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Why the THREE P’s are Vital for Success

HandUp Global Goods was birthed in passion and desire.

It was all at once…

whimsy and whirlwind,

deeply spiritual and taxing

hectic but steady

From the time that the idea was conceived to the time of our production launch was NINE MONTHS.

I had delivered a baby social enterprise. But just like delivering baby humans, the pangs of childbirth came quickly and fiercely. But THIS was the easy part.

This, my friend, is the hairy nature of a social enterprise. Social enterprise you say? What is it?

social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being.

In other words, we function like a business but have the heart of a ministry. Managing both facets is tough and for this reason, I call HandUp my ever-hungry twin babies!!!

Have you ever thought about a more sustainable way of bringing relief to a need you’ve encountered? Maybe it’s a local social issue or perhaps you’ve gone on a mission trip and were left shaken over the poverty you saw.

I want to MOTIVATE you to DREAM & DO your part when it comes to promoting social change. But I also want you to know that there are THREE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS you must have in order to launch and maintain a social enterprise. Without these, your twin babies will be doomed from the start.

Passion

That’s right, Mama—the same passion that fueled the making of those babies will need to carry you through the initial hustle of getting this thing off the ground. HandUp was fueled by the novelty of the project and the dream that job creation and spiritual discipleship would change the lives of young orphaned men in Haiti.

I was obsessed. I read everything that I could and researched similar models working in Haiti. I was designing jewelry, fundraising, creating a website, sourcing raw materials, pricing, researching some more, traveling to Haiti AND managing my family of 7.

I wasn’t afraid to reach out to people out in the field and set up times to talk to them about their work. I was super nerdy about the approach, asking lots of questions, taking copious notes and giddily making my own plans based off the interviews. My initial passion for this project threw any semblance of balance out the window but it was sink or swim!

Prayer

I remember one all-nighter as I counted beads, typed up instructions and packed up supplies a couple of nights before heading out on my second trip to Haiti. I lacked the knowledge and experience to properly execute this grandiose idea that I had but because of this—I found myself praying A LOT. I didn’t have a clue how to successfully build a company whose backbone would consist of former street boys. So I prayed some more.

I had my first rude awakening when I learned that the boys weren’t used to the concept of measuring. They hadn’t been taught how to use measuring tools to calculate length. It took 3 days to figure out how to convey to them what measuring was and why it was critical to learn. I clung to my notes and tried to keep it together as the guys barraged me with questions

…in a language I didn’t understand

…as I pounded away at the brand new managers

…who were trying desperately to grasp my shallow knowledge of jewelry making.

I tried to stay strong on the production line, but in the evenings, I’d get on my knees begging God for intervention. To make matters worse, there were bouts of vomiting and diarrhea on those early trips. I’d visit the bathroom, lay down for five minutes to recover and then head back out and face the HandUp mayhem. It wasn’t pretty, but I prayed like a mother of HUNGRY BABY TWINS.

Persistence

Eventually, people with more experience and knowledge stepped in to help (hallelujah Jesus!), but I don’t believe that would have happened without the first two ingredients. People saw my stickwithitness and began believing the power of the story. They were inspired by this idea that a small social enterprise had the potential to radically change the lives of former street boys.

They believed that life was BIGGER than the daily grind and that GOD created them to change the world—in deep small ways and in MONSTER SIZE ways.

This is YOU reader! You are reading this because you know there is something MORE for you to do. Maybe you’re afraid of the ever hungry twins crying to be fed! Maybe the dreamer inside of you has drowned in a sea of to-do lists. The truth is God will use your hands and feet to bring hope to those who have no hope.

PASSION, PRAYER and PERSISTENCE are not just vital for social enterprises, they are required ingredients for transforming your dreams into DOs. 

I KNOW you are going to make it, sister. Know where you are going and don’t be afraid of the pylons and potholes. Before you know it, those babies will be walking and talking and you’ll have a deep gratitude in your heart that you got to be part of who they are. That’s how I feel about HandUp Global Goods–forever thankful that I get to be part of this amazing story.

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Imperfectly Beautiful

Perfection is boring.

Yes—it’s beautiful and we can “ooh and ahh” over it, but there’s not much you can say about it. It’s perfect already so adding to it will only muddle its perfection. You can’t add numbers to an already perfect equation, you can’t add another stroke to a canvas with a soulful painting, an entrée seasoned and cooked to perfection gets devoured—not discussed.

It’s kind of like that “perfect” friend of yours. Yes—she’s beautiful and has it all put together but she’s not super interesting when you think about it.

There’s something about our oddities, our eccentricities, our “skeletons” that draw us to one another. It may have a little to do with sick curiosity or our need to have friends who love you no matter what (or a combo of both)! I read one of those clever picture frames that said a good friend is one that will bail you out of jail—a great friend is the one sitting next to you in the cell. Ha! Which friend are you?

Inside all of us there is this need to relate to others but the problem is that we tend to compare our inner self—the ugly thoughts, vulnerabilities, judgements, self-loathing, smugness with the outer self of others—the put togetherness, beauty, good deeds, ambition, clean house, positive attitude.

We’re comparing apples to wrenches and its keeping us at an arm’s length!!!

My 20s…

I say this because I think I spent my 20s trying to prove to people that I was a stellar Christian in spite of my upbringing. I had a split personality, too. My Christian friends got one version of me, not necessarily the better one, and my secular friends got another. It was so natural that it didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t being authentic but in my defense, I was in my 20s. The dust from my childhood hadn’t settled yet and I didn’t know who the heck I was. I spent a lot of time trying to reconcile my past with my new married life.

I felt like I had to live up to the name I had married into. I went from being a hot-blooded Latina Ramirez from a long line of drama-mamas to a cool-headed Middlebrook from a long line of thick-skinned Texans. The two cultures didn’t exactly synthesize within me nor in my marriage, but that is another story for another day.

 My 30s…

The first half of my 30s are a blur mainly because I was either pregnant, having babies and lactating on and off. Throw in foster care, adoptions, surprise baby #5 and a non-profit start up and you understand why I now get to the point quickly, prefer dry cabernets and talk to people like they either work for me or once slept in my womb. I have to remind myself to be casual. I try hard to be leisurely.

Almost 40…

I’m learning to kick that make believe finger-pointer in the teeth. So, my friend, I share this with you: Stop aiming for perfection and stop comparing apples to wrenches. Let’s grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and be real. I think Jesus can work with ugly-real more than he can with fake-beautiful.  Don’t you think?

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Fall Collection is Here!!!

Did you know that former street boys make up the backbone of our organization?

It’s all at once the most amazing thing about us and the most challenging. We work with orphaned young men who, in addition to figuring out their manhood, are redefining how they engage with the people in their communities. Through their roles at HandUp, they have an opportunity to live out a different, better story than the ones to which they were born.

We’ve carved out a sanctuary where these young men come together to use their hands for something beautiful and meaningful. They receive mentoring from Haitian leaders and are paid fair livable wages. In addition, they have opportunities to get health insurance and are offered scholarships to finish out their education. In other words, they are breaking free from a life of handouts every time someone purchases their work.

 

THEY are the reason we started this business.  So, when I opened up this season’s shipment, I wanted to shout to the whole world,

“Hey! Look at these amazing pieces made by thriving artisans who are eager to see you wearing their tokens of success!”

Here is the sassy Sonje with all its boho fringe.

 

Look at the Hello Heather in all her 62 inches of macramé glory.

Stack our clay bead bracelets…

Layer our necklaces…

I think shoppers are getting this concept and liking how they feel wearing fashion that fuels social transformation.

When you buy HandUp jewelry, you are getting more than handmade jewelry. You become a social justice collaborator, a perpetuator of good things and fellow storyteller. Now THIS is using your purchase power for good.

From all of us at HandUp– Happy Shopping (and changing the world while you’re at it)!

 

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Dusting Off The Sewing Machine

I did it y’all. I dusted off the old sewing machine and I made something.

Not just any something. I made myself a dress. And I can actually wear it! I am sew excited! (See what I did there)

Now, for some this is not a big deal. For me, this is huge. I have always had an envious bone for those that can just whip something together. I am still sooooo far from this, but I am patting myself on the back for this one.

On this journey into fair-trade, I have also looked at the amount of excess I have in my life. Is everything I have a need or are most of my items wants? Having wants is not necessarily bad, but I was determined this year to really focus on not having too much stuff for the sake of having stuff. Reusing and recycling have become a part of my life this year.

I really wanted a new dress for an upcoming wedding but I was determined not to buy anything else. I am not sure if you follow Miranda Anderson from Live Free Miranda but I basically want to be her. She was the emcee at a conference I was at in February and I loved her. Her blog is amazing and filled with all kinds of crafty and beautiful items. She recently posted about a Kimono dress she made and I thought, “Yeah, let’s make this Leslie!”

The patterned looked pretty straight forward and with my mom at my side talking me through it all, I made this super cute and pretty simple Criss-Cross Kimono.

Cute right?! Here is the link to Miranda’s blog post (here) that takes you through each step. The only thing I changed was where it says you need 1.5 yards, I bumped it up to 2.5 yards to help with the length of the dress (I like mind right at my knees—this, of course, is your own personal preference).

It took a little more effort than going to the store, but I now have a one-of-a-kind dress that cost little and utilized items I already had.

Tell me what you think.

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When you Want to Buy the Trend: Confessions of a Capsule Wardrobe

Back in January, I made a commitment to create a fair-trade capsule wardrobe. Here I am, over halfway through the year and I have discovered a few pitfalls. Some of these pitfalls are purely psychological–I want to shop! Others are from a lack of planning; diving straight in to this idea. However, I have learned a lot about this process over the last 7 months. Here are a few things I wrestled with and how I am working on overcoming them:

  1. Never Buy the New Trend–Ugh! This has probably been the hardest. There are so many cute trends that are out there. What can make this more difficult is the fact that so many of these trends are available through fair-trade companies. It is amazing how far the fashion industry has come. We still have a long way to go but it is encouraging to see it moving in the right direction. But the purpose of my resolution is not to only buy fair-trade but to create a capsule wardrobe. This demands of me to be intentional in my purchasing. A trend will come and go, but a capsule wardrobe will last.
  2. Moving Away from Buying the Same Thing–I must be careful with this one. I have chosen a color pallet and tried to be intentional in what I need to search for when purchasing. But suddenly, I find myself looking at only black and white t-shirts, or jeans, or moving away from patterns. This does not have to be the case with a capsule wardrobe, but I just gravitate there now. I love patterns and textures and I need to learn to embrace that even in my capsule wardrobe. I can still look like me while being thoughtful in my purchases.
  3. Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More–There are great options on where to start building a capsule wardrobe. Just search for a capsule wardrobe checklist and hundreds will pop up. I downloaded one, checked off boxes of what I had, wrote in items I wanted rather than what was on the list and had a good plan of attack. Then, I stopped. This can’t happen. When the planning stops, you lose sight of why you started. So, as fall approaches, I am working on putting more planning in place as I add pieces. I will be posting about that process later.
  4. Give Yourself Some Grace–If you are a fellow Type-A individual like myself, this can be difficult. I have learned that this process is messy. I have messed up. I get lured like everyone else by cheap prices and trendy outfits that will only last a season. But it is ok. Mistakes will be made. I have learned so much through this process that I will be sharing on another post. What I have loved: When I am giving myself a hard-time, when it is not going smooth, my tribe around me has supported and encouraged. I love it and I am thankful for it.

If you are thinking of creating a fair-trade capsule wardrobe or maybe you are thinking about starting something completely different, know that the process is messy. Embrace that mess and push on. I am rooting for you.

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Flirting with Forty

I’ll be 40 in 4 months.

I kept thinking I had more time but I sat down and did the math (yes-I sat for this kind of complex thinking) and holy moly—4 months. When I look in the mirror I don’t look 40.

Granted, I must stand at least 5 five feet away and the lighting should be slightly dim. But not too shabby.  I thought for sure I’d get to 40 with a more mature sense of humor. Surely, my 30s escorted me to a higher state of matronly thinking, but I guess that happens a decade or two down the road.

But then there are the telltale signs that 40 is encroaching.

Like the hands that are typing in front of my face. What are my mother’s hands doing on my laptop? I need to remember to lather them with sun block in the morning.

I get a little giddy when I get in my kid-less car so I can sneak in a Ted Talk or redeem my Amazon Audible credit for the month. Last week, I was at the pool in Port Aransas and looked over my book and NO ONE else was reading. I was the weirdo for reading. Everyone else had their quart-sized Yetis filled with a cold beverage of choice and I was reading Poor Economics with a lukewarm bottle of water. 40.

But I’m okay with all of this. Really. Except there are 3 BIG THINGS that have eluded me these last few decades. I won’t go into the WHY they have eluded me (cough…cough…5 kids) but I’ve had to compromise, put off, maneuver some things and I feel with four months left of my third decade—I am FINALLY in a place to FOCUS.

#1-Good-Bye Flab. Hello Fab and Fit.

I’ve been putting off working out for the last…um…39 years. I always said that I’d be in full workout mode when I was 40. So, about a month ago, I started something I said I would never do (thanks to my friend Kimby). Beachbody videos. By the way, Kimby said she would jumpstart my weeks by doing these workouts with me on Mondays but I think I scared her away with all my grunting and panting.  She flawlessly burpeed and squatted while I lingered in the back pretending to be confused by the movements just so I could catch my breath! But I am still doing the videos AND running 3-4 times a week.

So what if my 21-Day Extreme has warped into 42-Day Not-So Extreme? It’s more workout than I have EVER done in my 39 years. I think I am finally working out because I am finally getting a full night’s rest!!! So don’t worry my sleepless friend–You. Will. Get. There. Don’t beat yourself up. You are burning way too many precious brain cells with babies and toddlers and little sleep to be worrying about burning extra calories.

#2-Grow a Company in a BIG Way.

HandUp Global Goods is a result of Dan and I knowing we could do our part in confronting the orphan crisis in this world. It started from a place of compassion and mercy. But I’ve had to pick up some business know-how and it’s given me a hunger to do more. I’m discovering what a powerful catalyst commerce can be and I genuinely believe business is what is going to fund our work in Haiti. More jobs for more orphans means less orphans in the future. But for most of us, success doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve had to redefine success as puzzle pieces. I’ve managed to get several pieces in place, but there is a jumbled pile of pieces still yearning to be part of the big picture.

I’ve got 4 months to rock this puzzle out, but I confess, I’ve never been good at puzzles and I need my left-brained friends to join the fun!

#3-Forty-fied Faith in Jesus.

I love Jesus. Years ago, I thought time would have naturally woven us together in a very deep and meaningful way. But I learned there is nothing natural about abiding in Him. On the contrary, we must commit and be prepared to cling to faith even when the facts don’t add up. Our relationship STILL gets a little rocky at times. But I find rest knowing that He is still my ROCK.

I constantly lay it all out before Him only to gather it all up the next day—whatever “it” is. A prayer warrior, I am not. I want deep, abiding faith in Jesus. Period.

I’m hoping that this whole having kids out of diapers and sleeping through the night will re-ignite  that pre-children time in my life where I actually had real quiet time and cathartic journaled prayers. I’m hoping my 40s will bring in a little more wisdom and a little less recklessness.

Okay! So, I didn’t include being a good wife or mother on this list. Well–I am. A wife and mother, that is. You’ll have to ask the people living in my house if I’m “good” but I suspect that they will say “yes”. They are generous that way. Perhaps it’s my commitment to them that has kept me from The Three. Perhaps it’s something else. But please know—the struggle between wife and mother and The Three is real. Anyone who says they have hit their stride and beautifully balances profession with family and faith is a liar (or at least too good to be my friend).

Life takes constant adjustments. Give and take.

What about you? Is there something you are wanting to accomplish before your’e 40 or 50 or any other decade? Let’s help each other out!

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Fair-Trade and Giving Back All in One Purchase

July is in full swing. This weekend brought with it lots of family time, lake, swimming and fried fish! For so many reasons, I love 4th of July weekend. It is on holidays like this that remind me that I live in a place that allows me the freedom to help others around me. The items I buy fall into this category.

At HandUp, we are continuing to feature one of our own and the company they wish to highlight. Last week, Natul showed us the beautifully hand-crafted items from Serrv. This week, Gretchen has purchased cute shorts from Patagonia.

Patagonia is well known for their athletic wear. Growing from a small company that made tools for climbers, Patagonia now sells gear and clothing for all “silent sports”–from fishing, to running, to skiing and more. Their mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” They are Fair Trade Certified, give back a portion of their profit towards many different environmental groups and they use recycled polyester and organic cotton in their clothes. And, best of all, they have products for the whole family!

Check out these cute shorts on Gretchen. They are perfect for the summer and I love the sunny yellow. She is also rocking our beautiful new triple wrap from our beachy keen collection. Let me know what you think!

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Shop & Save….A Family!

Women love to shop. Even those of us who rather get our leg hairs lasered than go shopping admit it feels good to wear something fresh off the rack. It makes us feel prettier, confident and more put together.

It’s even better if that said rack has some sort of discount sign affixed to it. That much sought after shopper’s high ignites when you see the “sale” sign on THAT dress. You peek inside the back of the neck scoop and see that magic little (of course its little) number that marks your size. You look over that sweet drape of cotton/rayon goodness in approval.

Who cares if it doesn’t fit JUST RIGHT, you pretty much stole it at that price and it feels SO GOOD that you go celebrate at the Cinnabon next door. (You buy the small ones of course)!

So that Cinnabon might make the dress fit a little less than “just right” but who cares?  It was only $17.99 marked down from $30, marked down from $58. Well done faithful shopper!

This shopper’s high is experienced by millions of frugal mom shoppers who LIVE for these kind of finds. It feels good to save money AND look awesome doing it. Aside from, you know, clothing our bodies and the bodies of the littles in our homes—finding great deals make us feel like good stewards of the resources we have.

It’s the “I got it at Ross” feeling when people compliment you on your outfit and you proudly declare that you got 116 pieces for only $29. Good job mama who is trying to stretch a dollar so she can save up for that summer vacay!

But I want to ask a question.

What if you learned that the person who made that “great find” dress doesn’t make enough money to feed her three children? She leaves her 9-year-old daughter to take care of the younger two all day in her tiny makeshift home.

What if the hang tag shared this young mom’s photo and explained how close she was to giving up all three to a local orphanage hoping that her children have a chance to thrive?

Would you refrain from buying the dress?
Would you call the brand and demand they pay her more for her 10-hour shifts?

What would you do?

I know. You hate me for bringing this up. I don’t want to step in the way of your savvy shopping. I really don’t. But every garment, accessory, pair of shoes we buy has a story and chances are, it’s not one you want to hear. Because it would break your heart.

I know your intentions are good. You search for that bottom line deal because you want to save and perhaps use those savings to do meaningful things.

But is there a better way to shop?

As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of our money and we often equate that with tithing and saving. But what if we looked at shopping as a way to bless others, too?

Yes! We get things for ourselves but what if we knew that this mother of three was able to send her littles to school and keep her family together because the company she works for believes in more than just the bottom line?

Would you buy that dress and pay the full $58. Sure—you wouldn’t be able to have 29 dresses hanging in your closet but you’d have a handful that you would be proud to wear because you KNEW your purchasing power was literally saving lives FAMILIES.

I don’t know about you, but I think this sort of ethical shopping is more in line with my Christian principles.

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Proverbs 14:31

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:9

Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy….   Deuteronomy 24:14

I’m not asking you to go “radical” and blow the dust off your grandmother’s sewing machine. Homemade pillowcase dresses can only take you so far people!

I’m asking you to take a look at some alternatives. You’ll be surprised to learn how many companies are rethinking the bottom line and incorporating fair trade principles that are more socially and ecologically sustainable. I know these words don’t really mean a lot to most of us, but thinking about that single mom struggling to keep her kids should mean SOMETHING.

There is SOMETHING that all of us could do.

A million small pushes is better than ONE giant shove by one person. Let’s do this together!

Here’s a good place to start to learn about companies daring to go against fast fashion……

Want to start with the basics? Click here!

Leslie is rocking this cute shirt at a recent conference!
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Our Clothes Can Serrv The Community

Since January, I have been creating a fair-trade capsule wardrobe. It has been going well and it has made me really think before I buy. At times this has been challenging but also freeing at the same time. This concept has caught on in my HandUp Global Goods family. While not everyone is ready to dive in to the capsule wardrobe, for the month of June, each member of the HandUp Global Goods team has purchased a fair-trade item to wear.

Last week, I kicked us off with a cute top from Girl Set Free. This week, our fearless leader, Natul is sporting a cute top from Serrv (see what I did there in the title)! This bright, lightweight tunic is 100% cotton and is perfect for these very warm summer months. Serrv has a variety of tunics, dresses and breathable sweaters that is sure to match any style. Right now, you can take an extra 40% off your clothing purchases! Just typing the word sale makes me super happy!

Serrv is unique in that they are an online store that sells a little bit of everything and each of those items that they sell are fairly made by artisans around the world. Think of it like an online fair-trade utopia! It has everything from home décor, to food, to clothing and more.

Going all the way back to 1949, Serrv is one of the first companies to sell fair-trade products in the United States. They are a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization and the Fair Trade Federation. Their mission statement is simple and clear, Serrv is a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.

With 55 partnerships worldwide with various artisans, farmers and co-ops, there is something for everyone. Don’t be sad you missed a sale! Give Serrv a try today and you can sport a pretty top like Natul.

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How One Shirt can Make a Difference

Over the last year and half of blogging for HandUp Global Goods, I have come across so many amazing companies. The fashion industry, while it still has a long way to go, has made significant strides to protect their artisans. What I really love, however, is a company that not only focuses on fair and ethical sourcing but also gives back.

Girl Set Free focuses on fighting against human trafficking by working alongside many reputable human trafficking advocates. Human trafficking is just a new name for slavery, an issue that is still very much alive within all societies. With an estimated 27 million individuals in slavery today, human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes. Each purchase you make with Girl Set Free goes to stop human trafficking.

I bought this cute shirt to add to my fair-trade capsule wardrobe (read more about that here) from Girl Set Free. This super cute and soft shirt has been perfect this summer. I love the wider cap on the shoulder and the simple but beautifully stated “By Grace” on the front. The Grace Tee is perfect for a capsule wardrobe because you can easily add layers as the seasons change. It will be summer here until November, but I am looking forward to pairing it with some cute fall outfits once the weather starts to change. It is also a perfect backdrop for all my HandUp Global Goods jewelry!

Summer casual
Dress it up with a skirt and cute shoes
My favorite way is to pair it with my go-to jeans

Girl Set Free just launched a new website where they are offering all kinds of super cute and ethically made products. They have beautifully hand-woven cross-body bags, hand turned pens, and t-shirts with a message I can stand behind. I have fallen in love with the heart of this company.

Simply stated, I trusted and obeyed and have the most amazing tribe that believed in me but believed in God more and they never let me lose sight of that. Girl Set Free started with my personal redemption story. Little did I know, saying yes to hard and holy things would lead to so much freedom and healing for others. Not only for our artisan partners but for me personally. God called me to rest this year after a long season of healing and years of striving. You see, I felt my worth came from my work because I held onto lies from the enemy. It was time for me to lay that all down. I’m humbled and have cried many tears since we started this journey but the growth has been beautifully hard and I’m counting the fruit now. Ephesians 3:20 – “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to his power that is at work within us.”  -CEO Amy Kratzer

Check out their new website, purchase some amazing items and let me know what you think.