Interning with Secret Projects: Fi's Story! From Tooting to India... Working life with Secret Projects!



“Feminism is not about making women strong. Women are already strong. It is about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” – G.D Anderson

I have recently returned to the UK after 6 months working for Secret Projects India in Bengaluru. It was a lifechanging experience that has taught me so much about myself, human interactions, the sheer determination of women, the power of the global sisterhood, business for freedom and so so much more.

Having worked for Secret Projects in London for over a year, to finally meet the Makers whom I had heard so much about and to see the impact that the social business is having was so important to me. For 6 months I lived right next to the Secret Projects’ Training Support Unit and main office in a suburb in Northern Bengaluru. I lived and breathed Secret Projects and experienced what can only be described as ‘backstage India’.

My day-to-day life was so incredibly varied, with no day going completely to plan due to the wonderful and exciting unpredictability that is India! My tasks included audiovisual documentation of our Makers and their stories of empowerment, as well as carrying out interviews in order to measure impact and keep the connection between our Makers and our customers alive. I spent a significant amount of time in the workshop developing products and organising fabrics and materials for production and meeting with Makers in order to check on their progress and answer any queries.

I travelled far and wide in Bengaluru meeting stockists and connecting with other like minded brands, organisations and individuals in order to promote ethical production in the city. I also travelled beyond Bengaluru with my right-hand woman and Indian adoptive mother Lissy, Secret Projects’ meticulous and dedicated Quality Controller. We visited our Maker Groups in Hindupur and in the Nilgiris mountains to distribute materials and to lead training sessions on new products. These sessions were always incredibly motivating. We were always welcomed with such warmth and absolute eagerness to learn.

A highlight of my time in India was traveling to the northeast to the state of West Bengal. This being my first time in India, West Bengal was a completely different world to the South Indian experience that I had become familiar with in my first couple of months in the country. There, I met and spent time getting to know the inspirational Molly who runs a Secret Projects sewing unit in Canning Town, two hours outside of Kolkata. Molly is a talented seamstress and is utterly dedicated to the other Makers in her unit. She has built up a special safe space full of chatter and laughter and friendship, providing the vulnerable young women who attend the unit with so much more than training in dressmaking.

The Makers became my closest friends while in India: I spent time in their homes, I ate with them, I got to know their families, I went to the market with them, I was invited to their festival celebrations and birthday parties. Their warmth and compassion towards me was overwhelming. For me, this was the most amazing privilege of my role with Secret Projects: simply being human with these women and building beautiful friendships. The women showed me how every wound can heal and how every individual can rise up to claim their full worth and break into their fullest expression despite conflicting constraints around them. I have left a significant piece of me in India with these strong women.

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We have a vacancy for a Production Manager - India based.

We have a vacancy for a Production Manager - India based.

We are currently recruiting for a Production Manager to be based in our Production Support Unit in Bengaluru, South India. This is an exciting . . . development for us as an organisation. To read the full job description and details of how to apply, please click here. Working with Secret Projects is so much more than a job. By joining our utterly dedicated team, you will play an important role as we work hard to realise our vision of a world where all women have the confidence and resources to make choices, thrive and contribute to the strengthening of their communities. No one team member is more important than another... It's a chance to use your skills and expertise to create a fairer world, as well as developing new ones as our business moves forward and grows.
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Secret Projects Community Benefit Society - first ever Special General Meeting.

Secret Projects Community Benefit Society - first ever Special General Meeting.

The first meeting of Shareholders of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society took place on Friday 24th July 2020 via Zoom, chaired by Secret . . . Projects Global CEO, Fritha Mason. Presentations were given by Fritha, Secret Projects Company Secretary and Finance and Operations Director, Banke Ajayi, Country Director for Secret Projects subsidiary company, Social Power India, Nirmala Rani, Communications Manager, Margaret Ring and our Indian Subsidiary Compliance and Tax Consultant, Sneha Shah. We admit to practising many times beforehand, supporting each other and giving feedback, which meant that we were all feeling as relaxed as we could be as the meeting commenced and actually really enjoyed the entire process! We would like to say an enormous and heart-felt thank you to all our Shareholders who attended and to those who sent their apologies. A recording was taken of the meeting that will be sent to all Shareholders. One of the key messages of the meeting was to advise Shareholders that their Shareholder Letter (a confirmation of shares purchased) and EIS certificates have been emailed to all and to ask anyone who has not received theirs to get in touch with us at: invest@secretprojects.org and we will arrange for it to be re-sent and confirm email addresses etc. We had some wonderful feedback from the Shareholders who attended; Thanks for that meeting - really good! I am proud to be a part of your organisation!!! As always, when something happens for the first time, it's often a great learning curve and indeed, we did learn a number of things that we would like to share here... We aren’t great at time zones! We are going to put a new system in place, asking Shareholders to confirm receipt of our emails, to determine if any aren't getting through. The majority of our investment communications are sent via Mailchimp, but we will also send emails to all Shareholders alongside this again, asking for confirmation of receipt. Going forward, we will also post on our social media channels when official Shareholder messages have been sent, asking Shareholders to check their emails, including junk folders. From now on, we will ask Shareholders to confirm whether they will be attending meetings or not. It was pretty nail biting wondering how many would be attending, as we need a minimum core of 10% of Shareholders - luckily, we did achieve this (and a little more!) A full wrap up of the meeting was sent out on Monday following the meeting, including a wish list of ways our Shareholders can help our business thrive… It's a lovely list, so we have repeated it here. Get to know us better by reading our monthly e-newsletter With Heart Head to our new website and read about the various ways Indian NGOs, Universities, Schools and Community Groups can work with us Find out the many different and creative ways people can help drive our social business by visiting our How can I help? section of our new website. And... last but by no means least, consider increasing your investment or joining our Social Investment Core by providing us with a loan. We had a number of really interesting questions to answer - we weren't surprised to receive these, as our Shareholders are such a committed bunch of people! Question 1 Can Secret Projects introduce a system for Shareholders to forgo interest to further support you? Banke: A resounding yes! We are putting this system in place. Question 2 Can the 'Business Dec' (a presentation we are currently working on to support our approaches to Social Responsibility Departments of big businesses), Fritha spoke about during the meeting be shared, as Shareholders may have ideas and contacts? Fritha: Yes, we would absolutely love to hear our Shareholders ideas and will share the presentation separately. If anyone has any contacts they feel may be interested in hearing from us, please do let us know. Question 3 How long do we envisage the postal issues affecting India for? Fritha and Nirmala: Our Fulfilment Officer in India, Rozario, recently asked staff at the Post Office when they envisaged the post being back on track and was told August 1st - but we have had similar answers for the last couple of months! We are going to add 'Speed Post' to our website that will mean we will be able to post to the UK and the US, but at a premium price, should our customers wish to buy Secret Products and pay this additional cost in support. We can post to a few other countries in South Asia, for example South Korea and Thailand, but unfortunately we are still not able to post to the majority of countries. We are constantly in touch with the Post Office to keep abreast of the latest situation. Question 4 When do we hope to begin expanding our network of Maker Groups again? Fritha and Nirmala: We set up a WhatsApp group for our Makers right at the onset of lockdown and are hearing from some of them, asking us when we are going to be able to begin production once more. We are also in the process of getting in touch with Makers that we haven't heard from during lockdown to establish contact.  Many women travelled to be with their families in other parts of India, or due to lack of income, do not have any 'phone credit, but we are determined to get in touch and will keep persisting. Throughout lockdown we have worked hard to really strengthen our bases, so we can reach our Makers and further groups of women living remotely under any circumstances. We believe that our strong partnerships with Indian NGO's and our newly created Virtual Training for Empowerment Programme will help us achieve this and we are waiting for lockdown to end to cement our plans and begin making headway with our new systems.  Question 5 Can Secret Projects post goods to the Middle East, as there is a large community living there who have strong ties to India? Fritha: Yes! Anything is possible and we will be in touch to discuss this in more detail to get information and ask for advice and guidance about how to achieve this.Thank you for the suggestion! Question 6 Is there a minimum amount for investment? Banke: The minimum investment amount is £50. As always we can answer any further questions at invest@secretprojects.org We can’t wait for the next Shareholder meeting….  
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Secret Projects Social Investor Core Loan - a loan that empowers women in India and supports leadership.

Secret Projects Social Investor Core Loan - a loan that empowers women in India and supports leadership.

In March this year we had to completely halt sales of our Secret Products as the effects of Covid-19 took hold and countries around the world went . . . into lockdown, something we were so sad about, but our main concern was for the safety our Makers and Team, so it was absolutely the right course of action. As lockdown begins to tentatively ease, we are now in the process of throwing ourselves into planning for our autumn/winter sales and, of course, as an international retailer for Christmas, Diwali and Thanksgiving. It's exciting to be making these plans - our creative juices are flowing and we can't wait to begin selling our wonderful products, made so lovingly by our Makers and telling the story of Secret Projects once again. We became aware that we needed to find a solution to help us bridge the gap that has happened as a result of not being able to sell our merchandise for the last few months and, we have decided to open up our Social Investor Core Loan.  Secret Projects Social Investor Core is a group of passionate and committed social investors that Secret Projects has borrowed funds from, offering a competitive interest rate on these loans in return. Over the last four years, we have been able to borrow £37,000 from this core group and have repaid £21,000 of the money borrowed at maturity date with interest. We would now like to open this up to other social investors who share our vision of a world where all women have the confidence and resources to make choices, thrive and contribute to the strengthening of their communities. The loan terms are: Loan Period - 3 years Interest rate - 3% interest per annum. Minimum loan - £500 Interest will be paid yearly, but an investor can choose to have their interest rolled over to the following year. These loans have made a huge difference to the impact we have been able to make in India. Using the precious money wisely we have been able to create more Maker Groups to give women an opportunity to not only earn a good and fair income, but to also have an opportunity to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills through our 4 stage Training for Empowerment Programme. If you would like to help bridge the gap and loan us money, or want to discuss our Social Investor Core Loan in more detail please email invest@secretprojects.org
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 19th Oct 2019
 Fritha Mason

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