Building more inclusive and innovative supply chains across the American cottage industry
We advance a handworker economy built on the strength of immigrants, women of color, and underserved communities who use craft for income.
I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
I am over 18 years of age
My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States
Where are you making a difference?
NC: Charlotte (28203) | MS: Jackson (39202) | NM: Albuquerque (87110) | NY: Harlem (10027) | ME: Waldoboro (04572) | AL: Birmingham (35222), Mooresville (35649), Florence (35630) | SC: Columbia (29209), Charleston (29492, 29407, 29403) | CA, San Francisco (94102, 94108)
Focus Areas (required)
Business & Social Enterprise
Development & Prosperity
Human Rights & Equality
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)
Website or social media URL(s) (optional)
1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.
My grandmother is from a small town in rural North Carolina and grew up a tobacco farm. Her mother was a quilter and a sewer and made all of their clothes. She taught my grandmother how to sew, who in turn taught my mother, who then passed the skill to me at a very young age. I was profoundly impacted when I recognized the independence and the power of handwork to generate income while allowing women to be at home. Both my mother and father are also entrepreneurs—my mom started a nonprofit and my dad, a technology company. I think the combination of being raised by a grandmother who taught me to appreciate the art of “making” combined with my parents who were both entrepreneurs led to the creation of Nest.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Nest partners with local entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses and has a proven track record both globally and across the US. Nest’s training programs for artisan businesses build a pipeline of small production-ready businesses while the Nest Standards, Seal, and brand services increase the industry’s ability to responsibly source from artisan or home-based businesses and increase consumer demand for ethical handcraft. These factors work in tandem to stimulate both supply and demand for goods made entirely, or in part, by hand and uses a systems-change model to increase revenue, production, individual earnings, and employment for overlooked and vulnerable workers. Programs include an interactive digital learning hub, pro bono consulting, leadership training, and peer-to-peer mentoring.
Funding would give leaders like Shanika Pinchey, a minority business owner from South Carolina, access to Nest’s business development tools. Shanika learned to sew at a young age and now owns a natural dye fiber business called Sebastian Harper, named after her boys. Shanika’s goal to expand her business and eventually provide technical training on sewing and embroidery.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.
Handwork is ingrained in Natalie Chanin’s heritage, personal identity, and connection to her hometown of Florence, AL. Florence was once the t-shirt manufacturing capital, but after NAFTA, 5,000 skilled textile workers there lost their jobs. Natalie’s company, Alabama Chanin sought to recapture what has been lost in American textile manufacturing and work alongside Alabama’s veteran seamstresses, a now aging demographic, to bring it back. Natalie and the seamstresses she employs now run a modern cottage industry. Nest provided Natalie with critical skill-building programs for her workers. The results were improved production quality (up 117%), staffing (up 100%) and sales (up 32%) which sustain her innovative model for working with cottage industry producers. Research showed the at-home workers in Florence were making 3 times the retained earnings of their factory worker counterparts.
5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?
The US manufacturing industry lost nearly 2 million jobs over the past 20 years, leaving skilled workers unemployed or working in low-wage jobs. Home-based work provides an alternative not only for former textile workers, but also for those in rural areas, those challenged to find work due to extended unemployment or disability, or those in immigrant communities—many of whom already possess handwork skills. Nest programming addresses root causes like complex labor laws and skill deficiency.
5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:
age - elder
6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
Few organizations focus on domestic home-based production, but similar approaches—like Ashoka Fellow All My Kin—have proven successful in other sectors. Nest’s approach to home-based work is unique and ensures systemic change and cross-industry collaboration. Nest takes a macro-view to identifying sector challenges and developing solutions that can be scaled to support more workers across the country. Other programs are supporting local and maker initiatives, but many of these focus on more established entrepreneurs that leave minority, low-income, and immigrant communities behind.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Nest’s short-term, tailored programming yields high impact: 76% revenue increase, 120% production increase, and a 136% staffing increase. This work provided the knowledge and credibility needed to help leading retailers and brands to create inclusive sourcing strategies. Nest’s Standards for Home and Small Workshop production were piloted in 45 locations (including the US), and capacity building programs reach 450 businesses representing 100,000+ individuals globally. Brand partnerships continue to provide increased market access for handworkers, sourcing $5.5M in 2017 alone. Nest and Bloomberg Philanthropies together held a Convening in South Carolina to bring together philanthropists, government officials, brands, and artisan leaders to discuss solutions that ensure home-based workers are seen as small business owners and given the opportunities, resources, and services to prosper.
8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?
Homeworkers face complex and dated labor laws that vary by state and craft type. To address this, Nest intends to open source its US Labor Law-compliant Standards and implementation tools for handworkers and business owners. Nest will increase US-based business participation in the Nest network and collect unrepresented industry data that will aid policymakers and local government officials as they assess the resources and structure needed to support American handworker opportunities. Nest will continue to convene, share resources, and leverage partnerships to ensure both scale and reach.
8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?
Large Scale Partnerships
Industry Standards (labels, certification, awards, etc.)
9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
Nest ensures financial sustainability through diversified revenue. Philanthropy is combined with earned revenue from a fee-for-service model that gives brand partners access to transparency programming and increased sourcing opportunities. Brands account for 30% of total revenue and have tripled Nest’s worker reach. Key philanthropic funders include Bloomberg Philanthropies, Swarovski Foundation, and the Goodrich Foundation. Top brand partners include Target, Hermes, West Elm and Patagonia.
10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
The team (13 full-time, two part-time) represents the brand (ensuring industry application), the constituent (providing subject matter expertise) and the systems perspective (creating assessment protocols). As this work expands, Nest will consider bringing on US-dedicated staff to implement programming tailored to the unique needs of domestic handworkers. Nest further convenes industry leaders (it’s Steering Committee) and leverages expertise and insight from an Advisory Council and Board.
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)
White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)
No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community
How did you hear about this challenge?
If you replied "Other" in the question above, please specify. (optional)
I am an Ashoka Fellow.