This past October Generator partnered with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) to offer free sewing training and micro business coaching to members of the Greater Burlington New American community.  

The idea for this program was born from the New American community’s request for support in establishing sewing-based businesses. The goal being to alleviate the financial burden of purchasing traditional clothing while simultaneously opening up new opportunities for additional sources of income for their families.

The program consisted of two groups of participants–six Nepali speakers and seven Swahili speakers–each supported by community ambassadors who provided interpretation. The groups spent three Saturdays at Generator learning about their machines and different techniques. Participants learned how to sew button holes and zippers, and worked through the steps to create a tote bag. As part of the program each participant also received their own sewing machine, which they used during the trainings and were able to take home at the end of the program to continue their learning and making.

CVOEO’s Micro Business Coach, Pacificique Nsengiyumva, attended the final workshop session to connect with participants and offer advice on starting their own business.

Jeremia Seopas came to Winooski from South Sudan where he had worked as a tailor for 50 years. He shared:

I want to open a business. The challenge has been being new to the community and not knowing anyone. Back home, I had a center. People would bring materials and I would create designs.

I am getting more comfortable with an electronic machine. In the past, I used a manual pedal machine. This kind of sewing knowledge is needed. I know how to fix machines in the future. I would love to open a center to keep teaching this group.

Jeremia connected with Pacificique Nsengiyumva, CVOEO’s Business Coach, and will begin 1:1 coaching sessions in the months ahead.

This program was made possible by the Community Navigator Pilot Program (CNPP), a grant administered by the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC), and  generous donation from Janes Trust allowed for the purchase of sewing machines for participants. 

Please consider taking some time to learn more about CVOEO and their Micro Business Development Program (MBDP). They are doing incredible work and could use your attention and support.