“Helping women? Alleviating poverty? And trying to do right by the environment? It sounds like you’re trying to boil the ocean.”

In a world where the shark tank is revered, businesses that believe in doing good are still as uncommon as a blue whale. The traditional advice is to first get rich, by any cost necessary, and then throw some of your profits over the fence to clean up the mess you helped create (for example, fast fashion empire H&M is widely known as one of the worst environmental offenders, but its foundation takes credit for “protecting the planet.” So of course a mission that works to make change in multiple arenas at the same time would be viewed as overly ambitious.

But we don’t care. At WORK+SHELTER, we want it all.

To that end, we’re becoming a B Corp. The B in B Corp stands for “Benefit.” This holistic certification proves that not only are we creating value for the women we work with in India, but also for our suppliers, our local community, and the environment. The whole damn ocean. 🙂

As a founder, I’ve loved how going through the B Corp assessment has challenged us to create scalable infrastructure that will help us build a better company long term. For example, we have known that the paid training we offer our female stakeholders in India is a lifeline that helps them emerge from poverty, but we weren’t consistently tracking the details of how much the women were making before. The B Corp assessment encourages tracking metrics, because only by tracking them can we work to improve our impact. This means that a year from now we’ll be able to share exactly how much of an impact we were able to make.

As a consumer, going through the B Corp certification process has shifted my purchasing habits. When I see a B Corp logo on a product, I know that the makers behind it are legit. So even if I’m just popping into Target on my way home from yoga class, I know I have options for protein powder, vitamins, and snack bars. Further, many well-known companies such as Patagoni, Athleta, Everlane, and Bombas are B Corp certified too. They prove to the rest of us that it’s possible to have it all.

Stay conscious ya’ll!

-Theresa VanderMeer

Founder + CEO

 

 

 

Thank you to our good friend Laura Vogel at Conscious Creators Co. for taking the time to chat with our founder Theresa VanderMeer!  Below you may read her kind words about how WORK+SHELTER came to be:

 

 

“Sometimes the stars of location and inspiration align, as they did for me when I stumbled upon WORK+SHELTER. Always on the lookout for conscious content and organizations to follow, my scrolling thumb stopped on a vibrant, joyful photo of Indian women posing with rad, handmade bags. I went to the profile, then to the website, then to the contact page. I wanted to know more and had to get in touch. Not too long after, I heard back and learned that the founder lived just a few minutes from me. If that’s not a green light to keep going on an idea, I’m not sure what is.

When I met Theresa VanderMeer, Founder and ‘She-EO’ of this incredible business, she welcomed me by making one of the best cups of chai I’ve ever had, truly. For most interviews I try to get in and out, imposing as little as possible on a busy person’s day, but this was not one of those interviews. While Theresa is incredibly busy, she is also very tuned in, genuine and generous with her time, as we ended up talking for several hours that afternoon. She sets a kind of “what’s the rush?” tone that still reminds me to slow down and be more intentional about things and interactions. As she does at the shelter, Theresa brings you in and connects in a thoughtful way. She shared heartfelt stories about how she initially met some of the women who now work at WORK+SHELTER, along with moments of full-circle impact that demonstrate the power of this business model. She talked about two sisters, one older who could work and one younger who was not enrolled in school. She spoke to the family about employing the older sister, which would provide funds for the younger one’s education. Upon Theresa’s return some years later, she saw the young girl walking down the road in her school uniform, two feet taller and looking ready to take on the world. 

 

                

It is that kind of direct correlation and human connection that makes WORK+SHELTER such a unique and inspiring model of how businesses can pay it forward, creating future generations of empowered, skilled women and communities. In addition to the give-back principle, their product-based mission is to make it easy for organizations to purchase wholesale quantities of high quality, ethically made, customized sewn goods. In a world full of corporate freebies such as frisbees, pens, nylon swag bags and all kinds of other disposable, not-so-environmentally-friendly items, WORK+SHELTER provides an alternative that is primarily sourced from natural, recycled and organic materials or low-impact raw materials. They are also currently looking into more closed-loop systems for reducing and re-using the fabric scraps and other waste created by their production cycle. Theresa has future plans to expand WORK+SHELTER into a green community space full of plants, resources and activities. The future is bright for this company and its New Delhi family. Next time you need t-shirts, giveaway bags for an event, aprons for your kitchen staff, or any other branded bulk items, I encourage you to order through WORK+SHELTER to be part of a powerful movement and lend a hand to lift up these wonderful women.”