends with a girl you’ve never seen before to get her out of the clutches of a creepy dude) advance our standing (mentoring programmes and clothes swapping for job interviews) and provide the missing support we need to each other (sharing childcare, swapping low cost recipes, mummy facebook pages, Dignity!!!).
Men, however, due to levels of privilege and toxic masculinity don’t feel the need or the possibility of relying on each other. Because the workforce is inherently masculine in it’s set up, it functions in a very competitive way. Women and other minorities who have been historically excluded from this workforce are then indoctrinated into these ideals, however rather than being highly competitive with the men around them, they tend to compete more fiercely with each other. This is because the space that women occupy in the workplace at upper levels still remains scarce, but rather than attempting to carve out more space for ourselves, we compete with each other and bring each other down to try gain the little piece available. This of course, totally serves the system that keeps women disenfranchised with higher level careers and out of upper management.
But I don’t think the solution is not simply that women need to be more competitive with men. I think that women should value their skills of collaboration, see other women as an asset, a team member, rather than a threat. If you see a woman in a position you want, take that as a reminder that there is a need for someone like you in those roles. See every woman who succeeds as proof you can do it too. Ask women who inspire you to get a coffee and ask for advice. Try to do the same with women who aspire to your career. And don’t leave your male colleagues out too. I’m not suggesting you expend hours of emotional and mental labour trying to teach them how to communicate, but set the standard for what you expect in the teams you work in and don’t be afraid to remind them of the values of communication to business (http://smallbusiness.chron.com/value-effective-communication-workplace-16129.html).
Women gain nothing by competing with each other, in the pursuit of better, fairer workplaces, we must change practice and carve out new spaces. Most of all, we need to do it how we’ve always made our biggest leaps and bounds in history, by working together.
By Eleanor Green
Over the past year I have been a little obsessed with the beautiful bouquets created by Of Noble Nature. They're a Wellington floristry business with creative designs and arguably the most beautiful Instagram out. So when Dignity got the opportunity to hear about their journey, I was more than a little bit excited.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your backgrounds?
Firstly we are both wives and mums - Katie has just had her first little bubba and I (Lizzie) am a mum of 4 (!). Both of us married Graphic Designers and are creative souls ourselves. We’ve both tried our hands at all sorts to feed that creative longing - music, cooking, writing, knitting, sewing, photography, art…and more. And between us we’ve also had a range of different jobs from Nannying to PA.
In 2014 we both separately decided that Floristry was the creative industry that we wanted to delve headlong into and we met in 2015 whilst interning for a local Floral Stylist (Mindy of Twig and Arrow). We hit it off straight away and while there, our love of botanics and the floral trade was cemented…which led onto starting up ONN.
What is Of Noble Nature and why did you start your business?
Of Noble Nature is an online flower delivery service offering freshly curated market blooms 3 days a week (for same day delivery) as well as floral subscriptions and a small range of locally made homewares. We also offer our services for weddings and events on an enquiry basis. We started ONN after seeing a real hole in the “floral” market for simple, stylish and affordable flowers that can be easily ordered online. We have always loved giving and receiving flowers, so we wanted to make the process more accessible to others in a world where time is scare and ease and efficiency are chief.
Having an online presence and working from home (rather than having a shop) was also a way we knew we could work whilst caring for our littlies. And we certainly couldn’t have got there without a tonne of help from our husbands, Matt Watson and Carl Rosati, who worked on the branding, logo design, website, studio and more!
Who inspires you?
Definitely our husbands! :)
And then in terms of floral aesthetic, we are big fans of florist Simone Gooch of Fjura - her custom floralarrangements are truly unique and definitely inspirational.
We’re also inspired by women like Erin of Floret in the States and Jeanine of Verve in Marlborough. Having visited a few local flower growers, we’re aware of how much hard-work and love goes into growing the stunning produce that we work with - especially when the seasons aren’t kind!
Our local flower wholesalers, Dave and Cushla, are also a source of inspiration - they work darn hard to supply us with the materials for our bunches!!
What's been your favourite/hardest moment of your business journey?
To pick one moment as our favourite is quite difficult…there have been so many positives! But definitely the first bunch order that came through our website (from someone other than a family member!) was pretty exciting! Our transformation of our dilapidated garage into a sleek home studio was also a very satisfying day indeed(after a LOT of hard labour and a few tears here and there!).
One of the most challenging things we’ve found about starting (and growing) a business in a society where there are so many forms of media is that we have at times felt bombarded with differing advice and critique from both the wider world as well as local creatives. It’s very easy to get caught up in social media and to worry about the tiniest detail when your name is connected to a brand and a business, but we’ve learnt some valuable lessons and have such awesome customers, that the positives certainly outweigh the negatives by far.
What advice would you give to others wanting to start a business?
The biggest lesson we’ve learnt is to just take the leap and do it! Put your head down and stay confident in what you’re doing and how you’re doing it- if it’s something you’re truly passionate about, then you’ll work hard enough to create a product or service that you’re truly proud of and that’s what will get your business off the ground and keep it growing! So go for it! Being your own boss is certainly something we’d highly recommend:)
What's the best part about working for yourself/together?
Being our own bosses and being able to be flexible around our families is one of the big reasons we started ONN. We knew it was the only way we’d be able to do what we loved whilst having small children. It is also amazing having each other to constantly use as a sounding board, to inspire and to challenge. We get on really well (which is definitely important as business partners!). We’ve had many a laugh and a cry together in the studio amidst the craziness of our kids, daily blooms, weddings, events and life in general! It’s also a real help for our confidence having each other and it seems that when one person’s having a bad day, or feels they have “lost their floral mojo” as we call it - the other one is there to buoy them up and vice versa.
Do you enjoy making the floral arrangements daily? How do you embrace the challenges that coincide with this, such as seasonal changes?
I don’t think that either of us will ever get sick of working with flowers. Moving with the seasons and embracing the botanical world with all its diversity and abundance of shape, form, colour and texture, is one of the things we love most about floristry. Our particular business model means that we make one design of bunch per day, however, no two bunches are the same, as every stem is unique and that is what is so great about working with a living medium. Sure, this comes with it’s challenges too - when the weather hasn’t been kind & crops fail or certain produce isn’t available, or prices rise because a certain flower-type is scarce. But, there is always that element of anticipation and surprise each day when we trot off to market and wonder what goodies we’ll find! We’re also wondering in the future about growing some of own crops in order to get a few varieties of flowers that aren’t commercially grown in NZ…we sometimes look (rather enviously) upon the huge selections they have at flower markets in cities like Sydney, London & New York!!
How do you manage your time between the business and your other commitments? Especially with babies on the way?
Yes, this is probably our biggest challenge really. As I write both Katie and I are actually on Maternity Leave and aren’t doing too much of the daily running of ONN. We are very lucky to have wonderful staff to step up and keep things running without us for the next few months and we’ve got the business running pretty smoothly now, so that when we are both back, we’ll be able to work as efficiently as we can around our littlies. At the moment we are only open 3 days a week for our daily blooms, but are hoping to go up to 5 days a week at some point next year to keep up with the demand.
How can we encourage more women to start their own businesses?
I saw this quote the other day by Veronica Dearly:
“Behind every great woman there’s probably a bunch of other great women”
I think that’s so true! As women, one of the most important things we can do is stand together, back each other and build each other up. I really do think it’s a lack of confidence that hinders more women from starting up their own initiatives. If we all stood together and supported each other in our individual dreams, imagine what we could accomplish?!
What are your next steps from here?
Onwards and upwards as they say! We’re currently doing great business “goal setting” and hope to delve into more marketing next year to continue to grow our presence in Wellington and the wider NZ. Like I said earlier we are hoping to offer flowers 5 days a week, rather than 3 and are also going to be working on our homewares selection. All exciting stuff!
What is your opinion on Dignity?
We think what you’re doing at Dignity - linking in with businesses to supply sanitary products in workplaces - is a really thoughtful initiative, especially the get one give one model that you run. In a country where living costs are constantly on the rise and rent is reaching daunting heights, just affording the basics is tricky for a lot of people, so we really respect what you’re doing and how it empowers women, both young and old.
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