Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Beads, Beads, Beads!

Paige Affinito, intern

 Nestled within a bustling fish and produce market is Ghana’s biggest bead bazaar, Odumase- from which Global Mamas sources many of the beads found in our jewelry and ornaments. Piles of brightly colored beads adorn rows of wooden tables; small seed beads, traditionally worn in strings around women’s waists, hang from each vendor’s walls. While some strings of beads cost as little as one cedi (about 30 cents), the older and more traditional clay beads are much more expensive.

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 Many Global Mamas work at this market selling their beads to a wide array of customers.  Last summer, a group of interns traveled to the Odumase-Krobo area, where the bead market is located, to interview the bead sellers. Emelia, a member of Krobo’s quality control team, guided the interns around the market and introduced them to each Mama. While the interns held interviews with each Mama, jotting down hurried notes on small pieces of paper amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowded market, Emelia worked as a translator.

She quickly translated the Mamas’ native language of Krobo to English, and the intern’s English to Krobo. The Mamas were happy to meet and be interviewed by the interns, eagerly describing how they got started in the bead business, their hopes and future goals for their businesses, and recommendations as to how Global Mamas can help them be more successful.

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 For many, selling beads is a family tradition that has been passed down for generations. One bead seller, Barbara Tetteh, has been selling beads for 15 years! When asked what she wants her customers abroad to know about her, Barbara Tetteh said, “Selling beads is my family way, a tradition that has been passed down from my grandma to mother to auntie, and me!” She is very proud of her family’s traditional trade, as it is a meaningful part of Krobo’s culture.  

 To read more about the bead sellers in the Krobo market, visit our Krobo Meet the Mamas stories here.


Global Mamas Design Process

Alice Grau, creative director

Global Mamas is dedicated to delivering fair trade, handmade, and stylish clothing, accessories, and home décor. In addition to the Mamas who produce our products, our talented design team plays an integral role in bringing you the products you love. Unlike large fashion brands that have teams for every step of the design process, Global Mamas has just three permanent designers. Designers Nick and Laura work in Cape Coast, while I work in the United States. Together, we create Global Mamas products from start to finish!

The design process begins with trend research in February and March. We do extensive research on competitors, trend-forward brands, and even runway fashions to gain inspiration for the following year’s line. Our new product lines are launched each year to retail partners in February and to retail consumers in March, meaning that we are constantly moving throughout the design process, starting to research the next line as the previous line is launched.

We start by formulating ideas for new products we want to introduce, as well as new colors and batik patterns. Drawing on our research of what colors will be popular that year, we create an ideal color palette and begin working with batikers. One of the unique challenges of working with batiked cloth is that all color combinations are not achievable. Batiking is based on the layering of dye colors, meaning that some color combinations, like pink and green, would wash each other out. Working with the batikers, we test our ideal color palette and then create a practical color palette from the color combinations that can be achieved through batiking.

Starting in May, summer volunteers and interns arrive in Ghana to help the design team develop new patterns and products. We sketch our product ideas and review them as a team, discussing sales results from the previous year. Our three major elements at this time of development are color, pattern, and style. Examining our trend research, we decide how to combine these three elements to create the most exciting products.

Once we decide on certain patterns, styles, and colors, usually sometime in August, the sampling process for apparel begins in Cape Coast, lasting until October. Nick and Laura work with the batikers to create samples of all possible colors and patterns and then with the seamstresses to match these colors and patterns to different product styles. Our design team also develops our beaded products in a similar fashion. We create new product ideas based on trend research conducted by design interns, and then carry out the sampling process with our Krobo team. In beaded product sampling, we focus on trying new colors and adjusting bead layouts until we reach our favorite designs.

 At the end of September, I work with Kristin, co-founder of Global Mamas and the wholesale manager, to review the products we’ve created, selecting two to four batik patterns for each product style. We also create a product line, making sure that not only each individual product looks great, but that the line as a whole is cohesive. We liken this process to playing with paper dolls, moving products around until they look their best!

When the final products are chosen, we start working on our wholesale catalog. Nick photographs the final samples and makes them catalog ready with the help of a Ghanaian graphic designer. Laura works on making sure that the fit of each product is correct and works with Joyce, Cape Coast Inventory Manager, to compile logistical information for each product, such as the required materials, the time required to make a product, and the cost of materials. When all this is finalized in January, the Mamas finally start producing that year’s products!

Changing Focus: Setting SMART Goals

By Kristin Johnson

At the beginning of 2014 Global Mamas made a new year’s resolution:

This will be the year that the Mamas set and achieve longer-term goals.


Long-term planning does not come naturally in Ghana. The cultural norm is to focus on the short-term - plan for today to get to tomorrow. This short term focus makes sense when dealing with poverty, health care challenges, and the general instability of life in a developing nation. But even as the Mamas have begun to realize financial security through the steady orders provided by Global Mamas, they have still struggled to achieve the personal and business goals that require longer term planning.

Over the past decade, we have seen that the more successful a woman is, the more pressure she receives to help support her extended family and community with immediate needs. This drains her business and her bank account of the resources needed to achieve longer term personal and business goals. The one exception to this trend is how committed all of the Mamas are to investing in the education of their children, which definitely is a long-term goal. So even though it makes sense that the Mamas struggle with achieving their dreams that require longer-term planning, it doesn’t mean that we can’t try to shift the trend.

Using the SMART goal format to set appropriate goals.With the support of our talented volunteers, Patience and Anna Rose, managers of the Global Mamas capacity building program, developed and implemented a program focused on setting and achieving SMART goals. SMART refers not only to the fact that the Mamas are talented and intelligent individuals, but also that the goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Sensitive. The key components of the program included:

  •     Bringing the women together in small groups so that they can support each other and hold each

        other accountable. Each small group has given themselves names like Glorious (shown above)

        and Arise & Shine.

  •     Developing a clear plan of shorter terms goals that would lead to the achievement

        of the big dream.

  •     Celebrating successes as they occurred along the way.


From the beginning we were amazed by the great response from the Mamas, who said they very much needed the morale support offered by the program to achieve their dreams. Forty of the Cape Coast Mamas are now actively engaged in the SMART goal program. Their goals include personal ones like sending their children for post-graduate education or buying land. Others have set business goals that include training new employees, purchasing an electric sewing machine or buying fabric in bulk to get better pricing. And one successful Mama has achieved her goal, which was to bring electricity to her house [in Ghana a home owner has to pay the electric company to connect their home to the grid]. For this Mama the process was so successful that she has set a new goal – to buy an electric sewing machine by June 2015. Based on its success, Global Mamas will continue the SMART goal program into 2015.



Knowledge is Power: Ebola & Cholera Awareness Workshops

By The Global Mamas Family

Over the summer, as we received more and more news about the Ebola virus in West Africa, it became clear that we would benefit from knowing the facts about Ebola. Our training team quickly responded by pulling together a workshop and discussion program utilizing materials from the World Health Organization. In August, trainings were held in Ashaiman, Cape Coast and Krobo for all staff and Mamas.

The focus of the training was to provide us with the facts of the situation, dispelling some of the myths, and to allow all of us to share our fears. We thoroughly discussed how each of us can reduce the chances of transmission for both Ebola and Cholera (which is the major health challenge in Ghana right now) and protect our families. We also received a handout with factual information that we could share with our families and communities.

We remain grateful that Ebola has not made its way to Ghana and we pray every day for the safety of the children, women and men throughout West Africa.


Announcing Our New Health Education Program for Mamas

By Amelia Brandt, volunteer


In late 2013, we heard from Mamas that they were especially interested in learning more about their health —an important part of our definition of prosperity. With this feedback in mind, we recruited Adrienne McConnell, a New Mexico native studying for a master’s in community health education, to intern at our Cape Coast location.

Adrienne’s Mama-centered approach began with meeting the women and understanding their health challenges. Mamas shared that they were most interested in learning about nutrition, breast cancer, menopause, and communicable diseases, particularly Hepatitis B and HIV.

Adrienne collaborated closely with Cape Coast office manager Patience and Mama liaison Anna Rose to tackle nutrition first, via a workshop addressing local foods that would resonate with Mamas. Patience and Adrienne also forged a partnership with a nutritionist from the University of Cape Coast, Rebecca, to give the presentation in Fante, the local language used in Cape Coast.  

In mid-April, Rebecca presented on nutrition to Cape Coast’s 40 Mamas and quality control staff members and, with Adrienne’s help, answered many questions from the audience. The Mamas greatly appreciated the lesson; as quality control employee Esther shared, “I was really happy to see the presentation and I learned a lot of new things.” As a part of the workshop, Rebecca and Adrienne distributed handouts about nutrition for women to take home and share with their families and friends. While in Cape Coast, Adrienne also shared her nutrition lesson with two friends of Global Mamas: Judith, a souvenir shop owner and former Global Mamas producer, and Eli, an owner of a small restaurant near the Cape Coast volunteer house.

In late April, Mamas at our Ashaiman location also heard Adrienne’s nutrition presentation. With inventory control manager Dorcas providing translation support to the local language of Twi, Adrienne and the Mamas created a food pyramid based on typical Ghanaian foods for a practical lesson in healthy eating.

Besides nutrition, Adrienne also taught classes about breast cancer and menopause to Mamas in Ashaiman, Krobo, and Cape Coast. With this new program in place, Global Mamas plans to continue health workshops and build relationships with local experts and NGOs to address Mamas’ priority health concerns.

Global Mamas Interest-Free Equipment Loan Program

As the first of a series of programs to celebrate Global Mamas’ 10 year anniversary, we launched an interest-free equipment loan program in December 2013.  This program was custom-tailored based on feedback from the Mamas to provide them with the equipment most needed to increase productivity.  As most Mamas are paid per item made, this increased productivity means the Mamas can bring home more earnings to support their families.

Sergers (known as knitting machines in Ghana) were selected as the focus of this loan program.  Knitting machines are an essential tool used by the Mamas to create seams and edging on clothing, bags and other Global Mamas items.  However, many of the Mamas lack access to these crucial machines, requiring them to spend valuable time waiting in the market to use public knitting machines.  Our hope is that through the purchase of their own knitting machines, the Mamas will be able to save time and improve the quality of the items they make in their shops.

To implement this loan program, we engaged in an formal application process with the Mamas and selected only participants with strong financial records. We also ensured that they continue to follow the World Fair Trade Organization’s fair trade principles.  A contract was then entered into with each participating Mama, stating she repay the interest-free loan through deductions from her regular payments from Global Mamas.  As a result of successful development and implementation of this first equipment loan program, each of our participants received a new knitting machine at the end of 2013!


Melanie Popowich: Love. In Human Form.

By The Global Mamas Family

Melanie Popowich - We miss you...
This January, the Global Mamas family lost a piece of our heart with the passing of our most treasured and loved “small girl,” Melanie Popowich.

Mel was the heart and soul of Global Mamas; our friend, mother, nurse, lifeguard, storyteller and colleague. She found beauty in the everyday and the inspiration in everything. Mel brought gravity to those around her. She shared her humor, love and compassion with everything and everyone. She exuded a boundless love and light that stretched to every corner of the globe.

Since Melanie’s passing, her friends and family have donated over $10,000 dollars to Global Mamas in honor of her dream to create the Fair Trade Zone - a textile production center. We are astoundingly grateful for their contributions and the privilege of having Melanie touch our lives.

Melanie’s spirit will forever feed our dreams for Global Mamas into the future.




A Year in Reflection: Thank You

By Anna Rose Ott

Thank you. Yes, you… you’re the one we want to thank. This year, we watched you share Global Mamas’ hopes and dreams with your friends, co-workers and families. We talk about you often in our circles and have we have decided that you are the best customers in the business. In 2012, with your ever-present support and patience, Global Mamas transformed into something more than we had ever imaged. In 2012….

1. Global Mamas was the 2012 McGuffin Grant Recipient. McGuffin’s talented staff collaborated to create a great promotional campaign, Be The One, to recruit college interns and volunteers. They also re-imaged our website (yes, we were very ready) that will launch in 2013!

2. Moved Prampram production site to Ashaiman! It was a major transition for everyone involved made possible by a grant from the Embassy of France in Ghana.

3. Wisdom Tamakloe was internally promoted (yet again) to General Manager of our Cape Coasts production site. Wisdom joined GM as a Quality Control employee in 2007 and has been climbing the GM ranks ever since.

4. Developed and launched a new Internal Production Management System. Our new database, now tracks all of our raw materials, orders, payments etc. in one place! It was a major undertaking and complete transform from our old system. The new system is working magic across all production sites!

5. We welcomed our first Global Mamas Volunteer Baby, Michitake Stonewall Elliot. Jeb Elliot (West Point Academy) and Emi Yoshidomi-Elliot (JICA) met while volunteering together in Ghana in 2008. Four years, later they are happily married with a lovely baby boy. A Global Mamas love story!

In 2013, lets continue to look towards the future and envision what it could be like to live in a world, the way we dream it to be.




Stirring Growth Seen at NYIGF

By Alice Grau

Batiking with Mary

The end of January has become a routinely exciting time of year for me! Our new catalog is wrapped up and in our hands and it is time to go to the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) to share the new catalog and the vibrant products that fill it with shoppers from around the world. It is both exhausting and invigorating to promote our products that are alive with the stories of the volunteers and producers that are behind each product’s long journey to New York. They are stories that are meant to be shared and passed on, and that is my purpose at NYIGF, to share the stories and sell the product so that the consumer can enjoy the product and feel personally connected to the producer.


This show was my fourth experience at the NYIGF and I have realized that our growth at this show is a perfect reflection of the ways the organization in general has grown over the last few years. My first show was January of 2010 and Global Mamas was just one of many African exhibitors housed in the AfricaNOW booth. Though we were grateful to share space with our wonderful friends, the space was limited and it proved hard to find us amidst the crowd. Merchandising our varied products in the space was very challenging. Needless to say, despite my enthusiasm, having just returned from Ghana, sales at my first show were minimal.


For the next show in August of the same year, we decided to move out on our own. We applied for funding from the West Africa Trade Hub to host our own booth and applied for admission into to the coveted “Hand Made” section of NYIGF. We were fortunate enough to be accepted for both.

We moved “up” into a 5x5 booth of our very own in the Hand Made Global Design division and saw a direct increase in sales as well as access to a new collection of customers who target hand made products. In 2011 we took another great leap and invested in a 5x20 booth, which is where we still reside. This move was the best yet, improving sales and increasing customer exposure each show. However, this January we saw the most exciting growth yet!


We saw a 44% increase in sales from the previous January, attracted 30 new customers and saw increased sales numbers per orders as well. Customers who have been with us for years were suddenly placing orders double their historical size. Every day I walked away from the booth full of joy knowing that we were ensuring the sustainability of this organization and the livelihood of the producers.


I believe these sales are a direct reflection of the increased investments that the organization made in itself and the women throughout 2011. Our staff size increased significantly, most notably hiring our first full-time designer and promoting a staff member to Director of Operations in Ghana as well as a full-time customer service representative in the US. Volunteers put countless hours into creating and teaching workshops dedicated to empowering the producers to be stronger artisans and craftspeople. And, the women in the Global Mamas network worked resolutely to apply their learned skills to create a better product for their customers.




Finding the fun in fundraising

By Melanie Popowich

Product Conception to Fruition

Global Mamas recently embarked on the daunting task of developing a public fundraising campaign to help expand our seventh location in Prampram. We started out by recruiting team USA that included former volunteers Brittany Campanelli & Kiley O'Brien Ruggiero, former intern Aileen Ottenweller and staff members Alice Grau and Kristin Johnson. Renae Adam and Melanie Popowich represented Team Ghana. Brainstorming sessions took place over Skype and vigorous e-mails were sent through cyber space for a few months before the official launch of two online fundraisers on Razoo and Global Giving. On December 1st our fundraisers made their début and by the end of the month, 128 superstars donated $12,223.50! I can vividly remember when the very first donation came through and how excited we all were to be at 1% of our goal. Now, four months later, our fundraiser is just short of $19,000 with 154 donors. As proud as we are at those numbers, the wonderful reality is that we’ve been able to hire 10 new women and provide them with fair and sustainable employment. The Fair Trade Textiles Workshop radiates a whole new energy now as the team works closely filling orders and troubleshooting everyday challenges.


We’re not stopping here! We’re still busy applying for grants and planning our ten-year anniversary fundraiser for 2013. A very special thank you to all of the volunteers who’ve assisted us with research for our fundraiser and to the kind and generous donors for joining the movement and sparking a new ambition for greatness in us all!