“The World Turned Upside Down” was the name of the tune the British band played as Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington, thus effectively ending the revolutionary war. The politics of the world had been upended and things never returned to the previous status quo. Somehow, this fife and drum tune feels like a rather modern song title now, even if the style is a bit out of date (listen here).

Does it feel to you that the world is now on its head? It does to us. In March, we heard that our classroom space was going to close for two weeks. Not a big deal. But – as you well know – two weeks has changed to six weeks, and now it looks as if we might not be able to resume until the end of May. If then.

This has slowed down production by at least 75%, even though we use a home studio model. We were just in the process of finishing up one purse style and starting manufacturing training for several new bags, so without the ability to learn how to sew these bags, we’ve had very little Persona Grata work to give. Disheartening from a business sense, and even more so when our wonderful seamstresses now face financial insecurities as their husbands lose jobs as well.

But. We’re much more than just a sustainable carpet bag brand. We’re a community. And even as our normal production has been stifled, the community has grown stronger and we’ve found new ways to love on and encourage each other.

  1. Online civics and English conversation –

    Gotta love technology! We’ve started regular Whatsapp get togethers where we chat about life, work on citizenship test skills and do some language exchange.  Sweet times. And probably the inspiration for our revolutionary war reference above!

  2. Craft kits –

    Kids staying home constantly is a challenge for every. single. mom. We can’t make it easier, per say, but we’re giving toys, craft sets, construction paper, markers, etc to our seamstresses’ families to provide some creative fun for their kiddos (and hopefully a little bit of free time for the moms).

  3. Face mask production –

    Thanks to a partnership with Make Welcome Refugee Sewing School (our sister group), several of our seamstresses are now employed making face masks to donate to Charlotte area non-profit groups that aren’t in the healthcare sector, but desperately needed the masks nonetheless. We’re using profit from recent sales to fund the donation portion of this, while local social enterprise Fashion & Compassion is also paying some of the seamstresses to sew masks that are now for sale on their website. (Purchase here!)
    Dontating facemasks to non profits in Charlotte, NC

  4. Unemployment filing –

    We’re providing help and support for refugee friends who need to file for unemployment, but are struggling with the forms. It’s a confusing process, made more difficult by some employers giving incorrect advice. We’re providing help line advice and video chat support.

  5. Designing for the future –

    You might remember that we were accepted in a local business competition, 53 Ideas. We’ve progressed to the next stage of that competition – even though the pitch events are currently on hold – and are working behind the scenes to create wheelchair friendly purses as our product entry into this North Carolina competition.  We’ve also decided to phase out kitchen towels in our sewing on-ramp process and instead just do cloth napkins and matching table runners, since that fits better with our goals for sustainability (and makes it easier to use donated fabrics!).

    As a reminder, we’re giving away kitchen towels with each order of cloth napkins throughout the month of April. 

So what about you? How’s April going? Tag us with @personagratagoods on Instagram to share about life & outreach, and how you’ve adapted to #shelterinplace orders.

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