Cover photo taken by Fig Industries for Fig Lancaster.
The Lancaster Chamber strives to provide opportunity for local business and community leaders to share their insight and perspective on a variety of current topics.
This Words That Activate Change series is focused on uplifting voices in our community that encourage dialogue, cultivate transformation, offer thought-provoking ideas, and challenge all of us to be better, be stronger, and, most importantly, be advocates for systemic change within both our community and our workforce.
Our ninth article is by Timbrel Chyatee. Timbrel is the founder of Lush Bazaar a social-enterprise that is located in Lancaster, PA and works throughout Asia. Lush Bazaar is a eco-sustainable brand committed to sustainably made fashion and handcrafted products. Creating a change in the current global supply chain of fast fashion and sweat shops in Asia. The mission of Lush Bazaar is to provide fair wage jobs to individuals who previously worked in sweat shops and sweat factories. Timbrel is also the creator of The Cultured Workshop which focuses on educating individuals and employees about different cultures and traditions to better understand diverse communities and people.She is passionate about uplifting people and supporting her community locally and in India.
Supporting Sustainable & Local Business During An Uncertain Time
By Timbrel Chyatee
In February of this year, I went to India for my semiannual business trip, which turned out to be a major pivot in my entrepreneurial journey.
For the past 5 years I have been traveling to Asia twice a year to work with my International team to design new products and find new avenues of art to explore. I spent 3 weeks designing, planning and creating a new line of products that I was very excited about launching this summer. Being in business for a little over 4 years, 2020 seemed like my breakthrough year. It was going to be life changing.
However, less than one week before I was supposed to head back home to the United States, India went into a complete lockdown due to Covid-19. Without any prior warning the country closed its borders, closed all businesses, and stopped all local and international travel. At the time I was working with new artisans in a small town in India. Being stranded in this town and having my business close down for 21 days seemed fairly manageable. But after 21 days the lockdown was extended and panic set in. Not only was my business in Lancaster closed, but my manufacturing unit in Asia had to temporarily close down, with no idea when we could reopen. My employees called me in desperate need of help, because the government was not providing them any assistance. I never made plans for a situation like this. Did anyone?
After researching into Asia’s exporting and factory information I found out that many large and name-brand companies were canceling orders without assuming financial responsibility even when workers had finished making their products. The garment workers and factory workers in Asia and beyond were left abandoned with no income and no means of providing for their families. Most supplier factories in Asia were strapped for cash and unable to pay workers’ wages and other compensation because of these brands’ actions. The global supply chain of fast fashion and good products made cheap were facing a major setback, causing more chaos to an already agonizing pandemic. Knowing this made my mission to create a brand that supported my employees even more valuable and important. I chose to assist my team by providing weekly groceries and a stipend. Major companies and brand names walked away from their employees, but small business like mine were choosing to stand by our employees and support them during this painful pandemic.
Being a small business this was a huge responsibility to take up, but it was also imperative for my business and mission. My team is the foundation of my business, without them I wouldn’t have a business, without them I wouldn’t have sustainably made merchandise. Without their skills, consumers wouldn’t have an option to shop handcrafted and sustainably made.
It has been 130 days since India went into lockdown and I was still stranded there until the early August 2020, trying to pivot business. Though the lockdown began to slowly ease up, permissions have been granted for manufacturing at 50%, and exporting is permitted. Although I am now home, for months the international borders were closed and I wasn’t sure when I would be back home or when things could go back to normal here in the United States.
Because of all of this, now more than ever it’s important to invest in local or sustainable businesses. They are the cornerstones of our local and global economies. They are everyday people with big dreams, strong work ethics and bold missions. These are businesses with a mission of uplifting economies and communities here at home and all around the world. These are businesses that are not engrossed in exploiting employees to make an abundance of wealth, but are focused on treating their employees, both here and in other countries, fairly and equally. These are businesses with heart and soul. Shopping and supporting sustainably made and local is crucial for our communities and for the future of our planet and people. What changes or shifts can you make in your company to help impact that mission?
Catch up on other stories in this series:
The Lancaster Chamber is also sourcing inclusivity & anti-racism training and hosting conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion with a focus on action. We are committed to making changes within our own organization to better serve everyone in Lancaster County.