Month #7
(December 2016)

1) Validate

(video coming soon)


2) Describe

What We Did:

A. Knitting Home Employment Program

To provide additional income-generating activities for our tag-makers who work from home, we decided to pilot a knitting training program that would teach Agnes and Kwame, our two tag-makers, as well as Ruby and Cecilia how to knit. Knitting is also an activity that workers can undertake during power outages - so they can stay productive. Sarah,  a friend of the project from Colorado, USA, visited Ghana and happened to be a skilled knitter. She brought along plastic looms and some test yarn and was prepared to teach these four workers and Matilda how to knit mittens and hats. Training sessions were held multiple times near the end of December and beginning of January. The employees learned quickly with Kwame and Agnes only encountering difficulty when they dropped the yarn and Ruby needing a partner to oversee her progress occasionally. 

B. Pilot Taxi Transport Project

A nearly $4000 grant was given to the workshop for a taxi transport expansion project that involved purchasing a used Dawewoo (a South Korean manufacturer) Matiz II taxi. The taxi was a five-seater with seat-belts and had not been driven in Ghana. Due to the wear-and-tear that vehicles get on the rough dirt roads outside of the city, it was viewed as a priority to purchase a vehicle that had not been driven here and that also had affordable parts that can be purchased locally. A brand like Toyota - though more sturdy - would be highly expensive and almost impossible to find replacement parts for. The first year of comprehensive car insurance was paid using the grant. James as a driver is required to make sales to Matilda of 40 GHS per day, which she saves to pay the car insurance next year and to replace the car or buy another car in two years. Earnings beyond this, James keeps as his daily income. He is also required to transport persons with disabilities to and from the workshop as needed. James used his own savings and about two and a half months of work to get a driver's license for a commercial vehicle. The grant paid to register the car as a commercial vehicle and to arrange district registration to operate commercially as well as to register for the income tax payment, which he received a sticker for on his vehicle. To operate as a taxi, it was also necessary to paint the sides of the vehicle yellow. He started work after Christmas.

C. Development of Laptop / Tablet Cases

One of the products that Matilda suggested early in the project was laptop and tablet cases. However, she normally made them with foam, which was considered too environmentally damaging to use. For this reason, we did not pursue the product. Since we started buying old sweatshirts and jackets to rip zippers out of, we have an excess of this heavier material, which we decided we could use as padding for laptop and tablet cases. Thus, we prototyped and added these products to our spring collection order.

D. Simplification of Tag Design

Our old tag design was made of two cards of recycled paper, and information was written about MFC by our tag-makers on the front and back of each card. We decided that this information was too detailed not entirely legible, and so it would be better to just simplify the tag into a single one-sided card with the website given for accessing more information about MFC. We created a simplified design and met with the tag-makers to discuss the simplified lay-out and that we would be charging 1 GHS per tag rather than 5 GHS for the four-sided detailed old tag. Though they initially expressed unhappiness with this idea, there was agreement once they understood that it was our goal to transition them over to the knitting work, which is a more creative task and leads to an independent product.

What We Said:

A. Daily Social Media Posts from the Workshop

A social media posting routine developed where a daily picture of activities in the workshop was posted with a caption of what workers were doing that day. We discussed making an independent instagram account for the workshop in the future, so daily social media posts could be made and then compiled onto the main Matilda Flow Co. feeds every few days - to supplement product and photo-shoot adverts.

B. Holiday Break

The tailors went on holiday on December 23 and did not return until January 3. As an appreciation for their work and positive attitude, a holiday gift of 50 GHS was given. 

What We Thought About:

A. Sustainability & Management of Knitting Program

One of the main sources of concern for the knitting program was what to use for the yarn since we did not want to import any materials and organic yarn was not available locally. We decided to prototype manufacturing our own yarn out of tie-dyed t-shirt scraps, which we cut into strips and then sew together back to back into yarn balls. We also only had two sets of the plastic looms and four of the knitting pick tool used. We originally planned to have the founder purchase more of these in the US and bring htem with him on his next trip to Ghana. However, we decided that it might be possible for a wood-carver to make these out of wood or bamboo, which would be more logistically sustainable, so we decided to pursue that strategy instead. Finally, we were unsure how many hats and mittens the workers would be able to produce per month, so we originally set a price of 20 GHS per product with plans to reassess after the first month.

B. Sustainability, Documentation & Expansion of Taxi Project

As described in the November report, providing James with a better work opportunity was viewed as a key priority for morale and overall well-being of the project - even though it was not planned originally. We decided to couple this need with our existing desires to have transport services for workers and generate data for planning a larger scale transport service project for persons with disabilities. To generate this data, James is asked to keep a notebook recording all expenses (fuel, repair), all revenue (for sales - distance, amount, and time of day), whether he was able to make his required 40 GHS payment to Matilda a the end of the day, and the amount of spending money he has left at the end of the day. This data will be used to justify whether a larger network of taxis could be implemented as a social impact project after three to six months - to provide affordable, accessible transport to persons with physical disabilities.

C. Importance of Bringing in New External Energy

Matilda Flow Co. is a living, changing project. Having a visitor on-site with perspectives to offer on the project and a new skill to teach workers was really exciting and offered a lot of hope and excitement that the project was moving forward. We should continue to harness the energy of visitors to interject new life into the project.

D. Solving Water Management Problem

Now that the scale of production is increasing significantly, water management is becoming a problem. The water tank was installed in August, missing the rainy season, so it was only half full. In December, it ran out of water, forcing us to refill it using groundwater. We need to undertake a water management report, estimating our water needs, and consider buying a second larger water tank for next year when the rainy season starts in May. Also - we should send a proposal of the project to a university's chemistry department to find a student, who would be willing to help us find an affordable filtration technique for the dyes so that we can reuse the water. So far, we have tried activated charcoal and vinegar, but neither of them have been able to cleanse the water significantly for reuse.


3) Quantify

Expenses This Month: $5349.48

Workers: $1090.00

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD):  Details:
12/2/16 175 43.75 Agnes & Kwame, Tag-Makers (35 Tags, 5 Cedis per Tag)
12/9/16 500 125.00 Matilda, I Found the World Collection, Third Order
12/21/16 180 45.00 Agnes & Kwame, Tag-Makers (36 Tags, 5 Cedis per Tag)
12/21/16 550 137.50 Bashiru, Tailor (Trial Month)
12/23/16 500 125.00 Matilda, Galaxies Collection, First Order
12/23/16 550 137.50 Guest Embroiderer (2 Cedis per Embroidered Item, 60 Items)
12/23/16 750 187.50 Grace, Seamstress
12/23/16 500 125.00 Cecilia, Cloth-Maker
12/23/16 500 125.00 Ruby, Workshop Assistant 
12/30/16 155 38.75 Agnes & Kwame, Tag-Makers (31 Tags, 5 Cedis per Tag)

Materials: $249.50

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD):  Details:
12/6/16 300 75.00 75 Used Cotton T-Shirts
12/7/16 38 9.50 Hydrosulfate
12/7/16 55 13.75 Stiff Fabric Liner
12/15/16 400 100.00 75 Used Cotton T-Shirts, 10 Sweatshirts with Zips
12/18/16 100 25.00 Fill Water Tank
12/21/16 50 12.50 Caustic Soda & Hydrosulfate
12/21/16 55 13.75 Whiteboard for Work + Learn Program Tutoring

Construction & Expansion: $3877.50

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD):  Details:
12/2/16 4000 960 Matiz II Taxi (Down Payment on 14000 GHS Car)
12/5/16 10000 2400 Matiz II Taxi (Remainder of Payment for 14000 GHS Car)
12/11/16 700 175 Registration of Car
12/11/16 100 25.00 Yellow Paint for Taxi
12/11/16 120 30 License Plates for Car
12/15/16 1150 287.50 Comprehensive Car Insurance Year 1, Star Assurance

Shipping Expenses: $132.48

Date: Cost (GHC): Cost (USD):  Details:
12/9/16 490.60 122.65 Posting I Found the World Collection - Shipment #5
12/9/16 39.30 9.83 Ghana Post, Custom Order for Customer


Sales This Month: $320.00

    Summation of Activities This Month:

    • 7 workers employed
    • 1 taxi purchased, registered, and put in operation
    • 150 used cotton t-shirts tie-dyed
    • 3 sales, 3 distinct customers

    Progress Since Launch: -$17,213.81

    Matilda Flow Co. has been in operation for seven months. Two collections of inventory have now been produced, and marketing efforts are being planned U.S.-side. A spring collection is now starting production.


    4) Interview

    No formal interviews were conducted this month.


    5) Analyze

    Financial Sustainability:

    The project has incurred a loss of over $17,000 in operational and construction expenses since onset. A significant investment was made this month with the expansion project to purchase a taxi. However, this investment should be a sustainable one, generating come to purchase a replacement or an additional taxi in a year or two. It will also yield data that will enable a larger-scale program for our social impact objectives. 

    Environmental Sustainability:

    Now that larger scale production efforts are beginning, a water management assessment is needed to assess ways to better reuse water and to reduce run-off of dyes. A more detailed profile of chemicals used in the tie-dye process should be included. Though hybrid or electrical vehicle was not possible as a taxi due to cost, the vehicle we purchased is very small and extremely fuel efficient. 

    Health-Related Sustainability:

    The taxi includes seat-belts and airbags and passed safety inspection as part of the commercial registration process. 

    Social Impact:

    Two innovative social impact projects are in the pilot stage. Our knitting program has the potential to be a large-scale employment means for persons with physical disabilities who are not able to easily leave their houses to get to the workshop. Once the taxi's financial earnings have been analyzed for a few months, a larger scale network can be designed that will operate sustainably as a regular taxi network, but one-day per week could service persons with disabilities free-of-charge. Since transport is the major barrier facing persons with disabilities in Ghana, this project is seen as a major and exciting step into making impact in this space.