Ten years is a long time. Your whole life can change in ten years. Ten years is a long enough time to grow up and in be in 4th grade already, right? They even have a name for when ten years passes – a decade. For wedding anniversaries, ten is the year for tin and aluminum gifts. Go figure! That requires some creativity for gift giving – maybe we should change it to sari blankets, instead.
Sari Bari is approaching the ten year milestone this month on February 20th. It is not lost on us how important this anniversary is, and we want to mark and celebrate it well. We love to celebrate at Sari Bari, so a party was always going to happen. Even so, we also need to thoughtfully mark the miracle of still being in business.
Ten years is a significant milestone for a business. Did you know that 96% of businesses fail in the first ten years? That means only 4 out of every 100 business successfully make it past the ten year mark. I am curious to know what percentage of those are social enterprises. Since social business has been relatively new in the last 10 years, there is not much out there in terms of data for tracking this emerging business type. However, we are beyond thankful to one of the lucky 4%.
So here are a few reasons we think we made it this far. We must also clearly state that we have had more than our fair share of serious doses of miracle, mystery, and magic that made a way when there clearly was not! So here we go with the tangibles:
Cash flow: Inc.com indicates that those who manage cash flow well are the ones that make it. And we would have to agree on that one, but it’s not the only thing that made the last ten years work.
Collaboration: This is the big one. I mean really big. Instead of competing with other local social businesses in Kolkata, we have shared, and they have shared. We are all share-y and generous together! We have also had a lot of help from groups like Justice Ventures International, Freeset, Passion 2012, and a few individuals that taught us how to do business better.
But for us, collaboration is not just outside the office with other businesses. Collaboration is practiced within our walls and key to our ability to grow and be sustainable. The women of Sari Bari are not receivers; they are collaborators in the business for their freedom and the freedom of others.
They have buy-in, and as a result, Sari Bari is theirs not only in spirit but in tangible and practical ways. Women at Sari Bari are invited to become shareholders after completing 5 years of employment. Currently 14 women are shareholders and another 19 women have been invited to become shareholders., In 2016 we will also see two women from Sari Bari appointed as Directors in the company. When we say collaboration, we mean it. We also believe that collaboration means Sari Bari will be able to continue to tap into the profound potential and capacity for growth in the women themselves.
Capacity: As a rule, there is never enough capacity in a social enterprise; there is too much work, too many dreams to build, and not enough people to do it. And yes, capacity is a challenge at Sari Bari as well. But we have a beautiful gift in the capacity we do have because of the women who have risen to leadership. The women of Sari Bari themselves are leading as strong, compassionate, and empowered managers. Any business would be lucky to have them!
Cool Hardware: Okay not really…well maybe! Alright, yes, we do have cool hardware, but the important thing is why we have really cool hardware. It’s because we care about the product being something we want to buy ourselves. We care about beauty, and we care about quality. So yes, maybe cool hardware is a key component to making it ten years J
Compassionate Community: The bottom line is this: we are a community committed to embodied hope, lived out with friends. And we are in it together. No one rides solo on this train!
Ten years matters because it means we have a laid a good foundation for the next ten years, a foundation on which to continue to build a business and a community that creates freedom and opportunity for women have been exploited in the sex trade or women who are vulnerable to being trafficked.
At Sari Bari we can only step back in awe and with gratitude and say thank you to each other, to the hundreds of volunteers and interns, to the expat and Indian staff, to the women themselves for believing they could do it and then doing it, and to you our customers, cheerleaders, and supporters. We want to say a HUGE THANK YOU!
To the next ten years, or as Buzz Light Year would say….to infinity and beyond!