Crafter Laura Martin teamed up with two friends to turn a hobby into a force for good in the Atlanta community.
Martin was volunteering with Central Outreach and Advocacy Center (OAC) helping Atlanta’s homeless when she designed her first necktie bag: a self-contained grocery tote. She got volunteers to help her sew and raised $6000 for the center just by selling grocery bags.
Feeling empowered with that initial success, Martin teamed up with friends Cameron McCord and Elizabeth Chrane to launch Ties That Matter. It’s a for-profit company with a three part mission:
- Use recycled goods and strive for zero waste.
- Employ local women in need.
- Donate 10% of their profits to OAC.
Since their launch in 2009, Ties That Matter has raised over $8,000 for the OAC and employed countless low-income women to help sew. One interesting things Martin mentioned while we were chatting was that concentrating on reducing physical waste changed her mindset about waste in general. In addition to diverting materials from the landfill, she wants Ties That Matter to reclaim wasted skill and creativity in the community and direct it toward doing good.
Designing For Production
One challenge that many crafters face is how to scale up when demand surpasses their ability to make enough product, and Martin had some great tips for crafters looking to scale up without sacrificing quality. She stressed that the key to getting consistent, quality product from hired crafters is to make it “neat and easy.” She says problems arise when processes aren’t uniform and stressed a couple of great points:
- Consistency in construction methods. If you want each piece to come out relatively uniform, you need a clear process that your makers can follow.
- Realistic expectations. You pour your heart into each product that you make, but you can’t expect hired makers to do the same.
She said that one of the big challenges when they started hiring women to sew was designing products that they could reproduce. She had to cut out trickier and inconsistent techniques for the sake of time. It’s important to the ladies at Ties That Matter that they pay their makers an average of $9 per hour, so efficiency is key.
Ties That Matter creates a large range of products out of reclaimed, donated neckties. You can find their products on their website, in their Etsy shop, at Global Girlfriend, and on ebay’s World of Good site. Atlanta locals can also find Ties That Matter at Squashblossom boutique, Melrose on Ponce, and The Emerald Earth in Ackworth.