Written by Elisha, Nisa’s founder
With a new year upon us, I couldn’t resist doing a bit of a 2018 retrospective for Nisa.
The team has grown a lot this year, in a way that is both scary and exciting. We had to increase our team size really quickly as there were certain times of the year that we couldn’t make stuff fast enough - it was just flying off the shelves. The main peaks were after we appeared on 7 Sharp and The Project, when we were featured in the Spinoff, and then also of course around Christmas. Thank you everyone who gifted some underwear to their friends and family!
Our team started with me, Shannon (our marketing co-founder), Averil (production manager) and 2-3 sewers. We’ve hired a second production manager, gained the world’s loveliest helper Sharmalee, and most importantly, hired lots of new sewers from refugee backgrounds to deal with demand. At peak times we had 5 people working on the sewing machines at the same time, so our wee fleet of sewing machines has had a good workout.
It’s been scary taking on so many people as a start-up - if sales drop off, we will be in real trouble, but I guess that is the dilemma that most businesses have and I probably just need to get used to it. The exciting thing is that the bigger we get, the more systems we put in place and the smoother things operate. I am now madly passionate about systems. (Has a geekier thing ever been said)?
Growing the team means we are also creating a real community here at Nisa. The team is made up of people from 6 different countries, and we can support each other when times are rough and celebrate when good things happen in our lives. One of our employees from Myanmar has just bought a house with her husband after saving up for many years, which is a real triumph. The husband of another one of our employees has recently found a full time job, after looking for several years, which again is a major achievement.
There have definitely been some bumps along the road. We’ve realised that we need to hire sewers who are already pretty experienced. Sewing is a highly skilled trade where attention to detail and handling are two key skills that are, to a certain degree, intuitive. Our approach has evolved to take people who with proven sewing skills already, and then provide them with advanced training.
How we sell
To date we’ve mainly been selling through our online store. My lovely and tireless mother does our dispatch, which during Christmas time ended up being a full-time job for two people (hi Sharmalee!) We’ve had pop-ups along the way, and then sold at some Christmas markets.
Through the pop ups in Wellington and Auckland, we got to meet our supporters and customers in person. These interactions are hugely motivating for us - my personal favourite is when people come into our pop-up currently wearing our undergarments. It’s a lovely experience for us to develop personal connections with the wider Nisa community, and we want to create more opportunities for this to happen in 2019.
Which brings us to the big announcement hidden at the bottom of this blog…. We are opening our first permanent SHOP!! It will be on the first floor of a beautiful old building in Willis St in Wellington. The picture above shows some of the renovations we're doing in the space. And the best bit: we will have our workshop on site. You will be able to see the Nisa team hard at work making cotton undies for you! You’ll be able to try things on, have a chat, and see the team in action. We don’t know many other place in New Zealand like this, or as a matter of fact, in the world, so we hope that we can offer something new and exciting. The store will be opening late Feb / early March, so watch this space.