How our project works
Secret Pillow Project tells a story about a group of women on an empowerment journey. They are able to be on this journey thanks to existing and potential customers who pre-order SAMPLE Secret Pillows. For every 3 pre-orders, another woman can be invited to attend a workshop and enter the 4 stages of empowerment offered by the project.
Stage 1 - Training and SAMPLE production
- Secret Pillow Project engages with customer bases, explaining the importance of working with new groups of women. Secret Pillow Project tells the women’s stories and asks its customers to pre-order SAMPLE Secret Pillows. The money it receives covers some of the cost of running an empowerment workshop and ensures the products are pre-sold. This means the women can participate at minimal risk.
- Secret Pillow Project runs an empowerment workshop which teaches women how to safely make a secret pillow to exacting standards.
- Secret Pillow Project pays each woman an advance of 33% of the sale price so that they can buy the materials to make their first sample pillow, with a guarantee that Secret Pillow Project will sell the pillow.
- On collection, Secret Pillow Project pays a further 17% per pillow to the producer.
- The pillows are shipped back to the UK and sent out to waiting customers (all sample secret pillows are sold as pre-orders).
- After the women’s SAMPLE pillows have undergone rigorous quality control checks, the groups move on to Stage Two of Secret Pillow Project's empowerment model.
- Groups begin to make Secret Pillows which are sold at 25% more than sample pillows.
- These pillow are held by Secret Pillow Project as ‘In Stock’ pillows (i.e. they are not pre-ordered by customers). As such, the women do not receive their income from the pillow sales until the pillows are sold.
- The women are given cotton printed with Secret Pillow designs as well as the wadding interior. This ensures that 'In Stock' Secret Pillows are sold as collections, designed especially for the western market and made from good quality materials.
- When sold, the women receive 14% of the price of the pillow. Additionally, they have not had to pay for the materials to produce them.
Stage 3 - Development
- The women’s group is supported to develop a sustainable future through entrepreneurial activities that the women choose.
- The women’s groups begin to empower other women in their communities through making and selling SAMPLE Secret Pillows.
- Women are able to access a loan from the project at a low interest rate to pay for their own training (i.e. to improve their tailoring skills) and to upgrade machinery (i.e. to buy an overlocking machine).
- Women receive 10% of the sale price of their pillows at this stage.
Stage 4 - Independence and Diversification
- Women begin to develop more skills, help each other, and diversify their product ranges.
- Women branch out and make new products or offer services to local businesses or other international suppliers.
- Women receive 7.5% of the sale price of their pillows at this stage. This price is benchmarked against another well-known ethical Indian producer, Fab India.
- Women can continue to stay at this stage for as long as they wish to.
Note the diminishing returns payable to the women for producing the pillows: This is fundamental to the Secret Pillow Project’s model of empowerment. The initial amount received by the women for their SAMPLE Secret Pillow is very high; this is a reflection of the time the women have invested to get to the stage where they are skilled enough to produce their first sample pillow. If we continued to pay at this level there would be no incentive for women to reach Stage 4 of the empowerment path. They would not progress and we would be unable to widen our reach.
By offering a diminishing return as the women’s skills increase, we encourage the groups to become self-sustaining and find other routes to local markets with their products. The price the women will get at Stage 4 is still very competitive, but since it is not as great as the level paid at Stage 1, it will mean that the skilled and empowered women will look to diversify their income and in turn, the Secret Pillow Project will be in a position to offer opportunities to more women.