This week, Kristin chats with her old friend (with a new mission), Rachel Kinley. Rachel has seen a lot of change in her life with a cross-country move, a series of jobs, time spent being a stay-at-home mom and divorce being just a few major life events.
But it was finding new meaning in a career that she wasn’t even sure she wanted in the first place, that led her to start her direct trade business empowering women, Meridian Lee.
For more on Rachel, Meridian Lee and its mission, or to buy their fab bags, go to https://meridianlee.com. Original bags made by survivors!
Rachel is offering a discount for The Second Chapter listeners as well with the code TheSecondChapter
For more on the statistics of empowering women and their investment into their communities, see Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
1. That is not a spoiler.1. That is not a spoiler. 2. Check with your library. May libraries have ebook online borrowing, and Overdrive, another electronic library hub, might also have it.(less) 2. Check with your library.
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On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!
From Fashion to Free Trade, Rachel Kinley
Hello! I’m your host, Kristin Duffy. This week, I’m chatting with my old friend with a new mission, Rachel Kinley. Rachel has seen a lot of change in her life with a cross-country move, a series of jobs, time spent being a stay-at-home mom and divorce being just a few major life events. But it was finding new meaning in a career that she wasn’t even sure she wanted in the first place, that led her to start her direct trade business empowering women, Meridian Lee.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
You might not have realized this, but you've been giving me some really good advice.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
I think I feel a little sorry about this, but I just, I think I just felt like that major at our school wasn't a very, it seemed like it was people who liked shopping. I just didn't take it seriously as a design, career. But when I, foundation year, when we had to submit our portfolios to see which area we would be in, I was like, I'm definitely going to graphic design that's my mom had been a graphic designer and it's just what I was going to do.
And the professors put me in fashion, the, board who decides those things put me in fashion. I think it was probably because my grades were not super up to par, but I was really disappointed about that, but it's really turned out to be such a good thing. And I still do a little graphic design.
It's not really my best area, but and I also do a lot of product development. So I feel like I just had a really good base from that school. And it ended up that fashion really was the best place for me.[:
I don't, I would not react well to.[:[:
And I was like, why are these people so committed? And it turns out most of them were architects. So I thought I was going to be an architecture major.[:[:[:[:
And that was not.[:[:
creativity. So, I ended up thinking, well, what am I always loved?
And I had always loved fashion. So I went and with the full intention and foundation of fashion, and I thought, I couldn't talk myself out of it, but yet I also had the idea[:[:[:
And so I wonder how much of me was like choosing based on this is the kind of person I want to be and not really based on here's something that I enjoy. I think I would be good at it. It was more like here's the sort of profile I would like to have.[:[:[:[:[:[:
Kick some ass now.
I could channel that, I knew what she was talking about.[:[:[:[:
And then, so to be placed after all this hard work in a pretty superficial place, I just, it was really hard like, great. My skill is choosing pretty colors. That's really disappointing, but I feel like it has really taught me to. To keep taking the next right step. And that was really important for me to learn fashion.
design for the work I'm doing now, that is actually helping people, and just to know that, whatever you're good at, you can use, not that everyone needs to have a bleeding heart, but just it's okay. To just be good at choosing pretty colors and matching zipper tapes. There's value in that too. And we live in such a weird time where I remember a few years ago, my dad's saying I was trying to explain to him, like I want to have a meaningful career.
And I, he understands that, but he's, I think it's a new idea. It's a luxury. We have to be like, oh, I want to, I want my life to mean something instead of just I'm gonna take care of my kids and pay my mortgage and be part of my church and call it good. There's honor in that too. So we live in a funny time where people have this new idea, I think, where they could have the desire to save the world or, grandiose in some ways too, but[:
And, but that, wasn't a thing until fairly recently.[:
I don't know.[:
and in a way people are going back to a certain I don't know, I don't want to say back to the land kind of values, but I guess that's the best way to describe it. That there are people that it's like hipster to make goat's cheese and you live in Portland.
I don't know.[:
friends will make fun of me for saying that's normal, but[:[:
It was just like, yeah, that's it it was like boring to people that[:[:[:[:
And I realized that's such a basic assignment, but I haven't done that in so long. It's hard to remember what it felt like to just make something that I thought was cool. And I was around other creative people like you in studio who might walk by and be like, oh, what are you doing?
They're like, have you thought about this? Or, just to have that collaborative spirit to,[:[:[:[:[:[:
So I packed a duffle bag and bought a one-way ticket, which I thought was really special and cool, but it turns out pretty much everyone I meet from the Midwest out here is yeah, I just packed a duffle bag and bought a one-way ticket.[:[:
There's a group of us out here. Who bought their one way ticket[:[:[:[:
And it actually paid less than the Starbucks job, but it was, a step forward. And then I found an ad in the newspaper and it was for Hannah Anderson, the children's wear company.[:[:
So I was just remember being like, just keep going you can do this and don't be a dancer and all that was ever an option for me. But because I can't dance, but anyway,[:[:
just alphabetical. so I circled the little ad and went down and they hired me.
But that was, that was a really good job. Like I remember calling our professor and it's embarrassing, but she was surprised that they had hired me. So she was like, well, I guess if they're hiring, she wasn't like gradually, it was like the backhanded compliment.
There was somebody who graduated a couple years ahead of us who had worked there and she was the rock star, so I think I was not the rock star.
So I think she was trying to be nice, but it was like, she was surprised, but that was an awesome job. And I still keep in touch with some people and the owner, the founder of Hannah Anderson was she had started a part of their profits, went to helping children going through the adoption process.
So that was probably the first time I encountered someone who was, had a really successful business who was also giving back. That was a new idea. So that was really instrumental in, it was this thing, I thought about a ton, but it just introduced that idea that businesses could be a source for good.[:
doesn't stop them from being a good person.[:[:[:
even if I got the fancy dinners or the cars home, it just wasn't exciting to me. And children's wear it was an area where people were not even that people weren't really necessarily had kids, but people tended to leave at five or six.
that was a good fit for me. Like I wanted to have a life outside of my work.[:
I have to meet people outside of work. And thankfully triathlon came along because that was the only way I ended up making non-work friends in New York.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
I wasn't really doing the Martha Stewart stuff I enjoyed it though. Yeah. I would do it like that again.[:[:[:
And, and not necessarily be Martha Stewart, but just it was cool hanging out with my kids.[:
And I remember people just being like, what do you do? And telling them, and basically them just like walking away For boring. But I just, it was just funny. I remember at one point telling someone that my grandfather had invented the paperclip so I don't have to work. Just to mix it up a little bit and they didn't really have anything to say about that.
And the more I looked into it, the more I realized that people were making subsistence wages. So, and it just seemed like when I would talk to people about it or the people that I worked for, they were like, yeah, but you should see the line around the corner when we are hiring or when that factory is hiring.
And I just felt like at first I tried to accept that, but it just seemed like that's not good enough. So, I decided I would try to look for ways that I could support fair trade companies. And the first Christmas I was into this idea, I tried to find Fairtrade gifts for all my family, but they were at the time, this was like maybe 10 years ago.
Everything was really Crunchy Is that a word you can?[:[:
But like my dad doesn't want to crunchy Christmas present. So I realized, I just feel like there was a gap in the market for more classic minimal designs that were also where women were being paid fairly or the people were being paid fairly.
So that was the start of Meridian Lee. And then from there I started volunteering for a nonprofit who was doing product development and that's how I kind of dipped my toe in the water of Fairtrade. So I started out working basically as a volunteer and then launching my own business with some of the people I met there.[:
making things, at a good wage. And how did you connect initially, was it through that the people that you met at the volunteer organization or.[:
It's I don't know if anyone will get this reference, but it's remember the show Iron Chef where you had to use like really weird I shouldn't say weird, but pretty random. Like here are the ingredients
And sometimes it's like some of the women I work with have diminished fine motor skills. So we might we'll change the design based on, they don't need to be doing this, like really using like particular motions. We can change the design. So it can be something that has like a bigger circle or it's to their abilities, which I think is it's really fun.
It's really interesting puzzle to try to create something based on the needs of the artisan[:
and you have a relationship.[:
And some of the ladies I get to talk to every day, like yesterday, I got to chat with people in Uganda, Kenya, India, and China. And it, I know that's a lot more common now, but it just totally makes my life. It's so fun to just see this person is in the market. Now they're sending me a swatch and I have to be careful to not work into the evening because it's just so fun, to see like they're sending me pictures and I can match them to my Pantone book.
It's just feels like I get to be on an adventure still, even though the travel is so much more limited, obviously the past year or two,[:[:[:[:
So, it might seem like a little bit of a pain to wake up at three, but it totally energizes me. It's I think it's really funny and fun to do.[:
But you sent me a couple of statistics just about how it really works. And I was so intrigued.[:
And when they are paid a dollar, studies have shown they're going to put 80 cents of that dollar back into education, food, clothing, medicine. So yeah, not to throw men under the bus, but for some reason it's 30 cents on the dollar for men. And I don't know why that is. I really. Tried to look into it, but all I know is the best, most efficient way to lift up a whole community is by.
investing in the women who work there and to just make sure they're being paid fairly.
my hope is really that organizations would start to learn that and instead of coming in to build a well, or, donating bed nets, they would just pay people fairly to do the work they're doing so that they can decide for themselves what it looks like for their family to survive and be thriving.[:
And part of me goes why is it a bad thing if somebody is coming to help. But if it's this is what I've decided you need,
versus people know how to make choices.
we shouldn't assume that because we live in a quote unquote, first world country, we know better.[:
They would be able to move on like, okay, we've eradicated that problem. And I think some, like of course the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing amazing work and some others. And I think there are places where, especially now with COVID people, sometimes people just need some money to get back on their feet.
Maybe they don't even need job training. At this very moment, I think we need to stop the bleeding and then we can talk about, okay, what skill would you like to learn? Or do you need a loan so that you can start your micro enterprise? But it is, it's a difficult time. Like people just need to be bailed out sometimes. But my hope is that, a hundred years from now, I'd love to be alive then and see what it looks like because I can transfer money on an app on my phone in 10 minutes to somebody in Kenya, I don't have to go through an organization. I don't have to even pay. If there's a fee it's very minimal, it's just seems like the world is becoming so much smaller and more connected.
So I don't have to go through the government or an aid organization. I can just work directly with that person and direct trade is I think and even better word than fair trade. Is just working directly with that person.[:[:
And it just, I hope it will just be like, this, these are the vegetables. I feel like it should just be normal to pay people.[:
shouldn't be called out. It's just like,[:
a special label. It just should be normal.[:[:
But because of our little community, we were able to fill in the gaps and make sure everyone was going to be okay.[:
in New York, because it was like people were
checking in on each other to make sure they were okay.
If somebody, I lived in Brooklyn at the time. So my ex was like staying at a friend's in Manhattan because she just knew that he would have had to get back to Brooklyn and why go by yourself. And
there was a lot of really interesting communal things that happened.[:[:
From The outside, it could easily look like what you're talking about with the Angelina Jolie thing. It feels very you're really lucky in a way, or really privileged to be able to do something like this. So what kind of, I guess what happened that you can do this?[:[:[:[:[:
and so they were, their idea was to bring in, it was mostly minority, small business owners and to create a round table where we could all trade advice.
And so that was really a safe place to be able to, it was also a kicked my butt. But there were, people would just say oh, okay, you better do that by the time I see you next week. They would hold you accountable for your ideas. so even though it was scary, I felt like there was a group of people who had my back and could point out some basic, more business skills that maybe I hadn't gained in college just to fill in some of those areas that I was lacking.
Their mantra was fail fast, fail forward. And so it just, and maybe it's cliche, you jump off the cliff and then you build your parachute, which is terrifying. But yeah, I've had a lot of friends give me good design advice to, and I think the first year I was in business, my aunts bought probably more bags than they actually wanted. That helped. Just my main advice is just have a lot of cousins.[:[:[:[:[:
you're talking about.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
But I think we live in a kind of weird in between time where there's maybe a little shame in, okay. The narrative I had planned out at 22 is different. And now I'm proud of that. I feel like this, I couldn't have seen my job that I have now did not exist when I was growing up. So I've, made the best decisions I could as I went along.
But in my mid thirties, I felt really ashamed of having to start a new chapter. Whereas now I would embrace that. So I'm really glad you're having these conversations in this podcast, because I hope it, I think it's an encouragement to other people who are going through this also,[:[:[:
I'm like, these people don't have an hour to listen to me. Say, sometimes they do this and
sometimes they do this.[:[:
And even though I know it's way more acceptable now, most of the time, if you're at a party and it's small talk, people just
want you to be like, I'm an accountant
because they're like, yeah, I know what that is.
I do some acting and I'm a triathlon coach, or, I do direct trade bag design,[:[:[:
I feel like it's almost a better question to say, how do you like to spend your time? because it's not connected as much to income. Cause I feel like also I know a lot of really interesting people who maybe they're driving for Uber right now or waitressing , but they're really passionate about ceramics or baking or, you know, I feel like that's kind of a more respectful question or interesting question is how do you like spend your time instead of how do you make money?[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
And it really changed, my thoughts about it talking to her.[:[:
will you share it with me and the listeners, please?[:[:[:[:
It's such a good quote.[:
So it must've been a place where people were coming to figure some stuff out,[:[:
I would recommend it. I don't think I can do it every year, but
I remember my friend from my grandmother who I think of as a really spiritual person telling me one time, she tried to have a day of praying and fasting. And after an hour she got bored and went down and made a sandwich
Fasting's making me hungry.[:[:[:
And then by the second day, you that voice is quieter and quieter, so it gets easier. I would recommend it. Have some sandwiches ready in the car for afterwards.[:[:
I just think that's going to be a lot more normal. But specifically I think about my daughter and she's said from the time she was pretty little, probably not going to have kids, I just have a lot, I want to do. I want to be in a rock band and I want to be an artist and a writer. I just really love that that's just one of many choices for her. And of course, if she decides to have kids, that's awesome.[:
And it was always if I felt I got to that point, but I did what I wanted to do then maybe it was time, but there's a lot I want to do still.[:[:[:[:[:[:
How am I helping the world if I have a kid like that, you know? oh, well, your kid might solve cancer. Yeah, well maybe, but I also might be a shitty mom cause I don't want to have a kid.[:[:[:
Do you remember this?[:[:[:[:
And life-giving, I think. So of course I never thought that would be possible, but yeah. I feel like everybody has a little something they can put towards a little better world.[:[:[:
you can't go
to school. You can't
We're just, we just need to get our heads together and reallocate some of those resources.
And the longer a girl can stay in school, obviously the more money she can make, the more self-sustaining she can be. And[:
as we know, the more we'll be contributed to the society
because 80 cents on The dollar.[:
And then, I have some new products coming in the spring. I think the last year has really forced me to look at just reevaluate where I'm getting some of my materials and, the whole supply chain disruption issues, but it's, I feel like it's really good and I'm not the biggest or most successful company, but I remember I was on this really bad soccer team in high school and we were pretty bad, but for some reason when it rained, we either won or came close to winning. And I don't know what that is, but I feel like there's something about like, I'm used to struggling with some hard things. And the women I work with are, I think I was baffled by how hard COVID has been for other countries, because they're just really used to overcoming, you know, being a refugee or living with HIV.
And they're used to really just really difficult things. So they've taught me a lot about resilience and anyway, all of those things have just been running through my mind about how I can. You know how those things will shift my business and my focus. So a nebulous answer, but[:[:[:[:
But yeah, I just want to keep interesting problems.[:[:[:
in my opinion, you have more esteem a designer, so you've done it.[:[:[:[:[:
I'll have something else I don't even know about yet. That's going to come up and it's just fun to think about life on those terms.[:
Rachel: Thanks for having me