From Business to Breakfasts

We’ve heard of business meetings over breakfast, but this was no ordinary business meeting! 60 women, a lavish breakfast, and lots of enthusiasm… Through this quarterly breakfast meeting at St Nicolas Church Newbury, England, these women have become part of a business story that started in India and is growing worldwide. I began my part in this story through an On Track placement in India last year.

The desire to GO came from an ambition to serve God outside my normal working routine and I took a 6 month sabbatical from Vodafone to put my skills and faith to the test. In the 3 months working with Via Design in India, God led me to meet some wonderful people, broaden my horizons and develop me as a person.

I was introduced to Janet Rogers, founder of Via Design, through a business network. Inspired by the vision and the story so far, I wanted to make a contribution to Via’s marketing strategy utilising the marketing skills I have gained through working at Vodafone. (I hoped they would be more adaptable than the dull-looking clothes in my suitcase which were no match for the bright colours of Indian dress!)

Via partners with producers to provide design skills, business support and links to markets overseas. Profits from the products are invested in business development and in community projects to improve daily life for those employed and their families.

I met women working at the workshops of the producers in rural South India. Their lives had been changed through the opportunity to develop tailoring skills and to earn an income in a safe environment so that they can support their families. There are emotional stories behind many of these women’s faces – hardships, loneliness and courage. It’s a privilege to hear their experiences. Some women have come to a faith in Jesus, and many have found dignity and a status in their society through their work. This speaks of God’s amazing sufficiency to meet all our needs: emotional, physical and spiritual.

But a business without customers dries up. The constant challenge is to reach more customers and Via is facilitating this through links to retailers in India, and business opportunities in the UK and America. Whilst in India, I helped set out marketing plans, develop designs for an online shop, and increase sales of Via Christmas cards which enabled new business development plans to come to fruition. Thanks to a lot of prayer and teamwork!

In Newbury, the guests attending the Women’s Breakfast made a real difference to these communities in India. We shared exotic fruits, smoked salmon, croissants and coffee, and then I spoke about my experiences in India and Janet Rogers shared the vision and the inspiration behind Via Design and showed pictures of the producers, the natural world that provides the local inspiration, and the products being developed to a quality finish.

There was soon a buzz of enthusiasm around the product stall as my friends appreciated the beautiful gifts and could engage with the Via story first-hand. Silk shawls, jewellery rolls, cards, cushions and a new range of colourful tops were available to purchase. Martha Evatt’s bags, manufactured by the same producers, were also popular.

These sales bring valuable cash into the Indian businesses and into the communities represented and each purchase re-affirms the producers in their work: their handiwork is touching the lives of women in Britain looking for a spark from the Indian world of colour!

A difference is being made by and for all those who participate in this story.

New ways of doing short-term mission

When you think of On Track, Interserve’s shortterm programme, what types of placements come into your mind? Teachers, medical electives, engineers, accountants, physios? Yes, to all these! But there are so many more varied opportunities…. Have you thought of placing someone to be a chef teaching bakery skills to deaf students in Pen Asia? Or someone with circus skills working on a summer camp in Kyrgyzstan? How about using musical gifts in ethnomusicology in Pakistan? Or designing and making puppets in India?

One way of thinking outside the box is Business as Mission (BAM). Why not use your business skills in the Arab World or design websites for businesses in Central Asia? We are keen to find ways that On Track and BAM can work together, providing professional skills for a BAM project or to give a people a taste of Business as Mission.

There is no limit to what skills we can use. We need to have a wider vision and to think outside the box!

Contact Rachel Green (icot@securenym.net) or Craig (ciscan@securenym.net) for more details.