LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER
Hi! I’m Ming-Ming Tung-Edelman. I founded the Refugee Artisan Initiative, and MiMi Globe Goods in 2013 in Seattle, WA. because my passion is to help refugee and immigrant women in the United States to build a better life for their families. All of the profits from our goods go directly to our wonderful women workers.
My concern for refugees begins with my own experience – I was an immigrant from Taiwan myself, 32 years ago. I was able to get an education, become a pharmacist, and give my kids a great life. As recent crises around the world brought more refugees to our shores, I wanted to do something to give back and find a way to help these new arrivals achieve financial independence.
After wearing a fashionable fabric necklace home from a trip to France in 2015, I received many compliments and questions about how to buy pieces like it.
From that inspiration, MiMi Globe Goods was born, and I got a chance to put my fashion certificate from the University of Washington, and my love of fashion, to work for good. Our nonprofit company uses recycled/upcycled materials, and helps trains immigrant women artisans to assemble all of our beautiful pieces. Each one is unique and handmade, and sold on MiMi Globe Goods, or at local retail outlets.
OUR PILOT PROJECT
The first group of immigrants to craft our products were from Bhutan, and based in Tukwila and Everett, Washington. They began by making fabric flower necklaces, which have since expanded to earrings, barrettes and bangles.
The first woman hired was Toma. Disabled by polio, which she contracted during her 20 years in a Nepalese refugee camp, it was difficult for Toma to commute to work or stand for long periods. Furthermore, as the oldest of 7 children, she was needed at home to help her mother care for younger siblings. We helped her provide for her family by creating beautiful jewelry at home. When Toma got married and moved to St Louis, Missouri in December of 2016, she referred her two good friends Rekha and Ananda. She still phone coaches our two new artisans whenever they have questions.
Helping immigrants like Toma develop new skills and have sustainable home-based employment improves the lives of their entire families. There are currently no other organizations in the Greater Seattle area focused on training immigrant women in home-based jewelry making.
RAI is currently able to support 5 artisans who have learned the fundamental sewing skills taught by volunteers. As we expand, our goal is to provide more opportunities for artisans to develop their talents by learning new skills. In 2018, we will be increasing our markets and product lines to support the goal of growing sales and inviting more artisans to benefit from RAI programs.
Our beautiful jewelry and accessories made by our artisans are flying off the shelves at nearly a dozen local retail outlets and museum gift shops, including the Chihuly Glass Museum, Ten Thousand Villages, Volunteer Park Conservatory, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, the Cathedral Shop at St. Mark’s, Satsuma Designs, Retroactive Kids, Drizzle & Shine, and more.
We were honored to receive the Audience Award at the 2016 NW Business Impact Pitch Competition. Later that year, we won the Social Innovation at the Seattle University Business Plan Competition and were invited to participate in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Holiday Giving Marketplace in 2016 and again in 2017.
ECO-FRIENDLY & FAIR-TRADE PRINCIPLES
As part of the Refugee Artisan Initiative, we:
- Hire and train immigrant women with sewing skills.
- Enable artisans to work from home in an enterprise that needs little space.
- Help women overcome language, transportation, and cultural barriers to employment.
- Pay the Seattle-mandated minimum hourly wage.
- Use recycled and repurposed materials, so our goods are easy on the environment.
- Treat workers as collaborative and creative partners.
- Help provide inroads for immigrants to enter into mainstream American life.
We’re just getting started in our efforts to help refugee women support their families. Our team is preparing to help train and supply even more immigrant women arriving from countries around the world, and in other areas outside of Seattle. Our goal is to see our model replicated in cities around the U.S. that have major immigrant populations.
If you love our designs and share our passion for welcoming refugees and new immigrants, please donate to us and sign up for our newsletter so you can be updated on our progress. Or, contact us to discuss wholesale and collaboration opportunities.