Roshni, go ahead and introduce yourself!
Hi! I’m Roshni Jain. I’m a rising Junior at Boston University. I’m currently concentrating in Organizational Behavior and Marketing – and I plan to major in Psychology! During COVID, I’ve been working more on my initiative, Project 1000, which has been keeping me really busy.
So, tell us more about Project 1000
Project 1000 is a nonprofit organization, works with the upliftment of women from rural communities in India, specifically in Maharashtra. Project 1000 is actually under an established charity called SSN. So, these women are taught necessary vocational skills – how to make handicrafts such as tote bags, rugs, cloth bags, and other ideas of their own! We teach them how to make these with waste material brought in from factories. The primary objective of the project is to help show these women how to sell these products themselves, so this is what leads to gainful employment.
What inspired you to start?
I thought of Project 1000 when I was working for TGELF last summer. I took part in this entrepreneurship Worldcup, where there were regional startups that were pitching their ideas & the best startup was getting funded. This experience made me realize how many people in India had the potential, but their talent isn’t being showcased correctly. I’ve also worked with several NGOs that teach vocational skills. However, there are too many NGOs who do vanilla charity who donate or help those who can’t fend for themselves, but these individuals don’t have confidence, so I’d like to help empower them to help them earn for themselves.
So, tell us more about the process of creation. Who are these women that work with Project 1000s – how do you reach out to them?
We specifically lookout for young women based in the hinterlands of Maharahstra, who have the potential and are willing to work – but their ambitions or goals are being suppressed, by circumstances. There are also several agencies in touch with these women; so we’re able to reach out to them. Based on their past familial/work experiences, we’re able to guide them and provide them with the right skillsets. Then, we bring these women to our factory outlets in Thane, where they’re further taught these vocational skills.
Where do you see Project 1000 in the next 5 years?
Right now, our goal is to go global. We’re already selling on amazon. We started recently selling on Etsy as well. We want to be able to sell these stories and products globally – and further empower our women in countries such as the U.S, U.K & Canada! The quality of these products is top tier, and so they have the potential to be sold overseas. We’re currently working with this by holding online exhibitions, and reaching out to corporates through their CSR department.
What have been some of the biggest challenges so far?
One of the biggest challenges has been instilling confidence in these women. As mentioned before, they come from many different backgrounds – some of them have had traumatizing experiences during their childhood – So, naturally, some of them have low self-esteem and don’t believe in their potential. The truth is, anyone can learn these skills, but not everyone has the confidence to sell. So, we’re focusing on helping them improve their business proposition skills; we take them to different places to meet people – so that they can get more confident with the entire process.
What has been the most fulfilling aspect of this project?
The most fulfilling aspect has to be the willingness and the drive of these women; seeing them be so dedicated to the project is so wholesome. They’re super motivated and are continually looking to create new, unique products. And, I find that inspiring – just seeing them grow to where they are now.
Is Project 1000 something you’ve always wanted to do?
I’ve always been heavily involved in community initiatives. Every time I’d visit Bombay as a kid, my grandfather would take me to different establishments and ashrams, where there were women who came from different backgrounds, wanting to learn new skills to better fend for themselves. So, this inspired me. Even in school, I’ve always wanted to be a part of outreach programs. I volunteered in many community initiatives where I taught young girls. I interned in many NGOs, so this has always been something I’ve been passionate about.
Can you tell me about your favourite experience?
I have two experiences. The first one happened when I was volunteering at the Anand Ashram, where I was teaching young kids (G6-G8) English and Maths – and they were honestly so driven and excited to learn! Some of us always complain about how long classes are at school, but these kids would be sad when classes ended. They wanted to learn so much more, they asked so many questions – and it genuinely melts your heart. Even though they might lack adequate resources, they have such a strong drive to learn and become someone. The second one would be during the Entrepreneurship world cup. Just seeing these young individuals present their ideas for change to take place – it just made me realize how much-unnoticed talent there is in the country!
Talking about young kids, what advice would you give your younger self?
Firstly, to believe in yourself. When I was growing up, there were always people better than me at certain things – whether it was dance or art or, even applying to colleges! So, I often felt demoralized or believed I didn’t have the potential. But, when I came to college, I had so many different experiences; my horizons were broadened. There were so many new opportunities. I interacted with more people. My self-confidence improved; I have a higher sense of self-esteem. And, when you have a higher sense of self-worth, you can truly achieve anything. So, the main advice I’d give anyone would truly be just believe in yourself!
What about advice for someone who wants to start their own organization?
Have a passion and a long term goal in mind. Your experiences make a difference in what you genuinely want to do. This isn’t something you start overnight. It requires time, resources, and support! So, talk to people, come up with different ideas, because not every idea will work out. And, honestly, take it slow. It’s a step-by-step process that will require patience.
How can someone get involved with Project 1000?
There are several ways you can get involved! Reach out to us. Help promote our brand and our stories to further support these young individuals. I’ve been working on collecting samples in New Delhi to send out and get commissioned – to further help these women get featured and recognized for their work. People can also help out with corporate funding. Reaching out to corporates; helping us with our CSR proposals. Lastly, we’re currently working with two NGOs; if you know women who have the potential but are unable to fend for themselves – reach out to us! Help us find more volunteers so we can help them gain employment.
So, what’s next for Project 1000? Any new products?
Definitely new products! However, because of COVID, we don’t have the women collectively working – however, they’re all working remotely – and are quite active in producing new designs. So, a unique element of Project 1000 is that all our products are different – we don’t create the same design twice. So, we encourage these women to design new products and experiment with new designs. We will also be hosting new online exhibitions to raise awareness about Project 1000 further!