I'm Steph Johnstone, I live in Auckland, New Zealand with my Husband and two beautiful daughters. Creativity is a key passion, my golden thread through my life, and SHE MADE THIS aims to combine that with my concern for nurturing and inspiring people to be the best they can be - to thrive and enjoy life to the max.
Living in Dhaka, a city of 22 million people, in Bangladesh for four months in 2014 was the catalyst for setting up SHE MADE THIS the following year.
I visited Fair Trade stores, a school for the children of garment factory workers and various development charities and saw how marginalised people could achieve economic independence and a better quality of life.
As a ceramicist and painter with a marketing background, I particularly enjoyed meeting women whose lives had been transformed by a Dhaka not-for-profit organisation. I met the inspirational female CEO and by the time I left that day I’d been offered a potential partnership. The beginnings of a possible new social enterprise business were in place.
It was uplifting to see women from desperate, hopeless circumstances being fairly rewarded for their creativity and artisan skills. Their beautiful baskets, bags and other products were finding willing buyers in many overseas markets and a number of high profile stores in Europe and the UK, but they didn’t have a partner in New Zealand.
I was impressed by this NGO’s 30 year track record of success, their vision (“the establishment of a just and poverty-free society through women’s empowerment”) and the many various projects they were running. They provide uneducated women with the creative skills to work in the garment and home ware industry, and have a Safe House for women and children in distress. They also run a Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme.
I decided to set up SHE MADE THIS with this Bangladesh charity as a founding suppliers. On a visit to Nepal, I made a point of visiting some Fair Trade suppliers there too. I felt compelled to include them, as a way to support their artisans following the earthquakes of 2015.