Spotlighting products that speak for themselves: Amma's Umma
Chelsea Dutta always wanted to start a business, but she was too busy. Busy living abroad, getting married, adopting a child, and working for A Family For Every Orphan, a non-profit whose mission is their name. The timing and the funds meant a business would never be easy. But Amma’s Umma couldn’t wait.
“That’s why Amma’s Umma was run out of the back of a car,” Chelsea writes. “I knew if I didn’t start where I was, with what I had...I would never start.” Amma’s Umma, which means “mother’s kiss,” is Chelsea’s fair trade fashion boutique, which donates 50% of its proceeds to help orphans find homes.
Chelsea’s life’s work is getting children into good homes. Non-profits have certain limitations, and because they rely so heavily on donations, many use pictures of children and personal information about them in their marketing. As an adopting family, Chelsea and her husband understood how uncomfortable that could be.
“It’s just the reality in the non-profit world, unfortunately,” Chelsea writes with candor. “Donors respond better with a cute, direct picture of the child they’re helping. I wanted Amma’s Umma to be different. I wanted the products of Amma’s Umma to speak for themselves so we didn’t have to use family’s or children’s intimate details to gain momentum and support.”
That’s why Amma’s Umma commits to providing fair trade products of quality. When asked about her product and vendor selection process, Chelsea explains, “If a company is not fair trade and manufactured abroad we call brands to talk through what certifications and audits they have in place to protect and care for their workers. A lot of companies operate with fair trade principals but can’t afford the accreditation. Think of a small farm in your town that is organic but can’t afford to have all the testing and auditing done to become certified.”
I say Amma’s Umma is Chelsea’s company, but their success is a community effort. Chelsea writes, “As I’ve said before, if it was a yearbook category, I would be the least likely to open a fashion boutique. We depend on the feedback from each one of you, to help us choose our inventory.” Amma’s Umma posts products to their Instagram story and asks followers to vote on which ones they should sell. Their Facebook presence is a huge source of community input as well. “I had never been an online shopper and certainly not a clothing shopper,” Chelsea says, “so a whole world was opened to me by listening to my customers and trusting them.”
Chelsea manages the online store for Amma’s Umma herself, but the community makes Amma’s Umma thrive. Voting on clothes is just a part of it. Family and friends have volunteered many hours, both online and in person. It was the community that chose how to paint the entrance of Amma’s Umma’s first brick and mortar location in Port Angeles, Washington. That storefront is run by a team of five women, and opened in October of 2018—less than two years after Amma’s Umma began.
For those who want to be a part of the Amma’s Umma community, it’s as easy as following them on Instagram and voting on clothes! If you are looking to do a little more, they’re also seeking a social media intern. But the best way to support them is to share, Chelsea states emphatically: “Paid advertising is not dead, but it will never be as effective as a friend over coffee, saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to check out this boutique. You’ll love it! Every product is beautiful, has a purpose, and I feel life breathed into me from being a part of their community.’”
If Chelsea waited until it was convenient to start a business, Amma’s Umma wouldn’t exist. It’s a challenging fact. What visions could you and I pursue if we weren't waiting for the "right" moment? And yet, the boutique thrives upon a foundation of community, not by Chelsea’s hand alone. Chelsea pushed into her passion before it made sense, but she did so with help from a community. We can all find encouragement and inspiration in the story of Amma’s Umma. “I think inside every woman there is a desire to help change the world for the better, to reach across the world to other women and lift them up in any way they can,” Chelsea writes. “Amma’s Umma has become an open door to the community, an invitation to women to join us in this journey towards real time impact of women and families around the world.”
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About the Author
Lucas Moore is a writer in Los Angeles. He likes Neo-noir films, running and cycling, classic American novels, small venue music shows, and burritos.