We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Remy-Maillet and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
The Alliance is a leading nonprofit organization for welcoming and empowering those who face financial, educational, health, language, or cultural barriers to realizing their dreams. The Community Cloth is a microenterprise initiative of The Alliance. Our mission is to help empower refugee women here in Houston, Texas. There are 5 key components to the program: peer and wellness support, women empowerment, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and marketing opportunities. We teach the women how to market and sustain themselves as well as their families by selling their indigenous crafts and wares while learning how to operate a business with the hope that one day they will start their own. Many of these women come from various places around the world and share many similar life experiences when they arrive here as new Americans. It can be quite difficult for the ladies to feel a sense of community without their immediate families close by. The program helps establish a sort of lifeline within the community. These women share information regarding the services we provide and in turn, others seek resources or even become a part of the program. To this day we have many refugee artisan women who have spent more than 5 years with the program. They have found a sense of community and comradery amongst themselves despite the many obstacles they face.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Community Cloth was founded almost 10 years ago by Women for Women and became a part of The Alliance in late 2017. The program advances the empowerment of women through educational and financial means in a culturally competent way. In its entirety The Community Cloth has supported over 30 women representing more than 13 countries. What I am most proud of is our mission to empower refugee women in particular. I think our mission and vision speaks volumes about the issues that plague women in many societies today. We often forget that equal opportunity isn’t always a given. That’s something these women understand well. Some of the challenges the ladies face revolve around language, education, financial opportunities and inclusion. The women overcome some of these challenges when they join the program. They learn how to support themselves through the selling of their crafts and wares. They cross culturally teach each other the skill sets they have learned through intergenerational teachings and some of the women have now started their own businesses using the skills they acquired with us. Some lessons we’ve learned are to never let anything, even something as significant as language, stand in front of a dream or goal you may have. Take advantage of all the resources around you and the people who are willing to help create change in your community, because it only takes a small ripple to create a bigger wave of change. We want the world to know that we will never stop the advancement of opportunity for those who are underserved and overlooked.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
That’s a great question! Depending on the day of the week especially on the weekend, if it was a Saturday I would start at a farmers market. HTX Markets are some of our favorites to attend and shop at. The local businesses that are showcased in the market are some of the most unique and diverse businesses in the city. They also partner with some great local breweries like 11 Below, Eureka Heights, SpindleTap and 8th wonder to host events. I would then take my friend to go see Asia Society Texas Center on South more Blvd they have some amazing exhibits that showcase local artists work, not to mention they do a wonderful job showcasing the rich and diverse Asian culture in our city. There night markets are the best! if you ever want to try any different Asian inspired cuisine I highly recommend going there. Phoenicia Specialty Foods on Austin street downtown would be the last stop. They are a unique specialty food store and have the best chicken shawarma! if that doesn’t peak your interest they also have a great bar in the back where you can sing karaoke, drink and have ice cream.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
To my husband Ryan Shattuck, family and team these accomplishments could not have been attained had it not been for the sacrifices, words of encouragement, comfort, love and security each and everyone one of you have given me. To the artisans of The Community Cloth for allowing me to be a part of their journey. Lastly, to my mentor Jim Nguyen thank you for believing in me and giving me this opportunity to support and work with immigrants and refugees just like me.
Shalethia Jones Kaila Lewis Roxanne Paiva