A picture of Nasiim looking after the shop
Blog written by Elisha, Nisa's founder
The last time we’ve done a big proper update for all of our supporters was in February (gulp) - there’s been so much going on since then we haven’t really had a moment to stop and catch our breath. But I think it’s important to share the inner workings of our workshop with you guys who make it all possible, and you just have to make time for important things.
Since our last blog post, our Willis St store has opened, we’ve had some staff leave and some new ones join the team, found a new fabric supplier and introduced some pretty mindblowingly cool new systems 🙂
About a year ago I was wondering whether we should move into a new workshop which would allow us to have a shop on-site. People talk about bricks and mortar being dead, and in my own experience I felt like my friends and I hardly ever go to physical shops anymore - so much is done online. But it seemed like a bit of a waste to have a workshop that you are SO proud of, and not show it off to the world.
So we took the plunge and got a lease in the centre of the Wellington CBD, with a shop and workshop all together. I anticipated that we’d get maybe a sale a day, as we were upstairs, but that didn’t matter too much as the main purpose of the space was for it to be our workshop and we would continue to sell online.
I couldn’t have been more wrong about the prospects of our wee shop. We now sell the majority of our products directly in store. It’s been so lovely having customers coming in wearing our briefs and bralettes already, or who have popped in after friends raving about us. It definitely gives us the warm fuzzies in the way that having an online store can’t match. Having a physical store is also great for staff, as our sewing team can see the people that are wearing and loving what they make.
Talking about the team, we are in such a strong place at the moment. Two of our staff left earlier in the year, and that was a big shake up for us. One moved quite far away (but on the plus side, she was the first person in her community to buy a house - which is so awesome!), and the other left for health reasons. There were lots of tears on the last day, and it made me realise the main thing that Nisa offers to our former refugee staff is companionship - a group of other women to talk and laugh with, and to share the highs and lows together.
We’ve now taken on two more sewing staff, both from Colombia. They’ve had professional experience in the sewing industry in Equador, a common country for people to travel through who have fled conflict in Colombia. They are such a great fit for the team, and sew to such a high standard. As time goes on we are able to take on staff who have lower and lower levels of English, which is a challenge we relish as we see their language skills take flight once they’ve been here for a few weeks. It just goes to show that not everybody can learn effectively in a classroom setting.
Systems and sourcing
This might sound terribly geeky, but I LOVE setting up systems that make everybody’s life flow a bit better. In the workshop, this revolves around a Kanban system (google it, it’s crazy how it’s transformed everything we do) and lean manufacturing. I’d like to do a particular shout-out to Jimmy and Craig, two people who have lots of experience with lean manufacturing who have shared their knowledge with me.
Lean manufacturing means minimising lead times as much as possible, meaning you hold less stock and make to actual rather than projected demand. This is better for the environment and great if you’re lacking in storage space! Our lead time at the moment is ONE DAY (it used to be two months). We plan the days work so that it should be finished by the end of the day, and then a new workstream starts the next day.
This is also great for staff satisfaction, as it’s really clear when things are going well (yay we finished early, and everyone can go home early) and when things have gone wrong (oh dear we’re not finished by home time).
I’ve become a convert to the concept of lean manufacturing and will talk anyone’s ear off who is interested in it. It’s really the only way to manufacture in New Zealand. I could never have guessed, when I left my life as a lawyer, that I would be crazily passionate about this, but there you have it.