Resilience • Melissa Sevy

Summary:

“People who were not lacking in capability, but lacking an opportunity”

Artisans in the developing world have incredible, valuable skills, but limited access to global markets. From jewelry to baskets, and pottery to blankets, Melissa Sevy creates opportunities for artisans to flourish, providing jobs, fair pay work, and dignity. But it hasn’t been easy. Along the way she faced difficulty, hardship, and brick walls. Yet, her resilient nature overcomes and helped her to be there to strengthen others.

About Our Guest:

Melissa Sevy specializes in helping artisans in the developing world gain access to global markets. She is the founder and Executive Director of Mabira Collective (formerly Musana), a nonprofit working with jewelry artisans in Uganda.

She also is the Co-founder of Fair Kind a for-profit social venture. Fair Kind is a social enterprise that sources handmade products from artisan groups around the world for corporate clients. 

Her newest company is Ethik Collective, platform that enables companies to source ethical handmade goods and materials from artisans around the world.

Useful Links:

Melissa Sevy is on Twiter.

Fair Kind supports local artisans and creates a positive impact. You can buy their beautiful products directly.

Mabira Collective creates a sustainable solution based in love and breaking the cycle of dependency by helping women develop as jewelry artisans and entrepreneurs.

Ethik offers ethical sourcing of all things handmade

Grit shares that achievement is found through focused persistence called grit.

Resilience Research Center has collaborated with local, national, and international institutions for more than 15 years to carry out innovative research that explores pathways to resilience across cultures. 

About Merit Leadership

Our Business Ethics classroom in a Box focuses on developing future leaders by developing ethical skills and tools in an easy-to-use course. Providing lesson plans, exercises, and assessments that help people succeed where good intentions fall short.

Pleasant Pictures Music

Join the Pleasant Pictures Music Club to get unlimited access to high-quality, royalty-free music for all of your projects. Use the discount code HOWTOHELP15 for 15% off your first year.

Transcript
Aaron:

Hi, Melissa, are you there?

Melissa Sevy:

Hey.

Melissa Sevy:

Yeah.

Aaron Convo:

Hey, how are you?

Melissa Sevy:

Good.

Melissa Sevy:

It's fun to think back on the whole tenure.

Melissa Sevy:

This is basically at the 10 year mark decade.

Melissa Sevy:

In retrospect,

Aaron Convo:

There reaches the point where adults just reminisce

Aaron Convo:

instead of talking about the future.

Melissa Sevy:

Okay.

Melissa Sevy:

I'm not at that point yet.

Aaron Convo:

That's good.

Aaron Convo:

I doubt you'll ever get to that point.

Melissa Sevy:

Let's hope not, I want somthing to look forward to.

Aaron Narration:

Hi, I'm Aaron Miller, and this is How to Help

Aaron Narration:

a podcast about having a life and career of meaning, virtue, and impact.

Aaron Narration:

This is season one, episode six, Resilience, How to Help is sponsored

Aaron Narration:

by Merit Leadership home of The Business Ethics Field Guide.

Aaron Narration:

This is going to be an episode on how we keep going, even when, or

Aaron Narration:

especially when things get hard.

Aaron Narration:

We all want to do hard things, things that will make life better for ourselves.

Aaron Narration:

And for those we love, but hard things mean setbacks,

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disappointments, sometimes brick walls.

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How do we keep going?

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In spite of those things?

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My guest for this episode is Melissa Seavey, who specializes in helping

Aaron Narration:

artisans in the developing world, sell their products in the United States.

Aaron Narration:

This is one of those ideas that when you first encounter, it seems obviously great.

Aaron Narration:

After all travelers that come from wealthier countries, they see

Aaron Narration:

these creations, blankets, baskets, pottery, jewelry, and the like,

Aaron Narration:

and they immediately fall in love.

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Their purchase instantly becomes a treasured keepsake.

Aaron Narration:

So just import artisan and goods and they should sell like crazy.

Aaron Narration:

Right.

Aaron Narration:

Well, if you're familiar with this space, you've seen hundreds of these

Aaron Narration:

businesses struggle to grow and eventually the vast majority of them fail.

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It turns out selling artisan goods at scale means solving entirely new problems.

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Only a handful of people in the entire world have really figured this out.

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You see, it's one thing to help 20 artisans sell a thousand baskets.

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It's entirely something else to assemble a thousand weavers to sell 65,000 baskets.

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But Melissa has done that very thing and actually all just in a few months.

Aaron Narration:

Here she is telling part of that story

Melissa Sevy:

one really interesting experience that we had a couple of

Melissa Sevy:

years ago, we were working with artisans across Rwanda who are basket weavers.

Melissa Sevy:

So we were working with about 10 cooperatives.

Melissa Sevy:

And one of, one of these cooperatives, it was a women's group.

Melissa Sevy:

That was way up in this really remote village.

Melissa Sevy:

We had to take motorcycles for like an hour on this dirt road.

Melissa Sevy:

That was like a cliff on one side.

Melissa Sevy:

And we get kind of the top of this remote mountain village to meet with

Melissa Sevy:

these artisans who, had a beautiful craft and, and they were really

Melissa Sevy:

talented weavers, but lacked market access even within their own country.

Melissa Sevy:

So we sat with them and we had a spec sheet with the specifics of

Melissa Sevy:

what we required for this order.

Melissa Sevy:

And it was a, it was a traditional basket design that they were used to.

Melissa Sevy:

We made it really clear , what we needed.

Melissa Sevy:

And so they said, okay, we'll charge you this much per basket.

Melissa Sevy:

And we had done our research to understand how much materials cost and

Melissa Sevy:

how much a good living wage would be.

Melissa Sevy:

And so we knew how much would be a good price.

Melissa Sevy:

And so they proposed their price and we were like, That's way too low.

Melissa Sevy:

We bartered up with them , and I remember they just laughed.

Melissa Sevy:

We're just on this, this little hillside and they just thought it was so funny

Melissa Sevy:

that these foreigners were bartering up.

Melissa Sevy:

I'm sure they were like, you don't get how this goes to you.

Aaron Narration:

This experience was years in the making.

Aaron Narration:

Melissa got her start by managing a summer program for American

Aaron Narration:

college students and Uganda.

Aaron Narration:

The group was working on various development projects.

Aaron Narration:

The kind that.

Aaron Narration:

Often do more for the students than they do for the people that they're helping.

Aaron Narration:

Melissa has such a great way of describing what that first

Aaron Narration:

time in Africa did for her.

Melissa Sevy:

I loved about that first experience was getting to break some of

Melissa Sevy:

the Western stereotypes of Africa, I think just from media and whatever, wondering

Melissa Sevy:

if like, is this going to be safe and, you know, and, and also kind of the.

Melissa Sevy:

The type of messaging that we get from global, NGOs often that portrays

Melissa Sevy:

sadness or, or this kind of stuff.

Melissa Sevy:

And just really getting to experience people in 3d and just seeing what a rich

Melissa Sevy:

culture, a very celebratory culture.

Melissa Sevy:

And, and then I think on the other side of the coin, often I hear

Melissa Sevy:

people and, and this is especially happened as the years have gone on.

Melissa Sevy:

And I've been able to spend a lot of time abroad.

Melissa Sevy:

People will go on a short trip to a place and say, the people were just

Melissa Sevy:

so poor, but they were so happy.

Melissa Sevy:

And that too, I think it's such an oversimplification of humans that,

Melissa Sevy:

and getting to stay for that four months and getting to understand

Melissa Sevy:

the complexities of poverty.

Melissa Sevy:

And seeing really capable people who in other scenarios would be able to

Melissa Sevy:

thrive that they were not lacking in capability, but lacking an opportunity

Melissa Sevy:

and really seeing the complexities there.

Aaron Narration:

Seeing people in 3d is a phrase I plan to use on a regular basis.

Aaron Narration:

It's such a great metaphor.

Aaron Narration:

When most of us look at the big problems facing the world, we

Aaron Narration:

just see them in two dimensions.

Aaron Narration:

But real people live in the middle of these challenges.

Aaron Narration:

And if you don't understand the people with their personalities and

Aaron Narration:

idiosyncrasies, you don't really understand the problems they're facing.

Aaron Narration:

Being there makes all the difference.

Aaron Narration:

Coming to know these women made Melissa want to help them.

Aaron Narration:

So she in her companions had the idea of selling Ugandan jewelry

Aaron Narration:

back in the United States.

Aaron Narration:

Now origin stories like this become something like mythology over time,

Aaron Narration:

they're meant to inspire and amaze us almost like a pivotal moment

Aaron Narration:

in a movie that starts our hero on his or her path in real life.

Aaron Narration:

Most of these stories are fake.

Aaron Narration:

They have elements of truth for sure, but the gritty details tend

Aaron Narration:

to get polished away over time.

Aaron Narration:

Melissa has told her origin story a lot, and I love that she keeps a

Aaron Narration:

more realistic perspective on it.

Aaron Narration:

Listen to how she explains why they chose jewelry.

Aaron Narration:

As a business to help these

Aaron Narration:

. Melissa Sevy: The original idea was

Aaron Narration:

wonderful women that we got close to and thinking, how can we create something so

Aaron Narration:

they can have jobs on an ongoing basis.

Aaron Narration:

Now, where did the idea of jewelry come from?

Aaron Narration:

I wish that I could say that it was from market research and

Aaron Narration:

testing, but it was none of that.

Aaron Narration:

It literally was that we saw jewelry and we're like, Ooh.

Aaron Narration:

I like the jewelry here, let's start a jewelry organization.

Aaron Narration:

And so, and that had consequences.

Aaron Narration:

You know, we, it's kind of like we knew our, our social issue,

Aaron Narration:

but we did not know the model.

Aaron Narration:

We didn't, we didn't go deep on understanding what model we

Aaron Narration:

were going to use to sustain.

Aaron Narration:

When I talked to people that are thinking about starting a nonprofit or

Aaron Narration:

a social enterprise, making sure that they put as much emphasis on their

Aaron Narration:

sustainability model, their business model, as they do on the social

Aaron Narration:

issue that they're working to solve.

Aaron Narration:

And that's something we did not do from the beginning.

Aaron Narration:

This is where we get to the heart of this episode.

Aaron Narration:

When I decided I wanted to interview Melissa, it was largely

Aaron Narration:

because of this part of her.

Aaron Narration:

She's an incredibly resilient person.

Aaron Narration:

I wanted to understand how she kept going.

Aaron Narration:

Despite a lot of discouraging times, passion doesn't pay for groceries.

Aaron Narration:

So if you're not making enough for basic necessities, how in

Aaron Narration:

the world do you keep going?

Aaron Narration:

There's a lot of fascinating research into resilience.

Aaron Narration:

The concept has been popularized through media, including books like grit by Dr.

Aaron Narration:

Angela Duckworth.

Aaron Narration:

I highly recommend that one.

Aaron Narration:

Another great resource that I've found is the Resilience

Aaron Narration:

Research Center at Dalhousie university in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Aaron Narration:

There, Dr.

Aaron Narration:

Michael Ungar has written a manual for designing programs that build resilience

Aaron Narration:

in children, youth, and families.

Aaron Narration:

I've linked to it in the description for this episode.

Aaron Narration:

Dr.

Aaron Narration:

Ungar explains that resilience happens through three processes.

Aaron Narration:

The first is recovery, basically, as we're knocked off balance by hard

Aaron Narration:

circumstances, one way that we show resilience is by getting back on our feet.

Aaron Narration:

Something that Melissa seems to be very good at.

Aaron Narration:

I asked Melissa what motivated her to keep going when things were so hard,

Melissa Sevy:

really the first few years, myself and my two co-founders.

Melissa Sevy:

We're actually pouring quite a bit of money into it.

Melissa Sevy:

So I remember, and we had all come back and were doing full-time school or jobs.

Melissa Sevy:

And so we would get on a call once a month and say, okay, we didn't

Melissa Sevy:

make the sales we needed to, and it's time to pay our artisans.

Melissa Sevy:

So who's got.

Melissa Sevy:

A few hundred dollars.

Melissa Sevy:

And that went on for the first couple of years.

Melissa Sevy:

During that time, we generally, we were able to pay our artisans and

Melissa Sevy:

sometimes it was pretty skinny.

Melissa Sevy:

We'd take out a loan over in Uganda to be able to pay them and then do a pop-up

Melissa Sevy:

sale here to be able to pay for that.

Melissa Sevy:

But then also we didn't pay ourselves the first several years

Melissa Sevy:

I was putting in full-time work.

Melissa Sevy:

And so I had a plethora of.

Melissa Sevy:

Side hustles actually, during that time, which ranged from there was,

Melissa Sevy:

there was a time where I was teaching dance to girls in my neighborhood.

Melissa Sevy:

I put out an ad to run people's dogs for money, and I was giving

Melissa Sevy:

plasma to pay for groceries.

Melissa Sevy:

And at that point I had a graduate degree and I was in my late twenties

Melissa Sevy:

and it was really humiliating.

Melissa Sevy:

And so there was a, there was a lot going on there, um, trying to keep a float.

Melissa Sevy:

So we were not taking salaries on the U S side.

Melissa Sevy:

Something that I have learned is part of sustainability is sustaining

Melissa Sevy:

the people working on it because we were so close to burnout because

Melissa Sevy:

we just, we had the passion, but.

Melissa Sevy:

It was a struggle to pay for groceries.

Melissa Sevy:

So figuring out a more sustainable model, like it wasn't just for fun

Melissa Sevy:

or to show people that we could grow.

Melissa Sevy:

It was like, so that we could eat.

Aaron Convo:

So, I mean, talk about that for a minute, if that's

Aaron Convo:

okay, because that's when a lot, that's when most people just quit.

Aaron Convo:

I mean, like keeping Musana going during a time when you're literally giving

Aaron Convo:

away, you know, your plasma just to eat.

Aaron Convo:

I mean, what, like what in the world kept you going thinking, man, I have to stick.

Aaron Convo:

I have to stay with us instead of just saying, Hey, we made our best effort.

Aaron Convo:

It's time to move on.

Melissa Sevy:

Yeah.

Melissa Sevy:

I mean, sometimes I do wonder, you know, people say like you just persevered and

Melissa Sevy:

sometimes I'm like, or I was just dumb.

Melissa Sevy:

I dunno.

Melissa Sevy:

And I had people along the way that said you are stupid for starting this.

Melissa Sevy:

You should make your money first.

Melissa Sevy:

And then later in life, Do your social good.

Melissa Sevy:

And you know, I started questioning starting something young, but you know,

Melissa Sevy:

I knew these women and I knew their kids.

Melissa Sevy:

And I'd been to their homes.

Melissa Sevy:

And so that probably was, they felt like family.

Melissa Sevy:

And I, I felt like, okay, we have, we've brought them into this.

Melissa Sevy:

We've promised a lot.

Melissa Sevy:

And just so often in our town of Lou Ghazi, there's a lot of broken promises

Melissa Sevy:

from politicians, from people coming in, you know, visiting for a little

Melissa Sevy:

bit and saying, oh, we're going to come back and build you a school.

Melissa Sevy:

And they never come back.

Melissa Sevy:

And so I think I'd seen a lot of broken promises.

Melissa Sevy:

We'd even.

Melissa Sevy:

I remember when we talked with a group of women during the course of the summer,

Melissa Sevy:

in this kind of remote area of Uganda.

Melissa Sevy:

And they had said, I can't remember what we had, you know, we said we

Melissa Sevy:

wanted to come back and they said, you don't need to promise that people

Melissa Sevy:

tell us things like that all the time.

Melissa Sevy:

And they were referring to both, you know, their local leaders.

Melissa Sevy:

And so they're like, don't promise.

Melissa Sevy:

And so, yeah, I didn't want to be another broken promise.

Aaron Narration:

Doctor Ungar explains that an essential ingredient and

Aaron Narration:

resilience is a sense of belonging coupled with a responsibility for others.

Aaron Narration:

He says "knowing that our lives matter to others and feeling a

Aaron Narration:

sense of connection because of it is a powerful force for thriving."

Aaron Narration:

When our lives are full of challenges and our wellbeing is threatened.

Aaron Narration:

In a nutshell, that seems to be what kept Melissa going when

Aaron Narration:

she was walking dogs and selling plasma and to make it all work.

Aaron Narration:

If it had just been about her and a personal goal or dream that she

Aaron Narration:

was pursuing, it wouldn't have provided the same motivation, but

Aaron Narration:

there was no way Musana could keep going under those circumstances.

Aaron Narration:

According to Dr.

Aaron Narration:

Ungar, recovery can only last for so long.

Aaron Narration:

If things keep on being hard, resilience has to come from some other way.

Aaron Narration:

The second way it can come is through adaptation.

Aaron Narration:

This is when we change ourselves and our behaviors to accommodate

Aaron Narration:

the difficult circumstances.

Aaron Narration:

It's not about overcoming, what's hard.

Aaron Narration:

It's about adapting.

Aaron Narration:

So it's no longer hard.

Aaron Narration:

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Aaron Narration:

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Aaron Narration:

In the early years, the Musana team did make one big change by helping

Aaron Narration:

artisans begin to make jewelry that better fit American tastes.

Aaron Narration:

Styles can vary widely across the world,

Aaron Narration:

and what Musana had been producing for Ugandans didn't have the wide appeal

Aaron Narration:

in the U S that they thought it would.

Aaron Narration:

That one adaptation improved things somewhat, but it still wasn't quite

Aaron Narration:

enough to make ends meet for the founders.

Aaron Narration:

And that's when they had a fantastic idea.

Aaron Narration:

Listen to how Melissa and her partner, Linden Baker figured

Aaron Narration:

out a new way to operate.

Melissa Sevy:

We had been, we were probably six years, six, seven

Melissa Sevy:

years into Musana and had really got to know the plight of artisans.

Melissa Sevy:

And in fact, artisan craft is the second largest employer of

Melissa Sevy:

people in the developing world.

Melissa Sevy:

Second, only to agriculture.

Aaron Convo:

Wow.

Melissa Sevy:

So hundreds of millions of people engaged in traditional handcraft.

Melissa Sevy:

That's very often like a cultural preservation.

Melissa Sevy:

That's been passed down from generation to generation.

Melissa Sevy:

So very highly skilled artisan craft, and yet lacking access

Melissa Sevy:

to the Western consumer market.

Melissa Sevy:

And so understanding that situation, we started thinking broader and

Melissa Sevy:

thinking, how can we connect groups like Musana, to, to the Western market?

Melissa Sevy:

And out of that was born the concept of Fair Kind, where we, uh, started

Melissa Sevy:

in the corporate gifting space.

Melissa Sevy:

And so, especially cause we're working, working with artisans, everything

Melissa Sevy:

is handmade, it can be modified and created specifically for a company

Melissa Sevy:

with their logo and their colors.

Melissa Sevy:

Um, we launched into that space.

Melissa Sevy:

And also understanding.

Melissa Sevy:

And again, this is kind of what I was touching on earlier that we need to

Melissa Sevy:

think about the market dynamics and what's happened over the past decade is

Melissa Sevy:

companies are wanting a social cause, this kind of provided a unique way that

Melissa Sevy:

we could approach companies and say, Hey, you can be engaged in doing real

Melissa Sevy:

social good, and providing people jobs, fair pay work, dignity in their work,

Melissa Sevy:

and you don't have to donate anything.

Melissa Sevy:

You're purchasing product, using a budget you already have for gifting,

Melissa Sevy:

but making a more ethical choice.

Melissa Sevy:

And yeah.

Melissa Sevy:

And so we actually found a really, we found a really interesting market niche

Melissa Sevy:

as we worked together with them and they're able to have this great social

Melissa Sevy:

story to tell with their products, their customers love it and excited,

Melissa Sevy:

and it makes them more excited about the company that they're buying from.

Melissa Sevy:

Understanding market dynamics, harnessing those for social good.

Aaron Narration:

For adaptation to create resilience.

Aaron Narration:

It needs to be a change that is sustainable.

Aaron Narration:

It means changing yourself for your approach in a way that circumstances

Aaron Narration:

support, instead of undermine the way you heard, Melissa just described the pivot

Aaron Narration:

to Fair Kind, corporate gifting and more artisans and groups made it sound like

Aaron Narration:

it was an obvious success, but that's not how new ideas look when they first appear.

Aaron Narration:

They're exciting, but they're unproven, Melissa and Linden had to try it out.

Aaron Narration:

And that's when they came into their first big order.

Aaron Narration:

This is a great story.

Melissa Sevy:

Okay.

Melissa Sevy:

Well, this is kind of a funny story as well, and this is

Melissa Sevy:

definitely laying my cards all out.

Melissa Sevy:

If it can help anybody take the jump, but then great.

Melissa Sevy:

So I had been in Uganda working on a project with Musana and it

Melissa Sevy:

was coming up on the national elections and that typically could

Melissa Sevy:

be kind of a crazy time there.

Melissa Sevy:

It was looking like we would possibly have to stay indoors for a couple of

Melissa Sevy:

days in case there were riots and such.

Melissa Sevy:

And so I had some friends that I knew from home that were living in Rwanda

Melissa Sevy:

and they were always saying, well, though, you're so close, you know,

Melissa Sevy:

the next country over, come visit us.

Melissa Sevy:

And so I thought, oh, I don't want to spend two days inside

Melissa Sevy:

all go visit my friends down.

Melissa Sevy:

And Rhonda and I, I was going down there and I said, Hey, could you introduce

Melissa Sevy:

me to some basket weaving groups?

Melissa Sevy:

I just like, I'd seen Rwandan baskets.

Melissa Sevy:

They're beautiful.

Melissa Sevy:

My friend that lived there, he connected me to an artisan and group,

Melissa Sevy:

and I met with them and saw their beautiful craft and, and it was great.

Melissa Sevy:

And I brought a few samples home without a plan in mind.

Melissa Sevy:

Well, just.

Melissa Sevy:

A couple weeks after getting home, a friend of mine contacted me and said,

Melissa Sevy:

and he worked for a large company and he said he does musalla do baskets.

Melissa Sevy:

And that was like, yeah.

Melissa Sevy:

We started engaging in a conversation with this company.

Melissa Sevy:

And we met with this company actually for several weeks and the day they signed

Melissa Sevy:

the contract to do this large order of it turned out to be 50,000 baskets.

Melissa Sevy:

We set.

Melissa Sevy:

They said, okay, all of our executives assigned it.

Melissa Sevy:

Um, can you send us your EIN number and your, your company information?

Melissa Sevy:

We said, yeah, hold on.

Melissa Sevy:

And we went to our office and registered Fair Kind as a

Melissa Sevy:

business and sent them our EIN.

Melissa Sevy:

And we were like, I hope that they can't detect that this was a company

Melissa Sevy:

that was started 30 minutes ago.

Aaron Convo:

Yeah.

Aaron Convo:

Thank heavens they didn't go look right.

Melissa Sevy:

Yeah.

Aaron Narration:

Fair Kind as you can tell has worked out really well.

Aaron Narration:

It was an effective adaptation in the language of Dr.

Aaron Narration:

Ungar.

Aaron Narration:

Here's another beautiful story of one of their more recent projects.

Melissa Sevy:

Yeah, we have now probably worked with around 2,500 artisans

Melissa Sevy:

and some of my favorite experiences so far has been opportunities to

Melissa Sevy:

work with less established groups and really build their capacity.

Melissa Sevy:

And just earlier this year, we did a large order of handmade wool

Melissa Sevy:

dryer balls from Nepal that was made by a women's group there.

Melissa Sevy:

And then we worked with a shelter.

Melissa Sevy:

Several of my colleagues had, had worked with a shelter for women and girls that

Melissa Sevy:

have come out of sex trafficking and they have a tailoring training program.

Melissa Sevy:

As the girls are preparing to.

Melissa Sevy:

You know, leave the shelter and go back into their communities to be

Melissa Sevy:

able to have, have a source of income.

Melissa Sevy:

In the past, they've just gone out into their villages and bend

Melissa Sevy:

the, the town scenes seems stress.

Melissa Sevy:

Well, we were able to work with this shelter.

Melissa Sevy:

They have never exported a product before, and we were working with their sewing

Melissa Sevy:

graduates in five villages that were sewing these bags, they would all come

Melissa Sevy:

on buses to the, the main point in, in Katmandu where we do quality control.

Melissa Sevy:

I actually went there with a one-way ticket and I said, okay,

Melissa Sevy:

can't leave until we are able to produce 10,000 bags per week.

Aaron Convo:

Wow.

Aaron Convo:

And yeah, and so that was the goal.

Melissa Sevy:

And so it took six weeks and we were able to hit

Melissa Sevy:

that and they were high quality.

Melissa Sevy:

And now this group, and, and actually in addition to paying all of the

Melissa Sevy:

artisans that, that sewed the bags we put in, uh, A portion of the price

Melissa Sevy:

to go towards the shelter itself.

Melissa Sevy:

And so that one order was able to provide funding to sustain the shelter

Melissa Sevy:

for a year, which houses 100 girls.

Aaron Convo:

That's amazing,

Aaron Convo:

Yeah.

Aaron Convo:

And so, and now they have this capacity to create bags.

Aaron Convo:

And so we're looking for other ways that big create conference bags and,

Aaron Convo:

and they can screen print on them.

Aaron Convo:

And so.

Aaron Convo:

Again, giving companies a choice to say, Hey, we have to

Aaron Convo:

buy bags for our conference.

Aaron Convo:

Anyways, might as well make an ethical choice and source these bags

Aaron Convo:

that have more of a, a meaning and communicate that to our audience.

Aaron Narration:

This story tells us about the third path to

Aaron Narration:

resilience it's described by Dr.

Aaron Narration:

Ungar.

Aaron Narration:

It happens through transformation instead of recovering to keep going, we're

Aaron Narration:

adapting to better meet our circumstances.

Aaron Narration:

We become more resilient by changing the conditions around us.

Aaron Narration:

That's what Melissa is doing now.

Aaron Narration:

In fact, she's helping entire organizations change in a way that lasts.

Aaron Narration:

At the time of our interview.

Aaron Narration:

I caught Melissa at the cusp of a new venture.

Aaron Narration:

The idea is fascinating, but when you listen, look for the three

Aaron Narration:

paths to resilience, recovery, adaptation, and transformation.

Aaron Narration:

They're all in this next moment of our interview.

Melissa Sevy:

Yeah.

Melissa Sevy:

So I'm kind of going even more narrow.

Melissa Sevy:

So with Fair Kind, we've been doing primarily our messaging is a

Melissa Sevy:

corporate gifting and I'm looking to do solely ethical sourcing.

Melissa Sevy:

And so that's not a super established phrase, but I want to make it one.

Melissa Sevy:

What, what really excites me is this greater message that goes beyond what

Melissa Sevy:

I'm able to do with the, the rise again, in the past decade, really of.

Melissa Sevy:

CSR corporate social responsibility.

Melissa Sevy:

A lot of it has been companies will make their money and then

Melissa Sevy:

donate some of it to charity.

Melissa Sevy:

And what ethical sourcing is doing is saying, Hey, look at what

Melissa Sevy:

you're purchasing and think about how you can make more ethical

Melissa Sevy:

choices in your purchasing.

Melissa Sevy:

And that in itself creates more embedded impact, you know, impact that.

Melissa Sevy:

At that grows as your company grows, that's not an afterthought.

Melissa Sevy:

That's not disconnected from what you're doing.

Melissa Sevy:

That's embedded in what you're doing.

Melissa Sevy:

I, I really think that if every company could even be like 1% more ethical in

Melissa Sevy:

their sourcing, that could move the dial on poverty and opportunity for

Melissa Sevy:

people around the world, because so much of what we're sourcing is coming

Melissa Sevy:

from societies that are underdeveloped.

Aaron Convo:

I love it.

Aaron Convo:

It's a fantastic idea.

Aaron Convo:

I'm excited to see where you take it.

Melissa Sevy:

Me too, here goes nothing.

Aaron Convo:

That's right.

Aaron Convo:

I mean, so that last thing you said here goes nothing that feels

Aaron Convo:

like, I mean, in the years that I've known you for a long time now.

Melissa Sevy:

Yeah.

Aaron Convo:

I mean, that seems to be your instinctive reaction to these

Aaron Convo:

things here goes nothing, right?

Melissa Sevy:

Yeah.

Melissa Sevy:

You know, I, I find that.

Melissa Sevy:

That comes from a place of privilege because, you know, even

Melissa Sevy:

in my, what I can call my poor years where I was doing plasma and

Melissa Sevy:

running dogs to pay for groceries.

Melissa Sevy:

I know, I have never experienced true poverty.

Melissa Sevy:

Like I always had safety nets.

Melissa Sevy:

I had family that could help me.

Melissa Sevy:

And that did help me.

Melissa Sevy:

I even at one point sold my sewing machine to my parents,

Melissa Sevy:

so that could pay for groceries.

Melissa Sevy:

And I now have a sewing machine again that I bought.

Aaron Convo:

Oh, that's great.

Melissa Sevy:

But it's been really cool to see.

Melissa Sevy:

And particularly with our artisans in Uganda, who now, some of them I've known

Melissa Sevy:

for a decade, seeing them as they come out of kind of the shroud of poverty.

Melissa Sevy:

Being able to think creatively and being able to be less risk averse.

Melissa Sevy:

And, and actually this played out in the beginning with when we started

Melissa Sevy:

Musan we had this idea that it would just be kind of a rotating door that

Melissa Sevy:

people would come in for a couple of years, get on their feet and then

Melissa Sevy:

rotate out, start their own businesses.

Melissa Sevy:

And we'd have new people come in, but we realized that they were scared to death.

Melissa Sevy:

After just a couple of years of stability to have to go back to instability.

Melissa Sevy:

But as women have gained confidence and had that stability for a few years,

Melissa Sevy:

we see them start to take risks of starting their own businesses on their

Melissa Sevy:

own and, and being able to, to be creative because they're not worried

Melissa Sevy:

about putting food on the table.

Melissa Sevy:

And so that's kind of all woven together, opportunity and creativity.

Aaron Narration:

You can tell why I admire Melissa so much.

Aaron Narration:

Isn't that a powerful insight that creativity and

Aaron Narration:

opportunity come hand in hand.

Aaron Narration:

Our moments of resilience shape us, and they prepare us to do

Aaron Narration:

harder things, but they necessarily come from tough experiences.

Aaron Narration:

I asked Melissa to tell me about one of her toughest

Aaron Narration:

failures of the last 10 years.

Melissa Sevy:

I remember this was a few years in with.

Melissa Sevy:

With Musan.

Melissa Sevy:

We did a couple of years of fundraising galas.

Melissa Sevy:

These were huge productions.

Melissa Sevy:

Actually.

Melissa Sevy:

We were, we had 30 volunteers that we were managing, and so we kind

Melissa Sevy:

of made them a really big deal.

Melissa Sevy:

And for both times we flew out one of our artisans to speak.

Melissa Sevy:

And so they turned out to you.

Melissa Sevy:

Really wonderful productions, but it really like took over my life.

Melissa Sevy:

And several of us that were working on it for like six months and we just put

Melissa Sevy:

our heart and soul, we weren't sleeping.

Melissa Sevy:

We were, you know, we were getting the media involved in all this.

Melissa Sevy:

And I remember after the second year, We had a fundraising goal and it was big.

Melissa Sevy:

It was, you know, like a hundred thousand dollars and we're like, then

Melissa Sevy:

we can build our workshop in Uganda and we can have some money in the bank

Melissa Sevy:

too, to be able to invest in strategy.

Melissa Sevy:

And at the end of the night, and it was this.

Melissa Sevy:

Beautiful night.

Melissa Sevy:

We had one of our artisans.

Melissa Sevy:

That's HIV positive.

Melissa Sevy:

That's this woman that has this incredible story.

Melissa Sevy:

And she spoke from the heart and people were in tears and it was just,

Melissa Sevy:

you know, everything was beautiful.

Melissa Sevy:

The food was wonderful.

Melissa Sevy:

And at the end of the night, we looked at our fundraising and

Melissa Sevy:

it was about a quarter of that.

Melissa Sevy:

And especially when we took out expenses and that night, and I was talking to my

Melissa Sevy:

dad and I just started balling and he was like, but Melissa, You know, you had a

Melissa Sevy:

hundred people here that had an incredible experience that were moved and touched.

Melissa Sevy:

And I remember saying, dad, I am not in the business of inspiring

Melissa Sevy:

people, I'm trying to put food on the table for my women in Uganda.

Melissa Sevy:

I'm not trying to give people warm fuzzies.

Melissa Sevy:

I'm trying to create a sustainable organization.

Melissa Sevy:

And that helped us to really pivot and think we've got to get

Melissa Sevy:

really serious about strategy.

Aaron Narration:

We'll finish with this last story and this one, isn't actually

Aaron Narration:

about Melissa, but it's an experience that she had this precious to her.

Aaron Narration:

Funny enough though.

Aaron Narration:

It's another story about resilience.

Aaron Narration:

It's about two women jewelry artisans and Uganda named Eve and sissy.

Aaron Convo:

Imagine being relive a moment from the last 10 years.

Aaron Convo:

What moment would it be?

Melissa Sevy:

This was a really beautiful moment that sticks in my memory.

Melissa Sevy:

And I think stuck in my memory, especially through some of those more challenging

Melissa Sevy:

years, two years into Musana I was supposed to be there for a month, checking

Melissa Sevy:

on a project and ended up extending my flight out and staying for eight months.

Melissa Sevy:

Broke up with my boyfriend over the phone said I'm not coming home.

Melissa Sevy:

I had to have my parents come and move me out of my apartment

Melissa Sevy:

because I had not prepared.

Melissa Sevy:

I had not planned on staying that long, but during that time we were

Melissa Sevy:

able to stay and see that this was something that was worth growing.

Melissa Sevy:One of our artisans, who in:Melissa Sevy:

come and wash clothes for our group.

Melissa Sevy:

She was very shy.

Melissa Sevy:

She wouldn't really look you in the eye.

Melissa Sevy:

She didn't speak any English.

Melissa Sevy:

So we didn't, we didn't really verbally communicate a lot, but she

Melissa Sevy:

was just around our house a lot, and we really enjoyed having her,

Melissa Sevy:

but I came back two years later.

Melissa Sevy:

And as she'd been in Musana for two years, she could speak English.

Melissa Sevy:

She was just this.

Melissa Sevy:

Bright force to be reckoned with very, very funny.

Melissa Sevy:

She, they call her like the Malala, which means the crazy one.

Melissa Sevy:

She's like the life of the party among our cohort.

Melissa Sevy:

I remember at one point we had a new artisan and coming to the

Melissa Sevy:

moose on a team and as was custom, everybody would sit in a circle.

Melissa Sevy:

And introduce themselves to each other.

Melissa Sevy:

And I remember I was sitting next to Eve and when it got to sissy, the new

Melissa Sevy:

girl, she just started crying and she was speaking in the local language.

Melissa Sevy:

So I asked Eve what she was saying, and he told me she's, she's saying that.

Melissa Sevy:

Life's been so difficult that her husband left her with two small children

Melissa Sevy:

before this, her work was carrying large vats of water for eight hours a day.

Melissa Sevy:

She just said life's been really hard.

Melissa Sevy:

And I just remember Eve turned to me and with a very reflective tone, she

Melissa Sevy:

said, I remember I remember feeling like her and, and, you know, I

Melissa Sevy:

remembered Eve in that time as well.

Melissa Sevy:

And then Eve went over and said something to sissy.

Melissa Sevy:

And when she came back, I asked her what she told her.

Melissa Sevy:

And in essence, she had said, girl, you have no reason to cry anymore.

Melissa Sevy:

You're with us.

Melissa Sevy:

You're going to be just fine.

Melissa Sevy:

That moment of seeing kind of full circle, what can happen in the life of

Melissa Sevy:

someone to given a little opportunity.

Melissa Sevy:

That's the moment that I reflect on a lot.

Aaron Convo:

This story is why this all matters.

Aaron Convo:

If we have no other reason to be more resilient, it can just be that

Aaron Convo:

we're there to strengthen others.

Aaron Convo:

Dr.

Aaron Convo:

Ungar says that resilience is as much about what we have as what we think.

Aaron Convo:

And so I hope this episode has provided some new ways to think about

Aaron Convo:

the problems that you're tackling.

Aaron Convo:

So take courage and know that you're not alone.

Aaron Convo:

You can do it many.

Aaron Convo:

Thanks to Melissa Sevy for sharing her hard-earned wisdom and experiences.

Aaron Convo:

If you're interested in any of the products that are produced

Aaron Convo:

by her artisans, you can find them linked in the show notes.

Aaron Convo:

Also they're links for you to learn more about how your business can find

Aaron Convo:

gifts and other products with an impact.

Aaron Convo:

If you enjoy how to help, please take a moment to give us a positive

Aaron Convo:

review in your podcast app.

Aaron Convo:

It really helps us to reach more listeners.

Aaron Convo:

Also be sure to subscribe so you can get future episodes automatically.

Aaron Convo:

Our next episode is all about creativity.

Aaron Convo:

And often misunderstood ability.

Aaron Convo:

I'm really excited about this episode.

Aaron Convo:

Our expert guide will be Andrew Maxfield, who among other things is a choral

Aaron Convo:

composer and author and an entrepreneur.

Aaron Convo:

He's also one of the most deliberately creative people that I know.

Aaron Convo:

I promise that you'll end up with all kinds of practical advice

Aaron Convo:

on how to be more creative, to stay up to date with How to Help.

Aaron Convo:

I recommend our weekly newsletter, each email highlights, high impact

Aaron Convo:

organizations, and shares a thought on how you can have more meaning in your work.

Aaron Convo:

You can find it @how-two-help.com.

Aaron Convo:

We're grateful as always to Merit Leadership who sponsors our podcast

Aaron Convo:

and our production team, which included Cyndi Hall, Travis Stevenson,

Aaron Convo:

yours truly, and Eric Robertson, who did the editing and the music.

Aaron Convo:

Our music comes from the Pleasant Pictures, music club.

Aaron Convo:

If you want to use their music in your projects, you can find a link

Aaron Convo:

and a discount code in the show notes.

Aaron Convo:

Finally, as always.

Aaron Convo:

Thank you so much for listening.

Aaron Convo:

I am Aaron Miller and this has been How to Help.

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