Saturday, March 27, 2010

Microenterprises Empowering World and Local Refugee Artisans

Houston, TX, March 24, 2010 -- Enthusiastic microenterprise supporters packed Te House of Tea on the evening of March 12 for a reception and exhibit that launched an ongoing consignment of handcrafted items from local and global artisans.

The Community Cloth and Scarlet Threads, both nonprofit initiatives operating microenterprises, co-sponsored the event during Microenterprise Month to heighten awareness of microenterprise both domestically and abroad, to highlight women’s microenterprise successes in particular, and to offer the public a special opportunity to purchase beautiful handmade goods from world and local refugee artisans. A rotating inventory of indigenous handcrafted items such as woven bags and purses, scarves, baby blankets, linens, cell phone cases, colorful aprons, and tiger hats are now available for sale to the public at Te House of Tea, a fair trade teahouse located in Montrose.

“This joint event with Scarlet Threads helped raise awareness of microenterprise as a pathway out of poverty, both on the local and global stages,” said Quynh-Anh McMahan, co-founder of The Community Cloth. “We are also thrilled to partner with Te House of Tea, which has become a voice for fair trade here in Houston.”

Partnering with the two nonprofits is a perfect fit for Te House of Tea co-owner Connie Lacobie, who says that an organization selling fair trade and organic products will be more efficient and effective if it promotes these products on a larger scale. “My business philosophy is to take fair trade and organic products beyond nonprofits to more small businesses and even to corporations so that they will get into the hands of more consumers,” she says. Lacobie is also gratified to be promoting products created by local refugees. “As an immigrant myself, I understand how difficult it is to resettle in a new environment,” she said.

Scarlet Threads marketing maven Eileen Viscontini believes the partnership with Te House of Tea will give Houstonians an opportunity to connect in a small way with people in other parts of the world. “During the reception I was touched to see how many people care about social enterprise and social justice,” she said. “It really showed that once a person becomes aware of a need, he or she forms an instant connection and takes action to help. The turnout at our event reinforced my belief that people embrace the opportunity to make a difference.”

The Community Cloth is a microenterprise initiative empowering refugee women here in Houston. It targets economic, educational and social goals through the provision of seed grants, training, and peer support, and by expanding market opportunities for refugee women artisans. As a collaborative of several refugee-led and refugee-serving organizations, and their supporters, The Community Cloth works with women who create and sell handmade arts and crafts such as woven bags, knitted scarves, linens and more. Through producing and selling their wares, the women have an opportunity to express their culture and heritage, learn new skills that will assist them in transitioning to life in Houston, and obtain much-needed supplemental income for their families. All profits from sales go directly to the artisans. For more information and to keep up with the latest Cloth news, join The Community Cloth’s Facebook Group Page:

Scarlet Threads is a compassionate boutique, specializing in unique products created by talented seamstresses in rural Asia. Scarlet Threads exists to make its core vision of "Work. Dignity. Beauty." a reality in the lives of its partner seamstresses by empowering them through fair trade employment. Each woman works in the safety of her own home and is able to adjust her working hours to meet the needs of her family. By not asking the seamstresses to lower the cost of their labor and by sharing a percentage of the profits with the women, the program is able to infuse more money into the local community with dignity and compassion. Additionally, 5% of each sale goes to development projects benefiting impoverished families living in Scarlet Threads’ home village in rural China. Visit the Scarlet Threads website:

Te House of Tea is a fair trade teahouse in the Montrose area that regularly hosts community events and features local artists.

This was our after-event press release graciously shared by Kelly (Community Cloth Supporter). Thanks to everyone who participated. It was a Huge Huge Huge success. We had about 40-50 people in the shop at all times and everyone left with a greater appreciation for fair trade and microenterprise, including me! --Eileen

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