Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Carla. I’m originally from Brazil and almost 4 years ago I decided to leave my country and try to do something different. I’m a fashion designer, I worked for 6 years in the fashion industry in Brazil, and I would like to use the skills I had not only to make money and build my own career, but to also help other people. I lived for over one year in California, learning English (I couldn’t speak English at all!), and thinking what I could do. So this is how I got to the idea of Project Três.
What exactly is Project Três?
Project Três is a women empowerment project taking place now in India and Kenya, where we teach women living in vulnerability or without job opportunities how to make handmade products. We don’t work with artisans, so sometimes we have women coming to us who never worked with handcraft products before and we teach them from scratch. I live in the places where we set up Project Três, and I teach them myself. Afterwards, they can do the same with new women joining us. They learn about quality control, how to make patterns, stitching, embroidery, how much we should charge for each product, carving, painting, how to make accessories, how to use recycled materials, and many other skills. Some of them have their own businesses and I also support them on that. Explaining how to handle costumers, how much they should charge, and how to handle their finances. We have 34 women working in the project at the moment, and we work with divorced, widowed, single mothers, acid attack survivors, housewives, refugees, and anyone else in need of an opportunity.
What inspired you to start Project Três?
I can say that my first inspiration was my mom. I suffered domestic violence as a child, and my mom too. My father was very abusive, alcoholic, and I saw everything my mom faced to overcome this. When a woman is suffering any sort of abuse, most of the time people can’t really understand them. It’s so easy to imagine that they are facing this because they want, or that you should just leave the aggressor. I know from experiencing this that the fear you feel is not just for yourself, but for what your society will think about you, what about your kids, or if you are strong enough to take this step. So what inspired me is to change this reality is to give strength and hope to women thinking they have no options anymore. And not just showing them that is possible, but empowering them to be independent, and help others facing the same issues.
How did you come up with the name?
“Três” is the number 3 in Portuguese, my native language. I chose this because of past, present and future. We always try to use recycled materials, or at least follow a zero waste production method. So this stands for:
The past – for what the material used to be
the present – for a unique design product, and the future – creating a greener and more sustainable environment for our generation and those to come.
Afterwards I realized that this was also for the women being supported, that was somehow without a place in their communities, and that now have a new beginning and we know the future will be even brighter for them.
Where are your products sold? Are they sold in stores?
We sell in a few shops around the world, in Brazil (Sao Paulo) we sell at Casa Jardim Secreto, in India (Goa) where the project is based – we sell in a few shops, in Germany (Berlin) and we are currently looking for more shops to sell our items, in other countries. We also sell our products in our online shop, where ever I go I have some talk at events and also sell them.
What is your favorite part about running Project Três?
My favorite part is definitely experience the changes in our artisans and their families’ lives. To see how they first get to us without hope, without opportunities, many times thinking they can’t have a better life, and see they turning into transformation agents themselves in the future. I don’t see them as “people being helped by us”, I see them as part of the whole and I know that afterwards they will help us, by making beautiful products, by making sure other women see their potential, and so far this just gets better.
What is your least favorite part about running Project Três?
For me is very hard to manage a lot of things by myself. I have 2 of my best friends working as volunteers in the project for over a year (Amanda and Fabiana), and recently we added a few new volunteers from everywhere in the world, willing to support us. Still, I’m the only one working full time in the project, and at the same time we need more people, we can’t still afford to pay anyone. I have technically a “salary” as well to do my work, as I can’t get other jobs without compromising the work in the project, but obviously, when we don’t have enough money for everything we have to pay, I’m the first one to not get paid.
Is there a favorite product?
All of them. What makes the products really special in my opinion is that they are always a bit different from the other, that as much as possible we like to use discarded materials as well, and that we incorporate traditional techniques into modern design, so everything is just great. I really love the Elephant Chetan pillow, which is a piece for kids, and we use all the leftover materials to fill in the pillow, and I guess this gives such a powerful message to a child. I also love the bags made from recycled cement bags, they are more rough but so practical, waterproof.
Can you tell us how you give back?
We are not just a brand but also a social project. We have an NGO being opened in India, we are associated to a NGO in Kenya (Hai Africa) which is how we got to start developing Project Três there. We cover the school fees for the kids when the parents can’t afford, we support them with medical care in emergencies, legal support for divorce and other issues, and when they first join us, if they are facing problems related to food shortage, we always help them on that too, until they reach the point they have enough to sustain themselves. We don’t set a percentage to give back to them, but we have as a total priority to make sure more and more they overcome any sort of shortage they can have in life.
How do you spread the word about your company?
Mostly through social media, and we have many friends telling their friends about us, or people who already supported us somehow. Often I organize events whenever I am too, with local communities, where I give talks and explain about the project, in these cases people always contribute to us as well.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Take the risk. It will not always be happy, easy and rewarding, but keep on going. There are so few people in the world really willing to make the effort to do good, to change things, that when you feel this call to make you try, just try it. Be ready to understand that at the end of the day, is just about learning how to control your feelings, and don’t worry about just being successful, do things with your whole heart, and everything will work out.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 🙂
I have a quote which I have a tattoo since I started the project, from Iyengar, a yoga guru: “If we are loyal to the path we are on, our lives will get better, and the light of distant perfection will come to illuminate our journeys.” I guess that’s all, be focused. Believe in your dream, and you will change the world, and make people help you along the way too.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
For more information, check our website, watch our videos, or don’t hesitate to get in touch over email or social media. This year we have a big dream to turn into reality (still a secret) and what I can say from now is that we will need an immense help from everyone who likes the work we do. So please, get involved, let others know, and be happy.
Love and light,