Sweet Notions & Sweet Notions Design Camps

Sweet Notions is a social enterprise that collects fashion accessories, redesigns as needed, and sells the "up-cycled" pieces at mobile boutique events. The profits are then invested into new social initiatives, the first of which are Design Camps where designers will train vulnerable women to repurpose accessories (part art therapy/ part skill development). We aspire to zero waste and zero debt.

About You

Organization: Matryoshka Haus Visit websitemore ↓↑ hide↑ hide

Section 1: About You

First Name


Last Name



United States, TX, Harris County

Section 2: About Your Organization

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


Organization Name

Matryoshka Haus

Organization Website

Organization Phone

Organization Address

5801 Brown Rock Trail

Organization Country

United States, TX, Travis County

Is your organization a

Non‐profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea

read more↑ hide↑ hide

Name Your Project

Sweet Notions & Sweet Notions Design Camps

Describe your Social Enterprise

Sweet Notions is a social enterprise that collects fashion accessories, redesigns as needed, and sells the "up-cycled" pieces at mobile boutique events. The profits are then invested into new social initiatives, the first of which are Design Camps where designers will train vulnerable women to repurpose accessories (part art therapy/ part skill development). We aspire to zero waste and zero debt.

Country your work focuses on

United States, TX


read more↑ hide↑ hide

What makes your innovation unique?

The fashion industry is one of the top three most toxic industries in the world with every form of human injustice present along the supply route including child labor and human trafficking. Sweet Notions was created to redeem/rethink fast fashion -- by collecting, repurposing, and selling unwanted accessories. The profit Sweet Notions makes is then used for future transformational work. In other words, we turn castoffs into cash for social change.

Innovative practices within Sweet Notions include:
-mobile boutique events reminiscent of high end shopping experiences which save on overhead and offer a visual reminder of "thinking outside the box";
-name-your-own-price merchandising allowing customers to become investors in the projects funded by Sweet Notions;
-a value of zero waste evidenced by supporters who are encouraged to donate their old or rarely used accessories and partnerships with companies to utilize surplus as well as the refurbished airline carts, luggage, and wine boxes which become display cases;
-a value of zero debt as we have grown from $500 in seed money to 14 events in year one which provided the start up costs for a cross-country and eventual international launch;
-reclaiming and restoring not just things but people as the Design Camps provide skills for women who have experienced domestic violence, homelessness, addiction or human trafficking.

Sweet Notions is a project of Matryoshka Haus, a larger initiative focusing on innovative approaches to social change. The leadership team of Matryoshka Haus brings more than 20 years experience in the marketing/sales, consulting, administrative, and humanitarian realms to each project we undertake. Sweet Notions is one such example of our commitment to integrate sound business principles in social enterprise.

Do you have a patent for this idea?


read more↑ hide↑ hide

Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

The Sweet Notions experience challenges consumption patterns and awareness. Staff are not simply sales clerks but rather guides and educators regarding the negative impact the demand for fast fashion has created. In 2008, for instance, discarded fashion created 7.5 billion tons of toxic landfill waste in the UK alone.

The product to consumer path is rarely understood by purchasers of the materials. The mobile boutique events become education tools as often, customers struggle with the name-your-own-price requirement. Beverly was one such shopper who expressed frustration over having to set a fair price. With a Sweet Notions guide on hand to assist her she was encouraged to consider the workmanship that originally went into the product, the initial production, the redesign and refurbishing process and the effort that had transformed a wine bar into a boutique. Armed with that information she set her price, responding positively to whether she now felt good about her shopping experience. The next day she sought out Sweet Notions to declare, "I've always felt powerless when it comes to understanding and supporting Fair Trade. I've looked through my closet now and realize how little I know about the labels I've stored there. I now feel empowered to make positive consumer choices. Thank you."

When confronted with the knowledge that women worldwide are often victims of human trafficking, individuals want to respond but often don't know how. Sweet Notions offers the opportunity for volunteers to participate in the set up of the boutiques, the administration of the design camps, the creative enterprise of redesign and development of templates, the training of vulnerable women, and the ongoing merchandising and sales of their products. Or individuals can simply purchase materials knowing their contributions will help to support efforts such as design camps. With such a wide range in levels of involvement, a Sweet Notions experience rarely ends with the transfer of cash for product.

The design camps originated after a successful campaign in the UK to address the demand side of human trafficking. "The Truth Isn't Sexy" campaign, another project of Matryoshka Haus, resulted in a Change in Legislation and the creation of a good practice standard for addressing demand, all with only £5,000 in seed money. Sweet Notions design camps will now address the next step as they provide victims a way to understand their own self-worth and earn an income. Working with The Marylebone Project, Sweet Notions will be expanding the emphasis to vulnerable women in general. Social researchers and therapists will be on hand during the design camps to ensure that the women are challenged but also feel safe and respected as they learn design, production, and merchandising.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

27 million people worldwide are in some form of slavery. Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar industry. After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry.

In an April 2008 BBC report on fast fashion, the systemic issues created by the demand for cheap clothes produced with minimal turnaround is detailed. While women's clothing prices have fallen by 35% in the last 10 years, enticing shoppers to buy more and more, the results include greater outsourcing to countries were child labour and low wages are prevalent.

The Environmental Justice Foundation speaks to the problem of child labor noting that across the globe some 250 million children are compelled to work. The vast majority (70% or more) are employed in agriculture, where they are at risk from exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, machinery and arduous labour. Child workers in the agricultural sector generally work for very low wages and in some cases for nothing at all. Children working in cotton pest control – a task rarely done by adults – earned between US $0.68 and US $0.95 per day. In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, an estimated 100,000 children below 18 have been reported to work 13 hours a day in cottonseed production for less than half a euro per day.

Ethical Fashion Forum tells of a Sri Lankan factory owner interviewed by Oxfam who described the intense pressure of demand for increased production of fast fashion, Last year the deadlines were about 90 days… [This year] the deadlines for delivery are about 60 days. Sometimes even 45… They have drastically come down.”

The Clean Clothes Campaign describes similar instances with garment workers in China “We have endless overtime in the peak season and we sit working non-stop for 13 to 14 hours a day. It’s like this every day – we sew and sew without a break until our arms feel sore and stiff.”

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

Main elements of Business Plan:
-collecting unwanted accessories via partnerships with community based organizations and samples and surplus from fashion houses (which create a tax write off for them)
-sorting these into those that can be sold and others that need upcycling
retail at boutique events where women pick their own price with help from salespeople - explain why
reinvestment of surplus
zero waste - several ways this is achieved
create design community to create fashion forward patterns to be made out of goods that need upcycling

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

Year 1 (current year)-- Establish ourselves as a respected retailer and social leader. Connect and Empower 1200 women on the power to make a difference through their normal purchases and Sweet Notions as a new avenue in that. Work with 50 women through Design Camps and set them on the road to new economic....
Year 2: Brand recognition in UK and US
Equalling or improving on best practice for minimising environmental impact in retail
Year 3: additional business opportunities for craftspeople,
Possible franchising opportunities to spread the model to other charities

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

More than $4000

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?


If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

We are seeking to prove a good practice model with the Design Camps in order to challenge gov't to provide more creative opportunities to vulnerable people to see them get out of poverty.


read more↑ hide↑ hide

What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

It is Critical! We partner with other businesses to host the boutique events, as well as businesses in the industry to donate samples, seconds and overstocked goods.
On the design camp side of things we partner with charities that provide basic shelter for vulnerable women (those rescued from trafficking, abuse, addiction or those that are homeless).
The reason that we focus on collaboration and partnerships is that it allows everyone to play to their strengths and it allows us (Matryoshka Haus) to innovate for the gaps in current systems.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

We invested $500 of seed money into our start up and generated an initial 30k start up through selling the first 10,000 pc's we collected. Currently we know the model works but having zero outside investment has slowed our growth and development potential.

The Story

read more↑ hide↑ hide

What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The defining moment that led to this innovation was a coffee conversation in London in 2008. It followed the conclusion of The Truth Isn't Sexy for Shannon, which led her to realize she just need to create pots of money to innovate solutions. For Jessica it followed a trip to Germany where she saw first hand the opportunities for conversation and environmental awareness and impact a fashion swap could produce. They brought the two things together with a twist.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

This really is a team effort. Jessica Stricker and Shannon Hopkins. They both have prior careers in the fashion industry, followed by seminary education and ministry experience. They are friends that constantly looked for ways to bring the business side and social change side of things together.
Shannon has numerous experience launching social change projects under the umbrella of Matryoshka Hause where she serves as the director.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)

If through another source, please provide the information

244 weeks ago said: I think this concept is amazing! really cool and really different and it has sooooo much potential to make real change on so many ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
250 weeks ago Shannon Hopkins said: One of the hard things about a form that gives you a drop down list is that it sometimes limits your ability to give a complete ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
252 weeks ago Shannon Hopkins submitted this idea.