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Home » Workers Raising $80k to Save Ethical Fashion Brand Nisa

Workers Raising $80k to Save Ethical Fashion Brand Nisa

by Keegan Fraser
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Staff of a Wellington ethical clothing businessthat closed last month are fundraising to restart the venture that operated to employ migrants and refugees.

Nisa, which manufactures underwear and swimwear, was founded by lawyer Elisha Watson, who quit her job to create a business that could provide employment opportunities for women new to the country, inspired by her volunteer work at Red Cross.

During its peak the business employed 16 staff and received capital funding through Theresa Gattung-backed investment platform SheEO in the early years.

On July 16, Nisa’s online store closed down after Watson failed to secure a buyer. She had listed the business for sale in March with the intention to step back to spend more time with her young family.

Last month Watson said the business was no longer in the financial position to continue to operate without securing a buyer to inject new capital.

However, this week a group of five former employees, Pam Lowe, Queen Sudagar, Hannah McHalick, Li Ling Ho and Yuri Mahecha, have banded together to buy the business and set up a PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign to raise the money.

New Nisa chief executive keen to get ethical clothing business up and running again VideoDAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Pam Lowe, one of Nisa’s original employees and former production manager, has formally taken over as one of five new co-owners and chief executive of Nisa. Nisa is an ethical clothing business that shut down last month and the staff are fundraising to restart the venture that operated to employ migrants and refugees.

The crowdfunding campaign which launches on Monday is seeking to raise $80,000 which will be used to make new stock and re-employ as many of the machinists as possible.

One of Nisa’s original wokers and former production manager, Pam Lowe, has taken over as the new co-owner and chief executive.

Lowe said Nisa needed five machinists by December, which would be possible only by raising funds.

“I’m really trying to reframe my terror as excitement. It’s terrifying but also very exciting. I just really want the business to continue. I’ve worked in it for five years and is something I believe in massively.

“I don’t think we will be able to do it without the $80,000. I would love for it to continue if we can’t raise it, but I don’t know that we would be able to.”

In an update email on Wednesday , Watson said following news that Nisa would close after it could not secure a buyer, its sales had turned around during its close down period, and it sold fives times its normal order volume, sending out 11,113 garments.

Watson said she had always dreamed “that one day Nisa would be taken over by its staff”.

Wellington company employing former refugees to make underwear VideoMICHELLE CAMERON/NISA

Nisa is a Wellington-based company employing former refugees to make underwear.

Lowe said Nisa she had seen first-hand over the past five and a half years how it had helped women who would have otherwise found themselves in jobs that did not help them to settle integrate into society.

“Nisa is like a community, we try to help everyone in any aspect of their life, whether it is navigating how to buy things here or what to do in certain situations, and also help with their language.

“Often women who come here from backgrounds like our staff will end up in solitary jobs like cleaning and it doesn’t help with their language, doesn’t help them to become a functioning part of the community.

Machinist Queen Sudagar is one of Nisa’s new five owners – all former employees.
JUAN ZARAMA PERINI/STUFFMachinist Queen Sudagar is one of Nisa’s new five owners – all former employees.

“We talk while we sew, all have lunch together and help them integrate, that’s one of the more important reason for keeping Nisa going. They often don’t have family or friends here.”

Nisa has employed women from Ecuador, Afghanistan, Somalia, Myanmar, Syria, Iraq, Columbia, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and other countries in Asia.

Lowe said production would resume in two weeks.

Source: Stuff

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