The latest on the Hammock Situation.
Our struggles right now with regard to the NPHC consist mostly of being able to stay afloat against a rising tide of orders. Every day we get emails, texts, or phone calls asking for more hammocks. Right now, thankfully, we are only supplying to 3 companies, of which only two have ordered large numbers. They are all in Jinja, and they are a matter of meters between each other. It is absolutely saturating the market of that community, true enough. We didn't think about that.
Our staff fluctuates more than my music preferences (currently on a mix of Avett Brothers and Kanye West's newest album). There are two standouts, two dependables that are unbelievably vital to the whole operation, in both a sense of completion of tasks but also in a sense of sustainability. There are lots of others that are helping, lots more who "want to join" but don't want to actually do anything, and tons more who want to sign up but would take over the business completely. This needs to be a one for all and all for one kind of deal, where everyone is learning. I am not quite ready to settle for anything less.
These two kids are the bees knees. After this next trip, I'm going to try and give them the challenge of each, separately, starting their own mock NPHC business from the ground up. They will have the same budget that we started with originally (200 thousand shillings each), which we have now been able to make in profits. They are going to have to go back to buying in small amounts, unless they find a way to get a loan in order to buy rolls (which go at 80 thousand in Mbale, which is a round trip 14 thousand shilling journey). They will create their own budget, make their own designs, and work off of their own problem solving skills. They will have to figure out how to pay out the workers that they find and organize. I am still, for the time being, taking hold of the sales portion of the business. I realize that this is a fault, and I'm working on it. Small steps.
Please forgive me, people who I have promised hammocks to in the US. Neither the NPHC nor I have forgotten about you, but you have to understand that I value solid businesses in Uganda and the local Uganda communities orders over your own. I hope this doesn't turn you away from our business; we are trying to make sure that this thing is sustainable, and if we can make it so that this Ugandan company doesn't have to depend on the charitable purchase of Opolot's friends, then that would absolutely be ideal. For those that I have promised hammocks, worry not; we'll get there. And your hammocks will be sick.
Expansion of the company is imminent. The more hammocks that we sell (we are going to break our 100th sell this weekend) the more scraps we have, thus giving us more opportunity to use the scraps in creative ways. I am so excited about this portion of the business, each day I wake up with new ideas in which to use all of these cool scrap pieces.
The machine is here, with all its bells and whistles. We have purchased a second stand for it, bearings, and several other parts that I can't even remember the name of in order to get it in working condition. I'm really hoping that by the end of this week we'll have a working sewing machine in our hands. What a rush that would be for our kids, to see something that THEY have bought with the profits that THEY have made. I'm so proud!
After an increase in the order from one of the companies in Jinja, and an All Volunteer Conference looming, we currently have 24 hammocks at the shops, waiting to be completed. Considering that we've only sold 80 total thus far, that is a big. number. The kids are flying around, and because of our fervor we are working so much faster and yet so much slower. Every mistake sends us backwards...and when you've got 14 year olds as managers, mistakes are inevitable. But, geez, the things these kids are learning. Its something that I will never forget.