Mayamiko - The House that Grows

Mayamiko - The House that Grows: A sustainable future for disadvantaged women in Malawi through ethical fashion

London , United KingdomChinsapo, Malawi
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

What do women we speak to in Malawi want? They don't want hand-outs, they want choices. With our training programmes, entrepreneurship schemes, microfinance and access to responsible markets, we turn fashion into a force for #changinglives & #nurturingtalent

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if those who dropped out of the system had another chance? What if we, as conscious fashion consumers, were that chance?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Despite much effort to ensure women's equality, many are still left behind as they cover their multiple roles in life and drop out of school. They work hard, but with little skills they don't get access to decent paying jobs and are stuck in a cycle of poverty. The women we speak to in Malawi don't want hand-outs, they want choices. The choice to take a good job, or become and entrepreneur and empower others, and to send their kids to school.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Choices can only come with education and awareness of the options available. Our Mayamiko programmes offer accredited skills training in tailoring and sewing, complemented by small business skills, financial education, literacy, creativity, numeracy, English. At the end of the training students can access a grant and through microfinance set themselves up as independent tailors, or they can continue their apprenticeship with Mayamiko, producing ethical fashion for export. They are equipped with the tools and the information they need to make choices. Our programmes reach a small number of women every year, with great ripple effects. We want to reach more people, we want to teach more sustainable skills, offer access to responsible markets


Runner-up at the 2012 Ethical Fashion Forum Awards in the 'Changing Lives' category, finalist for 'Brand to watch' in 2013, and a finalist at the Vogue Italia Eco Talents 2013
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Erenive heard about Mayamiko from a neighbour, and applied. She is a single mother with three children, one with disabilities. And she has the best smile you can ask for. She lived off seasonal work, working the fields or selling crops. It was not enough: she couldn't take care of the children, let alone send them to school. She enrolled in the programme in 2014. Always a great motivator for all her class mates, she would only take a break to help cook a delicious lunch with the team. After graduating she saved through our saving scheme and in no time she earnt the grant to get her own sewing machine and business starter kit. She started sewing from home and now has her own tailoring workshop and employs two others.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We currently train 5 students every 6 months, the duration of the training programme. This is so each student can learn on their own sewing machine and get the right attention from the teacher. Our success rate is 100%, assessed by external examiners. The size is also restricted by budget and space. Over the last two years, every graduate has been able to save enoguh to get a sewing machine grant, and they all use them as income generating tools, some more intensly than others. Two of our graduates have moved on to an apprenticeship and now work full time in the Mayamiko production unit, as cutter and workshop assistant. A graduate has started a women support group in the community offering further sewing and marketing skills. One of our employees has started another fashion brand with similar ethos. The project makes our deprived rural community proud, creating employment and wealth.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We want to reach more people in Malawi and outside (Sri Lanka is next). We want to teach more skills. Nurturing creative talents, building on traditional crafts,deepening tailoring, sewing skills and adding more. We have identified other areas such as English, literacy and numeracy for business, marketing. The model of training followed by grants to help with equipment purchase, plus continuous support to access markets has proven successful. We don't just train and then leave people to help themselves without the right tools. We add skills, we help creating sustainability and avoid dependency

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We work hard marketing the Mayamiko fashion brand. This is our long term objective: building a strong successful brand would ensure that profits go back into the community and education activitites, as well as generating regular employment locally. However the market is very competitive and progress is constant but slow. We are seeking grants or social investment to help us grow our training activities, reach more groups and repolicate our model.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are many ethical fashion projects globally, some incredibly inspirational. Mayamiko is unique in that if goes full circle - from training to production to selling to reinvesting. All our team members are employed full time and we are a net contributor to the country economy. We do not work with 'per piece' informal arrangements. This creates a larger financial burden for us with fixed monthly overheads, but we believe this is integral to the sustainability model. Adding new skills to our mix of activities will increase our sustainability and provide diverse skills to our beneficiaries

Founding Story

When I worked in Malawi and Uganda on digital education projects, in my school visits I met many intelligent, strong women who lacked the basic skills to earn a decent living. Their biggest worry was to have to pull their kids out of school. They were themselves often school drop-outs, and this was because as women, their priorities were seen elsewhere. They didn't want hand outs, but something more long lasting. This, coupled with the demise of the textile industry in Africa and the fact that tailoring is a relatively low tech skill, not relying on electricity, sparked the idea that fashion could change their lives. I only needed to find markets that would pay fair prices for our garments!


In Malawi I have an excellent team with a strong operations manager who is also a very positive female role model, a very experienced production manager who worked in large factories before their demise, and a team of tailors and cutters who have been trained for years by Mayamiko, ensuring the right technical skills are developed. On the training side I have an excellent trainer, qualified to teach Level 1 and 2 of tailoring and sewing, who achieves 100% pass rate for all trainees through her hard work and dedication. Through a partnership with Opportunity Bank, a local transformational bank, we offer financial education training and access to savings schemes. We also have experts lined up to develop additional training modules. We have an established relationship with TEVETA, the vocational training body, and we are going to work in partnership to develop additional accredited training programmes and train the trainers. I am the founder of the project and I have a background in Marketing Strategy and International Development, having achieved Masters Degrees in both areas. I am focussing on creating strategic partnerships both commercially and charitable to grow the project and increase its impact. I have always worked on this project for free, and supported it financially through my own professional work so it would continue to develop. I am supported by a team of volunteers who bring a variety of skills, from accounting, to fashion sourcing and marketing. I would want to be able to bring in more skills to accellerate the growth and reach even more people.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Brand Representative, Designer, Factory Owner.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Designers, Factory Workers, Researchers, Retailers - Department Store, Retailers - Specialty Store, Retailers - Mass-merchandise Chain, Women, Youth, Other [please specify].

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Access to Essential Services (i.e. Healthcare and Education), Access to Finance, Access to Social Protection Services (i.e. Insurance, Pension, etc.), Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Gender Equality, Anti-forced Labor or Anti-Human Trafficking, Recycling or Circular Economy, Physical Working Conditions, Transparency, Other, [please specify].

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Capacity Building, Certification, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders, Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line, Transform the Chain into a Web: Link Unlikely Sectors that Open New Pathways to Sustainability.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Our trainees have become multiple business owers, employing others, or leaders in our organisation. Our model is being copied!

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

We are a fellow of the Ethical Fashion Forum, and I have collaborated with UCL and Africa Fashion for talks on sustainabilitiy