Upcycling to improve lives and the environment
Mitz will be exhibiting their new collection of accessories and apparel at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource February from 5-8 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. HAND/EYE Magazine had the pleasure to interview founder Judith Achar and learn more about her company’s products.
HAND/EYE Magazine: What was the inspiration in launching your company?
Judith Achar: The acknowledgment that there are millions of underserved and undereducated women world wide who are seeking a fair chance at life in order to make something of themselves and their children. Since 2003, Mitz (the word Mitz in Nahuatl means “ For you”) has been improving the lives of families in several communities in Mexico. The organization, founded by me, has become a source of income for women in communities who otherwise would have no way of supporting themselves, and has also helped to ensure the children in the community can receive a quality education.
Previously, I was a teacher at the low-income Montessori school in Palo Solo. I started Mitz with a coalition of four mothers who wanted to help the school become self-sustainable. The group collected waste from around the community, which it then handwove into handbags and other products using ancient Náhuatl techniques. We're also able to provide companies with an environmentally responsible solution to dispose their waste packaging by transforming tons of industrial leftovers into valuable handmade products to contribute to the development of an eco-friendly market and industry.
Since its beginnings, Mitz has grown to include more than 100 artisans. Our products are sold in several retail outlets, including M&M'S® World® retail stores in Orlando, New York and Las Vegas, and Coca Cola stores in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Orlando, will soon be sold in duty-free shops as well.
Mitz has grown from a fundraising project to a full-fledged business and has gained several key corporate partnerships, including Mars and CAoca Cola as an example.
H/E: Tell me about the women who work for Mitzi?
JA: In 2016 we trained 100 women from Chimalhuacans Landfill. These are women that used to live from picking up garbage from sunrise to sunset to win 50 pesos a day. With Mitz, they are able to triple their income and can consider leaving the landfill and create a more dignified life for themselves and that of their children.
We have the goal to add 100 new artisans to the project every year and we have created so far over 400 jobs. Our aim is not only to add on artisans to the project, but to enable them to create projects of their own. Which they have. They are small initiatives that respond to specific needs they have been able to determine exist within their communities. A few examples of these are: a very early juicery that serves fresh juices and fruit to men that leave early to work in the mornings (4-6 am), a very late hours stationary store where children can find the school tools they need in order to do homework when all other stores have closed (8-10 pm), a second-hand store, a community poultry store, a beauty parlor at accessible prices to them, etc. Or just having them go back to school is also a goal of our, because most of the women we serve never attended primary school.
H/E: Do you provide any training and any other special programs?
JA: We have designed a comprehensive one year training program that covers a very wide range of subjects that seek to give our workers the basic tools they require to enable them to become economically independent.
First we share with them the four basic upcycling techniques we have developed in order to transform leftover packaging that gives them the opportunity to bring to their homes a better income. This is followed by a full-fledged program that includes subjects that vary from nutrition to communication skills, team work, opening a bank account, setting short-term goals and the immediate small steps to achieve them, time management, resilience, to mention a few. Thus, having a positive impact on these women and their children. We help empower families to take the initiative and control of their own destiny, as well as creating an optimistic future for forthcoming generations through informal education and entrepreneurial endeavors.
H/E: What was Mitz’s biggest success to date?
JA: Decembers 2016 graduation. Where we where able to share with over 100 women and their families the joy of receiving for the first time ever in their lives a diploma for their achievements and helping them acknowledge the unbeatable force that lies with in them.