I ended last year totally fatigued and feeling totally blessed with the success of our Founder’s Circle and a growing and thriving sewing apprenticeship program for our womenswear. We surpassed our goal of 10 Founder’s Circle women and the number is growing as additional women learn about our work. This success has given us an amazing opportunity to test out and refine our custom womenswear process to create an outstanding garment and an outstanding experience. Over the years various advisors have talked to me about the minimum viable product. I always got stuck thinking – well, what if the blouse is nice but it is in an ugly plastic bag in a box without any personal touches. What if the person who receives such a blouse feels no connection to us and what we are making them? So I recently started thinking instead about the minimum viable product, process and experience. That is what I needed to create. It is not just about an item of clothing. Our work is about respecting and valuing our customers and connecting them to the workshop behind their clothing.

With the Founder’s Circle that is what we are doing – creating the minimum viable product, process and experience with women who care about whether we succeed – they are invested in our success, they provide us advice to make it better and better and they take ownership of that success with us. So I need to take a moment and honor how grateful we are to look out over 2022 and have the support to keep training women to sew beautiful garments, to custom make those garments for women, and to have so much opportunity to keep making it better until we can knock it out of the ballpark together and take it to new communities of women who will come to love it.

And the second thing that is on my mind as we enter 2022 is our workshop space. I have grappled with what to do about a workspace for months. We have been very blessed to share our instructor Lisa Lambert’s workspace for several months now. And yet we are faced with the prospect of setting up two industrial machines alongside a large cutting table and ironing board and 40 some client patterns and needing to share our work with visitors (in real life and virtual). Though I have been very frugal with this work – knowing that I can make the money go further that way – I realize the time has come to invest in a space. We are blessed at how reasonable the space is – for a few hundred more dollars a month we can have a workshop that people can visit, where the space is set up to be as efficient as possible for our small team, where everything is organized and we can work in an environment right on Mercer St. that allows us to think and work expansively.

We will begin moving in early this year. It will be a big effort – with the Founder’s Circle virtual measurement sessions, apprenticeship training, pattern alterations etc. occurring right alongside our work to move into this workspace. But it is going to be huge. We will feel like a team with a space to gather. We will get to share more of our work and bring it out of boxes and folders and drawers. The imagined workshop – the heart of the vision – will become a real thing. And then who knows what will happen. One thing’s for sure – we will make blouses.

Happy New Year. I am so grateful for your support.

Go, fight, win.