If you’re living, you’re changing. Trees know it; so does Heart House. Versatility and flexibility are imperative for Heart House to not only survive but also to continue into the future. So we’re making some changes in product design.
Heart House Handicrafts was established in 1972 to help indigent war widows of Bangladesh’s War for Independence. Those first women learned doll-making procedures. People were delighted with the exquisite cultural dolls and bought them all. Finally those women could earn money and feed their families. That was 42 years ago. A lot has happened in country and internationally since then.
At Heart House, a few things do remain the same: Independent living through “Income Generation” is AOB’s goal for widowed or physically disabled women. At-risk women are still trained in truly remarkable handicraft skills, art and design.
But Heart House isn’t just about handicraft design. Can we market our products and earn enough for these women to thrive? In the summer of 2014, Heart House invited Master’s College international business students to join us, assess procedures, and analyze costs. They affirmed our fears: Heart House was nearing bankruptcy because, despite consistent diligent work, we can’t sell the dolls at production-cost. Though the women were selling 300+ dolls each month, we were financially in the red.
In addition to doll-making, Heart House workers crochet and embroider, and many of them can sew. Heart House’s tailoring department already annually sews 250 uniforms for AOB employees. So Heart House supervisor and board members have been discussing using our handicraft skills to meet community needs. They’ve talked with school head-masters and church leaders. They’re looking at best-selling items. They want to connect with felt needs.
As marketing expert Seth Godin says, “In the connection economy, there's a dividing line between two kinds of projects: those that exist to create connections, and those that don't…When you tell us about your business, tell us first how it's going to help us connect. The rest will take care of itself.”
And so the plan is developing... Heart House’s tailoring department is training other women in sewing, with plans to tailor school uniforms for our neighborhood children, and to sew diapers and baby outfits for MCH’s newborns. Intricate crochet-work and embroidery on trendy, new colors will be added to best-selling hand-bags and hand-fans. One team of doll-makers will continue making the simpler of the dolls, which everyone likes.
We’re smiling as we look into the future. Yes, Heart House is changing, but it’s still alive and growing. The rest will take care of itself.