The Crescendo Group is a social enterprise that works with women survivors of armed conflicts and gender-based violence (GBV) to increase economic empowerment by developing a marketplace of handmade items for socially conscious consumers and retailers. Together, we are selling more than products; we are raising voices.
HOW DO WE WORK?
We are supporting women survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), women from minority and vulnerable groups, and women refugees by providing jobs through the sale and promotion of their handmade products. These are groups who are often marginalized in their societies due to the stigma attached to rape, domestic violence, and divorce, their ethnic groups, and/or their refugee status. Being able to earn a living is crucial to their well-being and ability to contribute to their households. Empirical data shows that women re-invest earnings into their families, such as ensuring their children attend school.
The first division we have created is curating handmade goods. We are developing a marketplace to facilitate the sales and delivery of the products as the women generally lack the resources, knowledge, and capacity to achieve this on their own. We accomplish this by working closely with local partners on the ground.
The second division will focus on job training for refugees and asylees. We hope to build design studios (manufacturing sites) in DC and NYC where the artisans can train other refugee women on the job while producing unique jewelry, clothing, and artwork for the Crescendo brand. Ultimately, we hope to expand the studios into other cities where we have partnerships with local NGOs working with victims of GBV and refugees. The centers will also distribute supplies, pick up finished products, and provide training to the women who cannot work outside of their homes.
The third division will provide consulting services to firms seeking to align their CSR strategies with social justice projects similar to Crescendo's work.
In addition to targeting socially conscious consumers for individual purchases through our online store and at pop-up events, we are targeting large buyers for wholesale opportunities.
HISTORY & TIMELINE
Crescendo was incorporated in April 2018 and the website was launched to the public on October 1, 2018. Between April and October, Founder & CEO, Amy Chase, conducted research into potential partner organizations, refined the company's mission, developed the pilot inventory which can be found on Crescendo's website, and started accepting pre-sale orders between October 1st and November 30th.
The pilot inventory was met with great success over the 2018 holiday season, especially at holiday markets and pop-up events. In December, Crescendo participated in 5 pop-up events in 3 cities (DC, Baltimore, and Los Angeles). Between October and December, we grossed over $3,000 in total sales.
The pilot inventory and holiday season informed us on what items were most popular and new products that shoppers requested, such as jewelry and products for children. In early 2019, we will explore ideas with our partner organizations to develop new products as well as refine existing offerings.
We currently have 3 local partners in Kosovo, one partner in Albania, and 4 partners in Washington, DC. In 2019, we hope to continue expanding partnerships to organizations in Myanmar/Bangladesh, Jordan, and Turkey. We are already exploring potential partnerships in Myanmar to support Rohingya IDPs and refugees living in Bangladesh. In addition, we are seeking opportunities to partner with Syrian refugees who are striving to rebuild their lives in different parts of the world. Domestically in the US, we will continue to seek out partnership opportunities with companies and organizations with similar missions.
BUSINESS EXPANSION PLAN
Stage One (2018-2019): We will establish partnerships with women's organizations on the ground that are working with women artisans and curate products in collaboration with the producers. We are piloting a small inventory of products on the Crescendo website and getting the word out. The seed money raised during this stage will fund the expansion of inventory, advertising and promotion, and supporting overhead expenses, such as the recruitment of two interns who will assist with Marketing and Communications.
Stage Two (2019-2020): We will identify women artisans who require assistance with working from home by providing design kits, quality assurance, and pick-up of finished products.
Stage Three (2020-2021): Establish design studios in NYC and DC to provide jobs for women refugees who will develop and create unique pieces for Crescendo's brand. We will have an integrated on-the-job training program where the more experienced women will lead and manage the junior-level artisans. The women will receive opportunities to hone their skills, create their own designs, and learn about product development, project management, and sales.
Stage Four (2021-2022): Expand the studios into cities where we have strong partnerships with local organizations that can help operate and staff the centers.
FOUNDER & CEO
Amy Chase has a strong professional background in marketing, communications, human rights, and international development.
Amy is first-generation Chinese-American born in New York, NY, where she worked in marketing and sales for 7 years. Inspired by her travels abroad and passion for social justice, she ultimately switched careers to work on human rights and international development. Since then, Amy has spent 8 years managing and implementing USG-funded projects in conflict, post-conflict, and transitional countries. She has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kosovo, and Rwanda. Her expertise is in women’s rights, elections, education, process improvement, capacity-building, and operations.
Amy has a Bachelor in Business Administration in Marketing Management from Baruch College and a Master of Arts in International Affairs from The New School. She studied abroad with the Institute for Shipboard Education’s Semester At Sea program in Summer 2005 and Fall 2006.
Growing up in a chaotic household, Amy has seen firsthand the detriments of domestic violence. Amy is also a rape survivor. In addition, she has experienced racism and discrimination in the US as well as overseas. Crescendo was inspired by all the women she's met who have overcome similar experiences and even greater traumas. She's aiming to create a space for survivors to continue their recovery (a lifelong process, as she knows very well) while contributing to their livelihoods.
Amy is supported by a board of advisors with very diverse professional backgrounds: https://www.thecrescendogroupllc.com/board-of-advisors/.
As Crescendo expands its work into other countries, we will contract local country reps to help coordinate with the partners and producers on the ground.