After a year of being together, El Rosal (rose bush) is now stronger than ever and looking toward the future. What started out as an unemployed women’s mutual support circle quickly expanded to offering themselves and other women like them introductory sewing courses. After several months of offering these drop in classes–made possible by Belen Bryant of the Carroll Ave YMCA Community Center who lent us meeting space–the core group had served nearly 40 women in the neighborhood for whom the weekly class was a much needed refuge from the daily isolation of their lonely apartments.
However, with constant turnover of participants, it was difficult to know if they were really making progress toward their goal of honing their craft of sewing to the point that it could serve as a source of income. Especially when crisis hit several of the core members of the group, they felt added pressure to quickly prove the practical value of their new found hobby. In addition, the original teacher was so bogged down with her work at a sewing studio that her schedule rarely allowed her to join the group. So, somewhat frustrated with how much energy they had put in and how little they had to show for it, they took a much deserved break over the summer.
But, all having kids at the same school and living within blocks of each other, they couldn’t help but stay in close communication. They continued to baby sit each other’s kids, see each other at weekly school-sponsored parent coffees and occasionally run into each other at IMPACT events for which they were paid to cater the meal or watch the participants’ kids. And then Chris Lancette and Won-ok Kim of Orion’s Attic founded the Flower Avenue Holiday Market in mid November and everything started to change…
Two of the members of the original sewing circle first got involved with the weekly market selling Mary Kay products they had lying around their house. After not making any sales the first two weeks, they got in touch with a man–with years of experience as a tailor–they met at an IMPACT Neighbors Exchange who had offered to instruct them on making house hold items. With the County bag tax around the corner, we agreed re-usable bags would be the perfect product to begin with. With his help, they made one in the basement of the Cyber Web Latino–their de facto workshop–and on a whim laid it on their table the following Saturday at the market. When two people saw the bags and liked them and what the group was doing so much that they ordered 8 more, the women knew they were on to something.
They spent the next week pumping out eight more bags, which they brought to the market and were asked to make 10 more. Knowing they needed additional and more experienced hands on machines if they were to meet the demand, they invited back their original teacher to save the day–who had only weeks before quit her seamstress gig where hours were too long. Over the holidays they spent nearly 8 hours every day in their basement workshop experimenting making different bag designs and improving/organizing the space. They invited one additional neighbor and long time friend who had professional experience sewing in El Salvador and just like that, they were 5! The five women of El Rosal taking Long Branch and Silver Spring by storm!
The women now spend most of their time together in the basement work shop–which they are now paying $500 monthly to the owner of the Cyber Cafe. The other day LEDC even visited the ladies at the work shop to offer a three hour course on how to best strengthen and grow their micro-business.
The women are meeting weekly to plan for the upcoming week and divvy up any earnings from the previous week. They even made one loan of $525 to one member who’s husbands’ pay check had been delayed by a week and therefore she was left with no money to pay rent. Just as she said she would (and signed in a hand written agreement with the group), she paid the entire loan back within 10 days. The micro loan was just enough to allow her to avoid paying steep late charges on her rent that she might not have been able to afford.
While mostly hard at work in the shop, on occasion they find time to hit the town with their product. Most notably, they showed up in force to Ike’s down-county budget hearing and presented him his very own reusable bag so that he could avoid paying the bag tax that he himself helped get passed.
They are currently looking forward to holding an open house launch party February 18 and then offering night courses the following week. They are always willing to meet and have you custom design your own bag or clothes or drop off an alteration project. Their prices are more than reasonable, their product is as local as you get, and their determination is greater than ever. Join the movement. Go Green. Go Local. GO LONG BRANCH!!!
Check out some of their products and call me at 814-506-4543 if interested in purchasing or with any questions about services offered.