Making a Difference
Whether by volunteering, branching out on our own, or becoming a supporter of a cause, we can all make a difference in our communities and to our own lives. Welcome to the second in a series of Grownups articles designed to help seniors do just this!
Be a Supportive Senior
For many of us, finally reaching the golden age of super-entitlement can mean we have a little more discretionary spending in our pocket. At last, an extra flat white or a night out at the movies won’t break the bank, and we can linger longer in the garden centre or craft supply shop if we choose. And for many, a few more dollars a week is also an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, not necessarily as a donation, but by shopping for every day essentials from ethical, not-for-profit businesses.
Elisha Watson, CEO and founder of not-for-profit Nisa underwear workshop in Wellington, knows, first hand, just how much difference seniors with discretionary spending can make. In fact, Elisha, who established the business to provide employment opportunities for people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, says those in the 65 plus age bracket are Nisa’s second highest generators of revenue!
“Sixty-five plus spenders care about what they buy,” says Elisha. “They take time to suss out our business and do their research on us before they come into the shop.” Elisha puts this down to the fact many seniors are already highly engaged with their communities, and want to become even more involved by giving back, whenever they can.
Seniors are also digitally savvy. Like many, they want more than just a product – they’re after the story behind their ethical, sustainable purchase, and they want to be able to follow that story online, as it progresses.
“It’s not just younger people who want the world to be more fair,” says Elisha. This is clearly the case, as the undergarments Nisa continues to make can’t hope to compete in price, with mass-produced garments from the likes of China. Yet they still sell! “We’re a New Zealand business,” says Elisha. “We abide by New Zealand employment laws, and that will always be reflected in the price of our garments. But when you buy from us, you’re buying more than the product you see in front of you. You’re purchasing a wholistic package that starts from organic cotton and great design, and goes all the way to supporting former refugees to gain financial independence.”
In fact, explains Elisha, the pay cheque Nisa’s workers take home is just the beginning of the business’s success story. Employees jobs are also about making friends, practising English, and feeling valued as members of a team. The workers at Nisa also know many of their colleagues have weathered storms similar to their own, and, like them, they often have families in other parts of the world for whom life continues to be difficult. The workshop is a supportive environment.
The seniors helping Nisa to thrive aren’t just customers, either. Elisha’s mum, who turned 70 this year, is also a volunteer with the business, and has an important role in the workshop where she checks on quality control, and makes sure the work space remains tidy and useable.
Since Nisa launched in mid-2012, it has employed nineteen people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and 7 New Zealand-born staff. The mix of newcomers working alongside people born and raised in Aotearoa allows cultural knowledge to be shared, as well as opportunities to practise English with native speakers, while enjoying plenty of camaraderie along the way.
If seniors continue to support Nisa by following its story, posting on social media about the quality of its products, and purchasing its great underwear for themselves (and as gifts for others), they really can give a helping hand to ethical businesses. If you want to make a difference in your community, use your discretionary spending to buy quality, New Zealand made, products which support workers who need a helping hand.