A $25,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration is expected to help push Rightfully Sewn closer to its goal of community impact through seamstress training.
The Crossroads-based venture — with its glimmering atelier focused on economic development via the fashion industry — was among 12 winners of the SBA’s Makerspace Training, Collaboration and Hiring (MaTCH) Pilot Competition, with a total of $1 million in prize money awarded.
“Makerspaces are uniquely positioned to help innovate training for the workforces of today and tomorrow, and spur economic development across the country,” said Chris Pilkerton, acting SBA administrator. “Through the MaTCH competition, the winners will be able to directly support vocational education, develop apprenticeships, and cultivate access to entrepreneurship.”
Rightfully Sewn’s $25,000 prize will enhance employment opportunities for at-risk women and other traditionally underserved persons. The venture — led by Jennifer Lapka, founder and president — prepares participants for entry-level sewist positions with training, provides a curriculum and opportunities for local sewers to increase their skill levels in alteration and tailoring, and offers production management training to increase their earning potential.
Click here to read more about Rightfully’s Sewn mission.
“Rightfully Sewn is still in a growth phase, especially pertaining to our seamstress training program,” said Lapka, describing Rightfully Sewn’s journey from a single summertime classroom borrowed from a local high school to the Crossroads atelier space where it has operated for the past year. “Starting in 2020, we will expand to our full capacity of three classes of 10 participants, thereby assisting 30 women into employment with one of the 80-plus Kansas City businesses hiring skilled seamstresses, such as manufacturers, tailoring and alterations shops, costumers, retailers, and designers.”
On weekday mornings, the atelier is used for seamstress training and small batch production, and in the afternoons for small batch production only, she said. In the evenings and weekends, the space is used for public classes and by the resident designers.
“When I first envisioned Rightfully Sewn, I saw a well-appointed space and state-of-the-art equipment that could be activated 24/7 in order to benefit as many people in our community as possible,” Lapka said. “We achieve so much in one space because of effective communication and scheduling. (I like to say that effective communication and scheduling are tools used to make war; we use them to make positive change.)”
Click here to read about Rightfully Sewn’s 2018 win at the AltCap Your Biz Competition.
Rightfully Sewn’s next seamstress training program runs Sept. 10 through Nov. 29. Ten participants are selected through a rigorous nomination and skills assessment process. Case managers from within social service agency partners — Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Guadalupe Centers, Hope House, Jewish Vocational Service, Literacy KC, MOCSA, Newhouse, and Jackson County CASA — identify clients who might be a good fit for the program. Finalists are then selected based on an interview, sewing exam, ruler test, math test, and English comprehension test, Lapka said.
Because of interest, Rightfully Sewn also now holds one space for a member of the public — all genders welcome, she added. Interested individuals may call (816) 442-8078 to learn more about the opportunity.
Next up: A fashion biennale, the Golden Gala, is set for Dec. 7 — a nod to Kansas City’s “golden era” of garment design and manufacturing in the past century Lapka said, describing the event as “an opulent, meaningful evening to celebrate our heritage and raise critical support” for Rightfully Sewn’s programming.
Click here to learn more about the gala.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.