How one IBM’er became a sewing manufacturer of handbags
In 2012 Kelly Lyndgaard was a top-performing executive at IBM on track to the C-suite.
Life was good until an unexpected church talk by a woman named Emily would change all that.
As Kelly listened to Emily’s life story she had an epiphany. One that led Kelly to make a radical faith-based move in her own life inspiring her to start a nonprofit social enterprise she called ” Unshattered.”
A nonprofit social enterprise’s sale of goods is the earned income that supports their operational bottom line.
What’s a nonprofit social enterprise?
Well, when you buy Girl Scout cookies, for example, or a nonprofit ballet company’s Nutcracker ballet tickets, you are supporting a social enterprise whose earned income (the proceeds from the sale of goods or services) contributes to the funding of the nonprofit’s bottom line.
Back to Kelly and Emily. What Emily spoke of told Kelly about the story of an eight-year-old girl, abandoned by her father and left to run the household her sick mother could not manage.
A friend’s brother thought getting Emily high on pot would be funny, but ten years later, Emily was a heroin addict, and life for her was anything but humorous.
Addiction can happen to anyone
Her story shocked Kelly into realizing two things: 1. She had to do something and 2. What happened to Emily could happen to anybody given the right set of circumstances.
Fast-forward to today, and in 2020 the vision that unfolded has now become a fashion manufacturing production company occupying commercial space in Hopewell Junction with a retail storefront and a growing business.
The business employs women in recovery from severe substance abuse, often opioids.
As the cornerstone to Kelly’s vision, she partners with the Walter Hoving Home.
The Hoving Home has a many months-long rehabilitation program for addicted women.
These are women who have decided to make a change in their lives, have accepted the Hoving Home’s strict requirements of life at the home, and enter a program where they slowly begin a physical detox in step with spiritual growth.
Hoving Home’s states a part of its mission is “rebuilding shattered lives.”
Once the women have finished the Hoving Home’s program, Kelly offers these women a place to “graduate” to as they begin dignified work, learn sewing skills, make an income, and derive paid benefits at Unshattered.
Kelly and Unshattered had a graduation of their own.
Graduating from The Orange County Accelerator’s T-SEC-funded (in part) sewing manufacturer startup program.
When they first started out, basically as a startup, Unshattered’s team found a safe, welcoming, and, most importantly, well-equipped and affordable space at the Orange County Accelerator.
The Accelerator offers startups space to grow their businesses and certain assets are available at each of the Accelerator’s campuses.
In the case of the New Windsor campus, The Accelerator has what it refers to as a SMARTT pod.
SMARTT Stands for SUNY Manufacturing Alliance for Research and Technology Transfer. In this case, the pod has equipment that was originally obtained through funding acquired via the SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program, with T-SEC serving as the funding partner.
The Grant Program was focused on retaining and growing manufacturing jobs in the Hudson Valley region and attracting new manufacturers to the region, of which Unshattered is one.
The T-SEC purchased equipment allows fashion startups and regional fashion manufacturers to do advanced design and prototyping of fashion work as well as the execution of designs on the many professional-grade sewing machines on site.
It is a SMARTT pod that is every seamstress’s dream!
It has a big layout for tables upon which to put fabric, lots of sewing machines, and a piece of software known as Tukatech that is a patternmaking software allowing users to design for fashion products with 21st-century tools.
Tukatech is a cloud-based software that allows for 3D pattern design, supplementing or supplanting the pattern making of yesteryear.
From Tukatech’s website: “Our product mix begins with an innovative apparel CAD/CAM software technology for pattern making, pattern grading, and marker making, and extends to patented soft body dress forms, 3D virtual apparel prototyping software.”
This level of professionalism in quality equipment and software, and affordable space, is what T-SEC helps fund and the Accelerator helps manage, and this sewing lab is available for startups and manufacturers like Unshattered, entities simply must be in New York State and be vetted by the Accelerator or T-SEC, depending upon needed equipment.
The space Unshattered used and the equipment onsite provided the nonprofit with the ability to fast track to becoming a viable nonprofit social enterprise that now is making a difference in the lives of recovering women and gaining widespread recognition.
In January of 2019, Unshattered was invited to the White House and its efforts in fighting a winning battle against opioid addiction recognized.
Unshattered also adds jobs to the Hudson Valley, but their Hopewell Junction location doesn’t just train women in sewing and design skills.
It actually gives them a design for life by teaching them self-management and goal setting, sustaining sobriety and, importantly, moving forward to becoming leaders in their community, and T-SEC is proud to have contributed to its start.