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TRANSCEND THE SUFFERING

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CHAT OVER CHAI

BREAKING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE :
TRANSCEND THE SUFFERING

A lot of us think about turning our passion into our day jobs.
I did it. I’m a mission driven entrepreneur, and in real terms I’m truly living my dream.

But being an entrepreneur is also really, REALLY difficult.
+ I want you to know that, sometimes, not feeling ok is ok.

HOWEVER! Before we get into the hardships of being an entrepreneur, let’s review ALL THE GOOD about my job!
Because the rest of this is about the inevitable struggle.

THE WOMEN

There are over 20 employees in India at this point – ALL WOMEN, except for one man. The luckiest/ unluckiest man in the world!

The women are extremely sassy and love to hassle me nonstop :

You wear too much black.”
“Your hair is always messy.”
“Why don’t you have children?”
& my favorite : “You’re expired.”  I guess that’s what happens when you’re 31 and single 😉

They are total characters, and I love them so much.

THE IMPACT

To witness their stories and actually have a direct influence on their lives in such transformative ways is incredibly fulfilling.

FOR EXAMPLE:
One of our first employees was a young girl who was 19 years old, 
making bangles with her little sister for a combined $1.50 a day.
So we made a deal with the family. We will give the older sister a huge raise, if you promise to get the little one into school!
We know now, that changes everything for her.

It likely changes when she’ll get married.
When she’ll decide to have children.
What she’ll do with her life.

I don’t even know if she remembers anymore. But it brings tears to my eyes + more satisfaction than I ever imagined possible.

WHEN THE WORK IS A GIFT

There are nights I’m so excited, I can’t sleep.
Nights when I’m so at peace with what I’m doing, I rest deeply satisfied.
Days where I feel that if I could keep working like this for the rest of my life, I would be on such a constant high.
I’m so incredibly lucky.

SEEING THE DREAM COME ALIVE

There is nothing like it.

AWESOME JOB PERKS

I was in India a couple years ago on my birthday. That same day our darling employee Choti Renu had sewn through her finger.
She was crying and we got a car to bring her to the doctor. She couldn’t open the car door, because she’d never been in a car before.
So we got her all stitched up, then went back to the office where she started working away again.

Suddenly I noticed all the ladies were gone. I heard them call my name from the back. And then I went to the back room…

Where I was greeted with an attack mob.
Choti Renu picked me up and literally spun me around in the air while the others attacked me with cake.
They wiped cake all over my face & hair. (
In India, people apparently know that on their birthdays you should just bring an extra outfit…)

In addition to the cake, the ladies made me a present…
They found a picture of me and my cat on Facebook + had it screen-printed onto one of our tote bags.

Yep – that’s how I know they love me.

LIVING MY MOTIVATION

“Be ashamed to die until you’ve won some victory for humanity.”

This quote by Horace Mann is the source of my motivation.

Every day it reminds me why I keep doing what I’m doing, + inspires me to do more.
It also helps me remember that every success is meaningful.

Whether it’s finding a new source for organic thread in Delhi
(in order to support local artisans + reduce our environmental impact by shipping from a further location)
OR
Teaching one of our employees who had never used a computer before how to double-click … then send emails …
and eventually become an Excel wiz + our Quality Manager, making spreadsheets and using shortcuts I didn’t even know existed!

There’s no such thing as a “small win” in my company. Because every achievement could have a positive impact for humanity that I can’t truly even fathom the reaches of.

Your motivation for life might be different.

It might be to help others live a healthier existence.
OR
It might be to help others celebrate important moments to them by providing the best baked cookies in your city.

Whatever your motivation/mission, the most important thing is to identify what matters to you, and then live by it!

Because, despite how happy you are living your motivation, you will often feel like this:

I feel like this 50% of the time.

I know that I’m giving you mixed messages, because I was just talking about how great I feel doing my work in India.
How much I love my ladies… How I’m living my dream…

But sometimes, in between those moments when I’m so happy I can burst… this is how it feels.

Because, as an entrepreneur, it’s never just business. There are always challenges and struggles, and the business isn’t isolated from your personal life.

You still have a family.
You still have your own physical health and limitations.
You may or may not be in a relationship.
You’re always aware of how your business directly impacts your financial reality.

+ I admit … it’s hard.

There have been a few times in my life that I have taken on more than I could handle.

About 3 years into WORK+SHELTER I was doing way too much:

  • Working full-time in NYC, meaning a 9-7 job.
  • Running WORK+SHELTER and processing a super-sized order.
  • Studying for the GMAT and applying for business schools, fancy hard-to-get-in ones.
  • Going through a heart-wrenching, feel-like-I’m-dying, wake-up-every-night-crying style breakup.

I was on my way to work one day, on the train with my partner at that time, and I remember he said to me:

“Why are you even doing all of this? What’s the point of WORK+SHELTER anyway?”

I listened to him…
Then I blacked out.

I woke up outside of the train, on a dirty subway bench with a stranger.
My
partner was above ground trying to call an ambulance.
When I went to the doctor they did brain scans, thinking that I had had a seizure…

But that wasn’t it at all.
I had a crippling anxiety attack.

+ they carried on for a while.
More times than I could count, I found myself crumpled up in a ball sobbing on my kitchen floor. I had trouble breathing. Eventually, I lost the love of my life because he didn’t respect that I was born to be an entrepreneur.

There is a lot of sacrifice.

And while some things do get easier, it can all still be too much.

Just a few months ago, on New Year’s Eve, I was so low and burnt out that I couldn’t get out of bed.
I cancelled my plans + cried all day.
I couldn’t get the energy to write back to emails that whole week.

But it was a friend’s birthday, + she had been helping me a lot with WORK+SHELTER, and I didn’t want to let her down.
I kept my pajamas on, threw on my boots, + and went to show my face for a few minutes at this party…
But then, as soon as I walk in the door, I started crying.

My friend, bless her heart, gives me a huge hug + says, “YOU KNOW – we LOVE crying here.”

The next day, January 1st, I woke up at 6 AM and started working again.

SELF CARE

The take away here is that when you are a small-time entrepreneur, you ARE your business, and thus, self-care is not optional.

So if you’re thinking about taking the plunge, ask yourself:

Do I know how to take care of myself?
Is now a good time?
What does the child inside of me need?
Do I have enough friends who will let me cry at their birthday party?

Be aware of Maslows’s hierarchy of needs.
This was something I definitely had to learn the hard way.

BUT … after many years of practice + failing …

I’m basically a self care professional now.
Here are some of my tips!

  1.           Yoga yoga yoga. (Or whatever exercise makes you feel powerful and joyful. I used to think that yoga was hippie bullshit. Now I’m an evangelist. Check out some of the basic yoga poses below!)
  2.           Eat well. (No, for real. Meaning take the time to make yourself balanced meals out of real food.)
  3.           Switch up your setting. (Although working from the same office/location may be most convenient, it’s refreshing + inspiring to change your environment + setting from time to time.)
  4.           Go outside + get some sun! (Even just a 5 minute break is endless invigorating + will help you work better, longer.)
  5.           Play hooky. (I spend many evenings, including the regular Friday or Saturday night working until my local coffee shop closes. So I don’t feel too bad when I on occasion shut down my laptop early to skip off to the botanical gardens or a random architecture tour (yep, that’s what I’ll be doing when this post goes live 😀 .)
  6.           Schedule time each week to spend with friends + family. (I use Google Calendars for both my business + personal agendas! Plan it, and don’t cancel.)
  7.           Play with your cat! (Or dog.. Or goldfish.. Or whatever cute animal you fancy.)

So, what are you waiting for?

Get out there + transcend your suffering.


Be well + happy yoga~ing!
Theresa

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW WORK+SHELTER!

    

 

{All images used under license of Shutterstock + Pinterest}

 

My Favorite Self Care Poses

Source : Greatist

1. Plank
Plank Pose

How to do it: Start in downward facing dog. Shift forward so your shoulders are stacked over wrists. Reach heels back as you lengthen the crown of your head forward. Ground down into hands, pull up through arms, and spread collarbones away from the sternum. Lift the front of your body up to support the pose.

The benefits: Considered one of the best moves for core strength, plank pose strengthens your abdominals and promotes stability.

 

2. Chaturanga Dandasana
Chaturanga

How to do it: From plank pose, shift forward slightly. Bend elbows to a 90-degree angle with upper arms parallel to floor. Ground through palms and spread collarbones wide. Lift shoulders away from the floor as you pull your front ribs into the spine. Lift upper thighs toward the ceiling as you reach your tailbone toward your heels. Gaze forward.

The benefits: Chaturanga is a key part of sun salutations, which you’ll find in most vinyasa classes. It promotes core stability and strengthens your abdominals and triceps.

 

3. Upward Facing Dog
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Upward Facing Dog

How to do it: Lie facedown on the floor. Bend elbows and place hands on the mat in line with lower ribs. Reach back through your legs, and pull yourself forward and up to straight arms. Lift thighs and knees away from the floor, spread chest wide, and lift breastbone up.

The benefits: You’ll open up your chest and shoulders, and stretch the abdominals and hip flexors. This pose appears after chaturanga in a classic sun salutation.

 

4. Half Moon
Ardha Chandrasana
Strengthen your legs and stretch tight hips with this yoga pose

How to do it: Start in triangle pose. Bend front knee, tracking it with your second toe. Step back foot in and walk bottom hand approximately 12 inches in front of you. Line up thumb with pinky toe. Shift your weight into front foot and lift back foot off the ground. Reach back leg strongly toward the wall behind you, then raise up top arm. To challenge your balance, rotate your chest up toward the ceiling and gaze up at your top hand.

The benefits: This balancing pose strengthens your legs and outer hips, stretches your hamstrings and inner thighs, and promotes concentration.

 

5. Warrior I
Virabhadrasana I
Warrior 1

How to do it: Start in downward facing dog. Step one foot forward between your hands. Turn back foot out approximately 45 degrees and ground into back foot. Line up heel to heel, or slightly wider. Bend front knee over front ankle while you stretch through straight back leg. On an inhale, lift torso and arms up to the ceiling.

The benefits: This energizing pose strengthens your legs, arms, and back muscles. It also gives your chest, shoulders, neck, thighs, and ankles a nice stretch.

 

6. Warrior III
Virabhadrasana III

How to do it: From warrior I, hinge forward at the hips and rest your abdomen on your front thigh, arms alongside ears. Step back foot in and shift your weight into your front foot. Lift back thigh up and reach through back heel. Spin inner back thigh up to the ceiling. Press palms together and gaze forward at hands. (To modify, take arms alongside hips, or place hands on the floor or on blocks under shoulders.)

The benefits: This heating pose strengthens your legs, outer hips, and upper back. It also helps improve balance and posture.

 

7. Intense Side Stretch
Parsvottanasana
Intense Side Stretch Pose

How to do it: Start in mountain pose. Step left foot back and place it flat on the floor at an approximately 45-degree angle. Ground down into both feet and lift up through both thighs. Lift arms up to shoulder height. Turn arms in slightly and join the palms to touch behind upper back. (To modify for tight shoulders, join fists to touch, grab opposite elbows, or place hands on the hips.) Hinge forward at your hips and lengthen spine over front leg. Lift shoulders away from the floor and spread chest wide.

The benefits: The pose helps calm the mind and stretches your spine, shoulders, wrists, hips, and hamstrings.

8. Dolphin
Dolphin Pose

How to do it: Come to your forearms and interlace fingers, keeping elbows shoulder-width apart. Tuck toes, lift knees off the floor, and reach hips up and back. Allow head to hang off the floor. Ground down into forearms and lift shoulders away from the floor.

The benefits: This pose helps build strength in your upper body in preparation for headstand and forearmstand. It can also help calm your mind and relieve stress.

 

9. Bow
Dhanurasana
Bow Pose

How to do it: Lie facedown, then lift chest, arms, and legs off the floor. Bend knees and reach back to grab outer ankles. Lift toes toward the ceiling, spin inner thighs in the same direction, and lengthen tailbone toward the backs of your knees. Spread and lift chest.

The benefits: This backbend stretches the whole front of the body, especially the chest and the fronts of your shoulders. It also gives a nice massage to your abdominal organs.

 

10. Camel
Ustrasana
Camel Pose

How to do it: Kneel with shins hip-distance apart. Rest hands on the back of your pelvis. Press down strongly into shins and reach up through the torso. Lift chest up as you stretch arms back to reach hands to heels. (To modify, curl toes under so you don’t have to reach as far.)

The benefits: This backbend stretches the entire front of your body, from your throat to your ankle, and even helps strengthen back muscles.

COMBAT YOUR RISK AVERSION

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CHAT OVER CHAI

BREAKING THROUGH YOUR COMFORT ZONE

This chick walking a tightrope in high heels across looming sharks below is a pretty accurate representation of how I’ve felt at certain points over the last several years.

We all know that if you’re going to be an entrepreneur,
you have to be tolerant of risk at some level.

And for some of us, it’s harder than others to take those chances.

(Personally, I was a bit of a wild child. I went skydiving + bungee jumping + scuba-diving {with sharks} all before the age of 19 … So I’m okay with a certain level of risk.) 😉

But what I want to share with you today is how the path towards being an entrepreneur is certainly full of risk, and isn’t necessarily linear.

Slow growth is ok.

MY GROW SLOW STORY

I graduated from college during the heart of the recession, in 2008. Struggling to find work and survive, I took on a series of jobs I hated – but that I now realize were absolutely essential to my development as an entrepreneur.

With my first job, I would wake up and cry every day before I went into the office.
My second job brought on waves of anxiety and panicked breathing.

Perhaps because I was so unhappy with my jobs, I placed a lot of importance on my big dream to help women in India. I was super passionate, completely unskilled, and totally in denial about that. 

So, I quit my job when I was 25 to start W+S and moved to India for a few months.
I rented a space. It was just me in basically a modest-sized flat.

Then I met one woman, who moved in + started knitting.
Then another.
I hired a manager to run the operation. 

Eventually, having kicked off the venture, I went back to the US.
I woke up to have Skype calls at 3 AM, and worked from morning until night, realizing I was still in my pajamas at 7 PM.

There was no work/life balance. And I was running out of money.
T
hen the manager in India quit – her commute was too long. 

Looking back, I don’t even know how we continued.
I was super eager to build WORK+SHELTER, but I was broke.
I didn’t have enough of a foundation. 

It was then that I got a call from a recruiter at Google … Thank god. I got the job, and they eventually told me they had hired me because of my “enthusiasm.” ( 😀 !!!) 

So began the double life I led for years.
At that time, as WORK+SHELTER grew, the amount of risk that felt tolerable for me was the amount of my paycheck. 

 What if we screw up all of our orders this month at WORK+SHELTER and have to order the fabric again – how much will that be? If we don’t get enough business next month, will we be ok?
Yes, because I can send my paycheck to India. Which I did. Multiple times.

That was in 2011. It took until 2015 for the timing to finally be RIGHT.

WORK+SHELTER had been open for almost 3 years at that point. The corporation I worked for in the US restructured and suddenly I was out of a job.
Immediately, I knew it was time to seize the opportunity.
I had severance, got paid out on all my vacation. I had savings. It was finally time to make the move again.

So, I quit my day job to focus on WORK+SHELTER full-time. And this time, it worked!

WHAT WILL YOUR SLOW GROWTH STORY BE ?

Take gradually increasing increments of risk. There is no shame in growing slow.

Before you the bet the house…

ASK YOURSELF :
What do I know about this industry?
Do I know more than other people?
What do I know that others don’t?
Have I done my groundwork?

I was an idiot. I didn’t know anything about the fashion world, or manufacturing, or garment construction. Thank god I had a day job.

ASK YOURSELF :
Do I have the necessary resources to survive, while this idea takes longer than I ever thought possible to get it off the ground?

If the answer is not already YES, get it there first.

ASK YOURSELF :
How can I mitigate my risk?
How do I limit the amount of money I’m spending?
How do I test my model without expending too much?

I did this. We started small – didn’t even buy machines because of the infrastructure costs. We started with knitting.

BEWARE :
There are consequences if you don’t play your risk right. 

I know someone who spent two years trying to get a new business off the ground. He purchased material for production before he even had a final pattern ready for his order.

He just quit his business. It didn’t even get off the ground.

Because his interest in running the organization was more than his ability to actually DO IT.

And that’s true for most of us. Beware of THE GAP.
You know, the one that Ira Glass refers to. This one:

https://vimeo.com/85040589

It is the gap between your skills and your dream. The gap that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move forward.

When you have a dream that you care enough about, you don’t really have a choice but to pursue it.

As the saying goes…

– John Shedd

So just don’t overdo it at first, given that you have so much to learn.
Yes, you GO TO SEA, but before you do – make sure you’ve done as much preparation as you possibly can.

Now go throw on those high heels (but tbh I mostly wear motorcycle boots because they make me feel tough…), jump on that tightrope, + strut right on past those sharks!

Or, just go scuba-diving with them. Highly recommended.

 


xo, Theresa

NOW WE WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR RISKS + SLOW GROWTH !!

Please message us to share your stories + challenges in obliterating your comfort zone.

AND don’t forget to keep up with us over at WORK+SHELTER!

Follow our Instagram + Facebook + Twitter, and join our awesome e-mail list by signing up below.

IGNORE THE NAYSAYERS

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CHAT OVER CHAI

BREAKING THROUGH YOUR COMFORT ZONE :

IGNORE THE NAYSAYERS

SEE ABOVE : Our inspiration, the Hindu goddess Kali – super fierce, destroyer of demons, liberator of souls.
(Right image photo credit : Manjari Sharma)

WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO BREAK THROUGH/OBLITERATE YOUR COMFORT ZONE ?

Because the stakes of NOT obliterating it are really, really high.

HOW HIGH? MOST COMMON REGRET OF THE DYING:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.” – Bonnie Ware

soooooo………

What’s holding on you back?

Could it be that you don’t want to disappoint or ruffle the feathers of someone else?

Could it be that you’re afraid of the unknown?

Could it be that you just don’t believe that your dreams are possible? They are insurmountable? You’re not good enough to get what you want?

OR

Could it be that every time you actually start to believe in your dream + share your ideas with others, they shoot them down??

The latter was one of my biggest obstacles in creating WORK+SHELTER. Here’s how I conquered this issue : IGNORED THEM!  

WHO ARE THEY?

Naysayers are anyone who discredits your abilities or dumps on your dreams.

Yep, you heard that right – ANYONE. Family / friends / coworkers / bosses / the neighbor you occasionally enjoy a cup of chai with … if their response to your endeavors is anything less than supportive, they should go at the top of your IGNORE list.

Everyone has their own opinion about what you should do with your life.

When I started WORK+SHELTER there were discouraging words around every corner. EVERYONE told me not to start my business.

A few of the most popular nay-sayings I heard were…

You’re too young.

You need to focus on yourself and your career.

You need to be wealthy before you can do work like this.

How will a young American woman run a business overseas?

And then of course there was the, “Poor Indian women don’t want to work” – where have you heard that rhetoric before?

But I ignored them. Each + every one.

I followed my instincts. I continued fighting for my dream.

+ as it often turns out … the naysayers were all wrong.

TRUST YOUR OWN INTERNAL COMPASS.

If you need to be deviant to live a life that’s more authentic for you, you’ve got to do it.

When you have the vision, and you can see the unseen – you have a business ideayou’re actually a superhero of sorts!

It’s not your fault that everyone can’t see your vision … though you have to practice explaining it. It’s not because they think you’re incapable + it’s not even necessarily about you.

They likely just have a different paradigm + prioritize different values, OR they simply want to protect you, as many of my naysayers did.

You can’t necessarily blame them for that … but you absolutely CAN ignore them!

Here’s an amazing poem by Mary Oliver, (with my own bits of emphasis on some favorite lines!), to remind us all of the importance in ignoring naysayers.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

-Mary Oliver

“BE YOUR OWN YES – SAYER !” – Wonder Woman

Sometimes, when I need to give myself a little perspective on whether my newest idea is crazy or not, (because people will tell me I’m crazy), I remember that …

Someone went to outer space over 50 years ago. Before color TV. Long before the internet.

It puts things in perspective.

Oh, is it possible for me to run my tiny little center in India? Yeah, probably.

People have done things that are a lot harder, and a lot more complicated.

So PLEASE take a cue from the Kali goddess, and destroy your demons – a.k.a. IGNORE  THE  NAYSAYERS – they don’t know better.

YOU know better. (Unless they are a really smart business coach – then maybe you should listen.) 😉

NOW WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU !!

Please message us to share your naysayer stories, popular nay-sayings, + dreams you need to hear YES-Sayings to!

AND don’t forget to keep up with us over at WORK+SHELTER!

Follow our Instagram + Facebook + Twitter, and join our awesome e-mail list by signing up below.

Thanks so much for reading + sharing. Until next time, be well!    xo, Theresa

{images used under license of Shutterstock.com}

BREAKING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

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CHAT OVER CHAI

BREAKING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

As an entrepreneur, breaking out of your comfort zone is essential to success.

Confronting one’s fears + uncertainties when starting a business is extremely challenging + takes a lot of practice.

As a woman, this is especially mortifying + may feel nearly impossible at times.

We have to work extra hard to gain others’ respect + trust … but that makes it all the more worth our blood, sweat, + tears in the end!

At this year’s most recent WISE : Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship conference in Syracuse, I addressed the importance of annihilating your comfort zone bubble.

+ now, I’m going to share it with you !!

Check out these 4 lessons I had to learn the hard way + will be discussing over the next few weeks here at Chat Over Chai :

How to ignore them, inspire them, and embrace your love-hate of each naysayer.

How to take gradually increasing increments of risk, confidently grow slow, and be fully prepared to take the plunge.

How to accept it, manage it, and continue progress throughout suffering.

How to embrace it, learn from it, and internalize that failure is essential to success.

+ that’s it! Sounds simple enough, right? I can’t wait to start chatting comfort zone with you + hope this series will help inspire you to break out of your comfort zone, too!

 

Because we need more women to embrace their dreams, destroy their comfort zones, and work together as successful entrepreneurs.

xo, Theresa

While preparing to start Lesson 1: The Naysayers on our next post, here’s a tip from India on staying calm while obliterating your cozy zone – this chai recipe !

How to Make Chai Tea

YIELD: 4 servings

PREP TIME: 1 minute

COOK TIME: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups water
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 4-5 black tea bags, or ¼ cup loose black tea
  • 2 cups whole milk or half-n-half
  • ¼ cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Press the cardamom pods until they crack. Bring the water, tea, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom to a boil.
  2. Boil for 3-5 minutes until the tea is black and has reduced to about 2 cups. Strain and add the sugar. Add the milk and stir until hot.
  3. Place the used cardamom pods in the bottom of the cups for good friends.
  4. Makes 4 American-sized servings or 12+ Indian-sized servings.

Happy sipping!

CHAT OVER CHAI : MEET THERESA!

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CHAT OVER CHAI

MEET THERESA !Hi there!

I’m Theresa, CEO of WORK+SHELTER …

…and I’m Brit, WORK+SHELTER Sales and Marketing Coordinator.

Thanks for checking out our new blog!!

We’ve got a lot to chat about ~ from the perks & pains of being a female entrepreneur/warrior, running an ethical production center in India, and supporting a team of women across the globe ~ to other awesome topics, like traveling tips & tricks, how to get your yoga on anywhere & everywhere, and favorite recipes for our lifeblood : chai.

But, before getting into all that jazz…

Let’s get to know Theresa a little better!

BRIT : You’ve been focused on international affairs since studying in college & maybe even before then – what started you down this path?

THERESA : I was 13 the first time I traveled abroad, and I went to Peru. This was very unusual in my family and community at the time.

Growing up in the Midwest, my world was small – my hometown had literally one stoplight. I was pretty sheltered – and most everyone else I knew was, too. But I had an ambitious Spanish teacher who was really inspired by Peru, and wanted to bring her students. So when I first heard about it at 12 years old, I immediately knew I wanted to go! My parents didn’t have the money to just buy me a ticket outright, and were also probably trying to teach me a lesson about hard work, so I took on part-time jobs and began with a seemingly endless calendar of fundraisers to raise money for the trip. I babysat and worked for my dad’s manufacturing business sweeping up metal chips – even waking up at 5am on my Spring Breaks to go to work – all just to save money for this trip!

After a year and a half of saving, I was finally able to go. I was amazed the first day we flew into Lima, Peru, and started eating passion fruit ice cream, and meeting all these incredibly nice people. I immediately felt all the work from the last year and a half was worth just those first few hours! It transformed my sense of how big the world is.

This was also when I was first introduced to poverty. Coming from small town America, and though my family was working class, I’d never seen children who were starving. Witnessing this shook me to my core.

After that trip, I got home and had a hard time explaining to my family what I had experienced. Everyone kept saying “Taking this trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – you are so lucky.” I knew I was lucky, but I didn’t want to accept that this would be the one big adventure of my life. I wanted the rest of my life to be like this. A deep wanderlust rooted and settled into the core of my being. I suddenly understood that the world was infinitely bigger than I had imagined – and it transformed everything.

B : When did you first get the idea for WORK+SHELTER? What was the main trigger that made you know that you had to build this?

T : When I went to India for the first time in 2007, I desperately desired to be a positive force in the world. But before you can act, you have to learn and understand. So I was doing research (sponsored by the University of Michigan) on how economic empowerment impacts women’s lives in India, and an internship at a really great organization that supports craftsgroups’ access to markets (Dastkar).

For me, this basically meant spying on different artisan groups and livelihood creation projects, and meeting individual women trying to make their way in the world by producing some sort of garment, accessory, or handicraft. I interviewed women who were raped by their husbands, widowed with no way to care for themselves or their children, or physically ravished by harsh living conditions at a very young age. I again was deeply moved by the suffering I had witnessed.

I then did an internship at Amnesty International New Delhi, but still felt like I wasn’t really making a positive impact in the world. So many women had shared their suffering with me, but I wasn’t doing anything direct to help them in return. It began to really bother me, and the idea for WORK+SHELTER gradually formed. I hadn’t seen or heard of any organizations that offered women both shelter and a livelihood, and I was fairly confident that we could create a product that people would be interested in buying abroad.

B : People probably call you an idealist, but without living with hope I feel that we cannot expect anything to change. Can you explain in more detail first why India, and then why you are so passionate about helping women in this way?

T : I have a really deep-rooted feeling that I am taking up too much space in this world, and that the pleasures of my life and much of the developed world rest on the backs of the poor in the Global South.

I think a lot of what I do/try to do is catalyzed by this feeling of debt. It also makes me feel like I’m never doing enough. The more I have, the more I owe. And any impact I’ve had so far is so minuscule that it doesn’t really relieve much of that indebted feeling.

A lot of the work I put into planning WORK+SHELTER was necessary, but I know planning doesn’t help anyone. It is only helpful when it results in a sustainable route for women to take care of themselves and their community. Scaling the real impact part has just started.

So… WHY INDIA?

On a very practical level, it’s India because this is where I have experience, knowledge, and resources.

The reason I have those things is because a philanthropist couple funded a program at the University of Michigan for students like me to go to India. They gave 5 undergraduate grants per year, totaling around $3,000 each. At that time, I was desperate to go anywhere, but there was no way I could afford a trip like that on my own.

After hearing about the grant opportunity I went crazy coming up with ideas, doing research, and picking people’s brains. Back then, I knew nothing about India. I was interested in women’s issues and microfinance was really on my mind at the time, having recently discovered Mohammad Yunus. So I wrote a grant proposal to study how economic empowerment changes women’s lives socially in India. I spent a lot of time refining my proposal, and ended up being one of the lucky few to get the grant! That’s how I first ended up in India.

& WHY WOMEN?

I don’t know why I’m drawn to this work – being a woman, maybe I just am? I do think it’s interesting that there is no country in this entire world where women are equal with men. Think about it:

If women were equal to men, would rape exist?

If women were equal to men, then why are reproductive choices still constrained everywhere?

If women were equal to men, then would the majority of the poorest people in this world belong to one gender?

I’m also really interested in economics and capitalism (to be kind of broad about it), so I really like looking at the intersections between poverty and inequality. My understanding is that men and women have equal capacities, but because women give birth and tend to spend more time raising children, they have less access to the public sphere where income is generated and wealth is acquired. Thus, because they have less access to economic resources, they have less power. Men have more resources – men have more power. It’s pretty simple, and that’s why the core belief of W+S is economic empowerment in a way that makes sense for women.

We’re constantly seeing impact at the New Delhi shelter.

I’ll never forget the first impact we made at WORK+SHELTER. It was within weeks of our opening, during a time when it was more or less just me sitting and working on my laptop in an empty building all day. We had a really sweet neighbor who would bring over steaming cups of chai every day. She and I would chat in Hindi (which was a struggle for both of us, given it isn’t either of our native languages, but it was the one we shared). She noticed a sample product sitting out, and one day just started trying to make it, for fun. And then, she asked for work. We weren’t totally sure we wanted to bring her on at WORK+SHELTER, given that we were specifically targeting women who who were struggling to support their families – and in her case, she lived in a rental accommodation nearby, and her husband was making enough to pay the rent of their small one room apartment. But she has a great personality and was really motivated, so we decided to bring her on anyway. Only after we hired her and she had been working for many weeks did she share with us that her husband actually regularly beats her. She told us that already her income was shifting the power dynamic with the relationship, and she felt she had more authority to stand up to him.

That’s her right, and I’m so happy that we can provide her with the work that allows her to exercise it.

NOW, TELL US ABOUT YOU!

Where are you from? What are you up to? Where do your interests lie?

We’d love to know if you have any questions, or what topics you want to learn more about! Shoot Brit a message at [email protected]

AND don’t forget to keep up with us over at WORK+SHELTER!

Follow our Instagram, Facebook, and join our awesome e-mail list by signing up below.

THANKS FOR CHATTING WITH US! UNTIL NEXT TIME…BE WELL.

xoxo, Theresa + Brit

FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions

 

  • Why work with WORK+SHELTER ?

Our mission is to make it easy for organizations and consumers to purchase wholesale quantities of high quality, ethically made, customized sewn goods. In pursuit of a more just world, we employ women in need and when possible use other social enterprises, natural fibers, recycled, organic, or otherwise eco-friendly inputs. Our high quality products achieve an ideal balance between contemporary + classic designs, our team is diverse + spans across continents, and the process is efficient with zero risk to you – our beloved client!

  • How does the customization work for your Apparel + Promo Accessories lines?

Our Apparel + Promo Accessories lines allow you an experience that is truly the best of both worlds: we offer sleek product designs already established for a streamlined ordering process, which you can then customize to reflect your brand via logo, printed fabric or lining, custom tags, + zipper tape colors!

  • What is your minimum order?

We have 2 tiers: Some Custom + Super Custom. The Some Custom order minimum is $300, and Super Custom minimum is $1000 – including shipping!

  • Do you take orders for entirely custom production?

Yes, but on a case-by-case basis. We will evaluate your proposed order and let you know if we can accept your business. To be considered, please send the following details to [email protected] : COMPANY HISTORY + PRODUCT DESIGN DETAILS + TIMELINE + CONTACT INFO

  • Where do you ship to?

Anywhere + everywhere! Shipping is included in your total order.

  • What are Pantone Colors?

Pantone is the name brand for the universal color matching system that’s used in the printing industry. Check out the Pantone Color finder HERE + choose a color you love, then we’ll match it!

  • Can I get a sample?

Yep! Samples can be ordered via our online store.

  • Want to visit WORK+SHELTER’s cut + sew center in New Delhi?

We’d love to have you! The center is open for visitors Mondays through Thursdays 11am – 1pm IST. Please just send a message ahead of time with the estimated date to [email protected]

Chat Over Chai

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CHAT OVER CHAI

BREAKING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

As an entrepreneur, breaking out of your comfort zone is essential to success.

Confronting one’s fears + uncertainties when starting a business is extremely challenging + takes a lot of practice.

As a woman, this is especially mortifying + may feel nearly impossible at times.

We have to work extra hard to gain others’ respect + trust … but that makes it all the more worth our blood, sweat, + tears in the end!

At this year’s most recent WISE : Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship conference in Syracuse, I addressed the importance of annihilating your comfort zone bubble.

+ now, I’m going to share it with you !!

Check out these 4 lessons I had to learn the hard way + will be discussing over the next few weeks here at Chat Over Chai :

How to ignore them, inspire them, and embrace your love-hate of each naysayer.

 

How to take gradually increasing increments of risk, confidently grow slow, and be fully prepared to take the plunge.

 

How to accept it, manage it, and continue progress throughout suffering.

 

How to embrace it, learn from it, and internalize that failure is essential to success.

 

+ that’s it! Sounds simple enough, right? I can’t wait to start chatting comfort zone with you + hope this series will help inspire you to break out of your comfort zone, too!

 

Because we need more women to embrace their dreams, destroy their comfort zones, and work together as successful entrepreneurs.

xo, Theresa

 

While preparing to start Lesson 1: The Naysayers on our next post, here’s a tip from India on staying calm while obliterating your cozy zone – this chai recipe !

How to Make Chai Tea

YIELD: 4 servings

PREP TIME: 1 minute

COOK TIME: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups water
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 4-5 black tea bags, or ¼ cup loose black tea
  • 2 cups whole milk or half-n-half
  • ¼ cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Press the cardamom pods until they crack. Bring the water, tea, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom to a boil.
  2. Boil for 3-5 minutes until the tea is black and has reduced to about 2 cups. Strain and add the sugar. Add the milk and stir until hot.
  3. Place the used cardamom pods in the bottom of the cups for good friends.
  4. Makes 4 American-sized servings or 12+ Indian-sized servings.

Happy sipping!

THERESA + BRIT CHAT, OVER CHAI

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CHAT, over CHAI

MEET THERESA !

Hi there!

I’m Theresa, CEO of WORK+SHELTER …

…and I’m Brit, WORK+SHELTER Sales and Marketing Coordinator.

Thanks for checking out our new blog!!

We’ve got a lot to chat about ~ from the perks & pains of being a female entrepreneur/warrior, running an ethical production center in India, and supporting a team of women across the globe ~ to other awesome topics, like traveling tips & tricks, how to get your yoga on anywhere & everywhere, and favorite recipes for our lifeblood : chai.

But, before getting into all that jazz…

Let’s get to know Theresa a little better!

BRIT : You’ve been focused on international affairs since studying in college & maybe even before then – what started you down this path?

THERESA : I was 13 the first time I traveled abroad, and I went to Peru. I was the first of my family to go overseas.

Growing up in the Midwest, my world was small – my hometown had literally one stoplight. I was pretty sheltered – and most everyone else I knew was, too. But I had an ambitious Spanish teacher who was really inspired by Peru, and wanted to bring her students. So when I first heard about it at 12 years old, I immediately knew I wanted to go! My parents didn’t have the money to just buy me a ticket outright, so I started working and doing endless fundraisers. I babysat and worked for my dad’s manufacturing business sweeping up metal chips – even woke up at 5am on my Spring Breaks to go to work – all just to save money for this trip!

After a year and a half of saving, I was finally able to go. I was amazed the first day we flew into Lima, Peru, and started eating passion fruit, and meeting all these incredibly nice people. I immediately felt all the work from the last year and a half was worth just those first few hours! It blew up my world. 

This was also when I was first introduced to poverty. I had come from smalltown America, and though my family was working class, I’d never seen children who were starving. This shook me to my core.

After that trip, I got home and had a hard time explaining to my parents what I had experienced. My family kept saying “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity – you are so lucky.” I knew I was lucky, but I didn’t want to accept that this would be the one big adventure of my life. I wanted the rest of my life to be like this. A deep wanderlust rooted and settled into the core of my being. I suddenly understood that the world was infinitely bigger than I had imagined – and it transformed everything.

B : When did you first get the idea for WORK+SHELTER? What was the main trigger that made you know that you had to build this?

T : When I went to India for the first time in 2007, I desperately desired to be a positive force in the world. But before you can act, you have to learn and understand. So I was doing research (sponsored by the University of Michigan) on how economic empowerment impacts women’s lives in India, and an internship at a really great organization that supports craftsgroups’ access to markets (Dastkar).

For me, this basically meant spying on different artisan groups and livelihood creation projects, and meeting individual women trying to make their way in the world by producing some sort of garment, accessory, or handicraft. I interviewed women who were raped by their husbands, widowed with no way to care for themselves or their children, or physically ravished by harsh living conditions at a very young age. I had never before faced this sort of suffering.

I then did an internship at Amnesty International New Delhi, but still felt like I wasn’t really making a positive impact in the world. So many women had shared their suffering with me, but I wasn’t doing anything direct to help them in return. It began to really bother me, and the idea for WORK+SHELTER gradually formed. I hadn’t seen or heard of any organizations that offered women both shelter and a livelihood, and I was fairly confident that we could create a product that people would be interested in buying abroad.

B : People probably call you an idealist, but without living with hope I feel that we cannot expect anything to change. Can you explain in more detail first why India, and then why you are so passionate about helping women in this way?

T : I have a really deep-rooted feeling that I am taking up too much space in this world, and that the pleasures of my life and much of the developed world rest on the backs of the poor in the Global South.

I think a lot of what I do/try to do is catalyzed by this feeling of debt. It also makes me feel like I’m never doing enough. The more I have, the more I owe. And any impact I’ve had so far is so minuscule that it doesn’t really relieve any of that indebted feeling.

All the work I put into planning WORK+SHELTER was necessary, but planning doesn’t help anyone. It will only be helpful when we’re actually able to provide a sustainable route for women to be able take care of themselves and their community. That real impact part has just started.So… WHY INDIA?

On a very practical level, it’s India because this is where I have experience, knowledge, and resources.

The reason I have those things is because a philanthropist couple funded a program at the University of Michigan for students like me to go to India. They gave 5 undergraduate grants per year, totaling around $3,000 each. At that time, I was desperate to go anywhere, but there was no way I could afford a trip like that on my own.

After hearing about the grant opportunity I went crazy coming up with ideas, doing research, and picking people’s brains. Back then, I knew nothing about India. I was interested in women’s issues and microfinance was really on my mind at the time, having recently discovered Mohammad Yunus. So I wrote a grant proposal to study how economic empowerment changed women’s lives socially in India. I spent a lot of time refining my proposal, and ended up being one of the lucky few to get the grant! That’s how I first ended up in India.

& WHY WOMEN?

I don’t know why I’m drawn to this work – being a woman, maybe I just am? I do think it’s interesting that there is no country in this entire world where women are equal with men. Think about it:

If women were equal to men, would rape exist?

If women were equal to men, then why are reproductive choices still constrained everywhere?

If women were equal to men, then would the majority of the poorest people in this world belong to one gender?

I’m also really interested in economics and capitalism (to be kind of broad about it), so I really like looking at the intersections between poverty and inequality. My understanding is that men and women have equal capacities, but because women give birth and tend to spend more time raising children, they have less access to the public sphere where income is generated and wealth is acquired. Thus, because they have less access to economic resources, they have less power. Men have more resources – men have more power. It’s pretty simple, and that’s why the core belief of W+S is economic empowerment in a way that makes sense for women.

We’re constantly seeing impact at the New Delhi shelter.

I’ll never forget the first impact we made at WORK+SHELTER. It was within weeks of our opening, during a time when it was more or less just me sitting and working on my laptop in an empty building all day. We had a really sweet neighbor who would bring over steaming cups of chai every day. She and I would chat in Hindi (which was a struggle for both of us, given it isn’t either of our native languages, but it was the one we shared). She noticed a sample product sitting out, and one day just started trying to make it, for fun. And then, she asked for work. We weren’t totally sure we wanted to bring her on at WORK+SHELTER, given that we were specifically targeting women who who were struggling to support their families – and in her case, she lived in a rental accommodation nearby, and her husband was making enough to pay the rent of their small one room apartment. But she has a great personality and was really motivated, so we decided to bring her on anyway. Only after we hired her and she had been working for many weeks did she share with us that her husband actually regularly beats her. She told us that already her income was shifting the power dynamic with the relationship, and she felt she had more authority to stand up to him.  

That’s her right, and I’m so happy that we can provide her with the work that allows her to exercise it.

NOW, TELL US ABOUT YOU!

Where are you from? What are you up to? Where do your interests lie?

We’d love to know if you have any questions, or what topics you want to learn more about! Shoot Brit a message at [email protected]

AND don’t forget to keep up with us over at WORK+SHELTER!

Follow our Instagram, Facebook, and join our awesome e-mail list by signing up below.

THANKS FOR CHATTING WITH US! UNTIL NEXT TIME…BE WELL.

xoxo, Theresa + Brit