Workshop update - COVID-19 edition

Workshop update - COVID-19 edition

If I had a crystal ball two weeks ago and could see what our lives were like now, I wouldn’t have believed it. Such radical changes to the way we live have taken place in such a short time. I think it is useful to reflect on how quickly things are unfolding, if only to allow us to be patient with ourselves, and give ourselves space to grieve our plans and let go of expectations of what should have been, to let us deal more effectively with what is.

This last week has been a bit of a journey for me, picking up each one of those expectations for both my life and Nisa, re-examining them, and gently putting some to the side if necessary. 

Capital raise

I have been working on the Nisa capital raise quite intensively for the last six months. (A capital raise is where we sell shares in Nisa to our customers and supporters so that we can fund new projects to help Nisa expand and grow.) We had planned to launch this on April 7, and there were a few excruciating weeks in the beginning of March, as the coronavirus crisis was growing overseas, when I didn’t know what the right thing to do was and whether we should continue with the raise or not. The shutdown has answered that question for us – we are putting this off until things have gotten a bit more sane (when exactly this will be is anybody’s guess).

It has been sad for me to push pause on our growth plans – I felt with every fibre of my being that Nisa was on this path to rock the world (or at least this small corner of the world), and was so excited about the impact the raise would have, with us being able to provide many more employment opportunities to former refugee and migrant communities, and building even more strongly on our ESOL work environment, where our staff improve their language skills every day.

Now Nisa is in a drastically different position, along with the vast majority of other small and medium sized enterprises around the world. We will have to fight tooth and nail to not lose ground and stay at our current size. That will be where all of my energy is dedicated in the coming months. I am so grateful for the Government’s efforts to help us out – with wage subsidies and loan schemes which means small businesses have a chance. I’m also so grateful for our customers who are continuing to place orders online for dispatch once the lockdown is over.  Every order notification which comes through on my phone is a real boost!

The team

The team is doing well, which is my greatest relief. Other than one team member whose daughter is stuck overseas, everyone is safe and sound at home and using the opportunity to plug in online to their English language classes, or spend extra time on their  university studies. We’ve been using WhatsApp to stay in touch, and the voice message function makes it so easy! 

The team is also cooking up a storm at home, and over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing some of their best-loved recipes with you. We’ll start with Queen’s favourite recipe from Sri Lanka, which is called wambatu moju (eggplant pickle) – a delicious side dish.

Wambatu Moju

  • 1/2 cups oil (more as needed)
  • 2 large eggplants, cut into thick strips
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 5 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 green chillies
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1” ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • Salt to taste


  • Heat oil in a large skillet on medium head, add the eggplant strips and cook till lightly golden. This will take about 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant onto a plate.
  • Blend the tomato, garlic and ginger into a smooth paste.
  • In the same pan, heat a dash of oil and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once the seeds start to pop, add the shallots and green chillies, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the onion is soft.
  • Add the tomato paste, salt and ground coriander. Cook for 2-3 minutes
  • Add the cooked eggplant and vinegar. Mix well and cook for about 3-4 minutes for the flavours to come together. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with steamed rice. 

The future

The future is a strange and scary thought at the moment, and so to keep a bit of sanity I’m working on what I know and love. I’m using the time in lockdown as a business bootcamp, working on new projects to launch when we’re all back in the studio. Keep an eye on our social media for some feel-good promotions that we’ll roll out nearer to the end of the lockdown period (follow us at or at

During the lockdown, I’ll be reaching out to our customers and friends (you guys 🥰) as part of our “Month of Connection” for feedback on these new ideas as we go, including what you think of our new website and ideas for new ranges. I figure it’s a great time to get back to the basics and really connect with our supporters, as you are the people who keep us going on a daily basis through buying our garments and passing the word on to friends and family.

The future for Nisa largely depends on them, so checking in and making sure we’re making things they really want is more important than ever. 

If you want to take part in our customer survey, we would be so grateful! You can find it here.

Thank you

The last thing I want to say is a big thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, thank you to all of those who have reached out to us with kind words, thanks to every person who likes one of our social media posts, thanks to every person who places an order with us, knowing we can’t dispatch till we get back to the workshop. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts ❤️

One thing I’m grateful for right now is the clarity I’ve got around our purpose: He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata (What’s the most important thing in the world? It’s people, it’s people, it’s people.)

One last word of wisdom, passed on to me by Christine, a member of the Nisa advisory board, from Seth Godin:

Is everything going to be OK?

That depends.

If we mean, “Is everything going to be the way it was and the way I expected it to be?” then the answer is no. The answer to that question is always no, it always has been.

If we mean, “Is everything going to be the way it is going to be?” then the answer is yes. Of course. If we define whatever happens as OK, then everything will be.

Given that everything is going to be the way it’s going to be, we’re left with an actually useful and productive question instead: “What are you going to do about it?”


  • Kit Ghata on

    Wonderful words and inspiration- blessings from the deep south—

  • Donna on

    What a wonderful message Elisha, thank you. I always feel good after reading your communications and this one is extra special. Caring begets caring.

  • Gail on

    Your team is uniquely placed to tough out this situation. The lockdown is hard but not compared to what your ladies have already endured in refugee camps. When business reopens I predict they will be up and running immediately while less resiliant businesses will take time to resurface.

  • Judi McCallum on

    Nice message, Elisha. Wish you inspiration while in your bootcamp. I will call you Friday.
    Kia kaha e hoa.

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