In an ideal world, we wouldn't need a special day to celebrate women. Women have been unseen, unheard and often underestimated heroes in so many ways, throughout all human history. Here at Canvas & Weaves we celebrate women every day - the wonderful collaborators, designers, artists and partners we work with, as well as all of you out there who have been with us through it all.
Til the world catches up, however, we still honour International Women's Day (8 March). This month, we kick off our On The Canvas series with a highlight on the two groundbreaking women who started an initiative that is changing lives through knowledge and skill-sharing, empowering ladies by helping them professionalise their home-based businesses.
Women have always juggled work and family, and during the global pandemic, mostly female-run home-based businesses also became lifesavers, both providing an income and maintaining human connection. Women from low-income backgrounds often have the skills to run a successful home-based endeavour, but need to be educated on the business side of things.
That’s where platforms like Her Rise Above come in. Her Rise Above matches mentors with these brand-new entrepreneurs to help them develop the knowledge and skills they require. They also seek out opportunities for these ladies to bring their products and services to a bigger audience. This initiative brings opportunity to those who would otherwise struggle to bring their talents to the wider world, empowering women to seek out and gain financial independence.
Canvas & Weaves sat down with the energetic ladies of Her Rise Above, Dimple and Sapna, to find out how life brought them down this shared path.
Women Working Together
Sapna explains how Her Rise Above came together. “Her Rise Above was suggested by a committed social worker who shared with us that ladies with home based businesses need support in learning how to reach out to more customers and increase their family income. Having run a small home based business myself, I had personal experience with some of the challenges women face trying to navigate the many tasks needed to run a business, as well as juggle caregiving duties.”
It may be hard to believe, looking at our shiny high-rise buildings, but poverty exists in Singapore, hidden and pervasive. Giving even one household member the ability to dream bigger can be a key to ending the cycle – or, at the very least, reducing the stress that comes with financial instability. Mothers feel better when they are able to provide that little more for their children; that extra income can mean kids have access to better education and opportunities, and are able to benefit from a more conducive home and learning environment, thereby empowering the next generation.
Success begets success, and Dimple and Sapna see this everyday. Each lady starts her journey into her business in her mind first, making plans and developing skills. As she adds various elements, she receives positive feedback from those around her. Eventually she gains enough support from family, neighbours and the community, coming together to help her achieve her dreams.
As a chartered accountant and lawyer by profession, Dimple Sanghi's experience as an executive and career coach is immensely helpful. Dimple has over 26 years experience in investment banking and fund management and has successfully invested in over 25 companies.
Each lady’s story is unique and inspiring, but what Sapna finds the most touching is the ladies’ increase in confidence, as they go from “I’m not sure I can do this” to “I can do this”.
“We’ve had ladies take on large corporate orders, feel more confident to take on stable jobs and feel a strong sense of satisfaction when customers appreciate their products/services!”
Pandemic – From Problem to Opportunity
Even the pandemic did not dampen their ardour. Their advice: “Evolve everyday.”
“If that is your motto in life then you will look at the pandemic as an opportunity to pivot your business model thereby increasing your sales,” explains Dimple.
Sapna agrees: “The pandemic brought about this wave of new home businesses - as well as customers being more conscious about supporting small businesses/supporting local and appreciating unique handmade/homemade products. This makes things more challenging as competition is high but also opens up opportunities for our ladies. “
Sapna and Dimple are, of course, busy ladies - but they take the time to live mindfully. Both ladies have embraced a vegetarian lifestyle, and Dimple’s teenage daughter has even asked the family to forgo the use of a car, a sacrifice they willingly make. Sapna resists the temptation to buy unnecessary clothes for her children just because they’re cute or cheap.
Both ladies juggle work, home, children and social life; their fashion choices are dictated by comfort and practicality. Sapna values a day which gives her extra time to think through her outfit and accessories, and feels more confident when she’s able to put in that extra effort. She describes her style as boho-chic, going for practical summery fabrics to beat the Singapore heat.
Dimple agrees that comfort takes priority, across all occasions. “Of course it needs to look and feel good but if I were to choose I would still choose comfort over other aspects of clothing.”
Both ladies have moved away from fast fashion, going for classic pieces with a long shelf life. Minimising unnecessary items in the wardrobe, however, is always a challenge. Have they succeeded in keeping their wardrobes in check?
Dimple chuckles, “Ha ha, that's a tricky question because I may have one answer and my husband will have the exact opposite answer!”
We asked both ladies: What is the one accessory you can't do without?
Dimple chose her handbag, and earrings. “They make such a difference to any outfit!”
Sapna chose a scarf – to protect herself from unnecessarily cold air-conditioned rooms! – and a dainty chain to complement her neutral wardrobe.
Post-pandemic, Dimple sees fashion trends blurring the line between casual and formal wear, now that ‘work from home’ is becoming the norm.
As she describes it: “Something which you wouldn’t mind showing while on zoom, but I can still hang around at home in comfort in!”
Want to Help?
Both ladies clearly find their work more than fulfilling. “If these experiences can help another individual and make a difference in their lives it’s an elated feeling of achievement,” says Dimple. “The joys and the wins of our ladies when they set up their business and receive their first orders or a big order is what keeps us motivated.”
If you’d like to try following in their footsteps, Dimple and Sapna have this advice to give.
- Use your experience and your own access to opportunities to help others
- Be aware that being ‘disadvantaged’ looks different in different contexts - sometimes it requires a deeper understanding of complex issues every society faces.
- Love the work: be grateful for the opportunity to help.
- Start small and be committed.
- Don’t hesitate or spend too long wondering ‘will I be able to do it’ - just do it!
The Her Rise Above website is still under construction - but you can join their mission by following them at HER RISE ABOVE
Next time you need to give a gift, whether it be for Diwali, Christmas, birthdays or corporate gifts, think of Her Rise Above. Give a gift that makes a positive social impact. Even better, volunteer as a mentor and share your skills. Help others to soar!
Many thanks to Sapna and Dimple for their time!