The next in our YST 2022 partner blog series features Fritha, founder and CEO of Secret Projects. Secret Projects is driven by a desire to empower women through economic development, by training marginalised women in India, enabling them to earn an income making stitched products sold within India and internationally. They seek to create “a world where all women have the confidence and resources to make choices, thrive and contribute to the strengthening of their communities”. We are excited to hear more about what inspired their projects, the work they are currently undertaking and what they hope to achieve with this in the future.
We are thrilled to give Fritha a warm welcome to our YST 2022 interview series!
Is there a person or group of people that have had a significant impact on your life and led you to where you are today?
Yes, the founders, staff and children from Odanadi Seva Trust, the charity that benefits from the funds raised by Yoga Stops Traffick. I was introduced to Odanadi Seva Trust when I was 31 and met founders Stanly and Parashu when I was in India representing the charity I worked for at the time, Adventure Ashram. The charity is supported by a group of motor bikers who support children’s charities located on the route to their motorbike adventures. I knew that Odanadi Seva Trust was based in Mysore and that the famous Mysore Ring road was part of the route of our South India Motorbike adventure. Stanly and Parashu took me to a building site where they dreamed of completely rebuilding it and turning it into a house for boys who were rescued from situations of human trafficking. I met two of the boys who lived in the small buildings on the land. We were blown away by their stories and their determination to help Stanly and Parashu finish the building project and move into their home. The big challenge was money. The boys’ house building project was utterly compelling and perfect for the location.
I arranged for the trustees of Adventure Ashram to visit a couple of months later. I was back in the UK, waiting by my phone for a call from the trustees. They called me from the building site and to my delight they authorised the transfer of £70,000 to pay for the boys’ house to be finished! It was one of the best days of my life and motivated my life-long commitment to Odanadi Seva Trust. I was so committed that I had my Mantra Mangalya (simple marriage) to my partner Olaf at the boys’ house. It was quite the party and all was organised by Stanly, Parashu and the boys. Here is coverage of the party on television https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkdXLYwT5hY .
After setting up my own social enterprise, Secret Projects, I was determined to continue my support of Odanadi Seva Trust which is where the idea of launching a range of tanks and tees with the YST logo came from.
How have your customers shaped or influenced your brand? What do you love about them most?
This is a huge question, but a great one! I suppose my customers are the brand, as 280 of our customers actually own the brand as Shareholders. I love our customers commitment to the brand and their support of the brand evolving. It started as Secret Pillow Project and now trades under Secret Projects. We economically empower women in India through production and sale of new and used goods, training, consultancy, and bespoke travel.
Now that we are somewhat easing out of this pandemic, what challenges do you think this will pose for your company? In what ways will you have to adapt or what lessons will you take with you into the future?
As a company we are focused on the opportunities that are presenting themselves to us as the pandemic eases. We are a micro company able to be creative and pivot to take advantage of emerging opportunities, so we are utterly focused on innovation at the moment.
Is there an injustice or specific issue that motivates your community?
Women’s economic empowerment. Our vision is a world where all women have the confidence and resources to make choices, thrive and contribute to the strengthening of their communities.
What accomplishment are you most proud of that your community helped you to reach?
I am proud that myself and the customer part of our community, my fellow directors, staff and our Makers in India have built Secret Projects into an ethical multinational group which is able to scale its operations and have a future in the long term. It was a HUGE undertaking which I am happy to say is now complete. We are now focused on scaling and innovation.
Finally, we’d like to say a huge thank you to you for supporting YST 2022! Do you have a message for everyone taking part in Yoga Stops Traffick next March?
The money that is raised from Yoga Stops Traffick pays for the running costs of Odanadi’s homes for children. I have spent a lot of time in these homes and they are truly incredible. The children and young people are happy and thrive so much that many of them reintegrate back into society and have jobs and families of their own. Paying for the running costs is a great honor for the Yoga Stops Traffick community because these are the hardest costs to cover through other forms of fundraising, even though they are the most important costs. By taking part in Yoga Stops Traffick you are helping 120 children firsthand to gain safety and to go to school on a daily basis. What is better than that?