When Sabina Matangi walked into Betterfelt’s workshop in 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal she knew it was the place she wanted to be.
Sabina had experience working as a manager in her previous role, but never had she managed a team like this.
“When I first visited the workshop, I was happy and in wonder to see that all the artisans were women,” she said. “I had never worked with such a team.”
But it wasn’t just leading a large, all-women team that appealed to Sabina, it was also the ability to change women’s lives. In a country where it’s already tough for women in general to find work opportunities, Betterfelt’s team was made up of talented women who may have faced employment barriers at other places.
“[Betterfelt] gives job opportunities to marginalized women. It provides fair pay, steady employment and good working conditions in return for their dedicated work. There is no child- or forced-labour. Fair trade means caring about both producer and customer satisfaction,” says Sabina. “To me, it means changing lives through sustainable business in a healthy working environment.”
As a Fair Trade certified company, Betterfelt’s mainly female employees earn a salary equivalent to a male skilled worker or public teacher in Kathmandu. They also get 10% on top of their salary that is put into a savings account. The company pays for the education of their employee’s children, with all employees receiving a cash grant per child equivalent to the cost of public school.
For Betterfelt, Fair Trade certification is more than just a label, it’s a way of doing business that changes lives.
Women Leadership at Betterfelt Continues to Grow
Today, women are still the major force behind Betterfelt. The company has since come under new ownership, co-lead by Elizabeth Wirth. The company’s artisans are still mostly women too, with Sabina an official partner in the business and CEO overseeing the day-to-day operations of the workshop.
“Women are the backbone of Betterfelt,” says Betterfelt co-owner Liz Wirth. “Sabina is an incredible leader and the women on our team are the reason we create such a high-quality, comfortable product. There wouldn’t be Betterfelt without them.
A Day in the Life at the Betterfelt Workshop
Sabina arrives at the Betterfelt workshop in Kathmandu around 11 a.m. Upon arriving she greets the team and gets started on the day’s tasks. From overseeing the product’s creation, to quality-checking products and orders before they ship, Sabina makes sure everything is running smoothly.
On the main workshop floor, the artisans are hard at work creating Betterfelt felted wool slippers, from the classic slipper to the Jester. All Betterfelt artisans puts their personal signature stitch on each product, so customers can see who made them and that there is a real person benefitting from their purchase.
“The team of artisans are proactive, take responsibility and are self-driven and hardworking,” says Sabina. “They are dedicated to their job and are focused on producing a quality product. They’re helpful, friendly, adjust to challenges and find solutions to problems.”
A healthy, fresh, in-house prepared lunch is served around 2 p.m. before the team continues working on the day’s tasks until the workday ends at 5:30 p.m.
Sabina describes the workshop team as “a big family.”
“It’s a homey environment. We respect and help each other,” she says. “I never feel like ‘the’ boss and employees are comfortable to interact openly. They share their ideas without hesitation, which makes me happy. It gives me an opportunity to know them better and helps to make changes for progress.”
Women Leadership will Help Bring Betterfelt to the Next Level
It’s been eight years since Sabina joined the company. She, and the rest of the talented women in the Nepalese workshop have been essential to Betterfelt’s success. And they will continue to be.
“It’s because of their talent and hard work that Betterfelt is where it is today,” says Liz. “As the company continues to grow, our main focus is to create more opportunities for women in Nepal so they can join this incredible team!”
Sabina and Liz are united in the goal to help Betterfelt do just that.“It’s my dream to take Betterfelt to next level and give more job opportunities to women,” Sabina says.