When Laura Rana, 37, was pregnant with her half-British, half-Bangladeshi twin daughters Opi and Mahi in 2019 – she spent the first half of her pregnancy in Bangladesh.
Little did she know her time there would inspire her to launch her own social enterprise: Khushi Kantha (Happy Blanket), which creates sustainable, multi-purpose baby blankets, where every purchase empowers a mother in Bangladesh.
“I’ve always dreamed of starting my own initiative, working directly with women whose position I could be in if circumstances were different,” she says.
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When Laura became pregnant, she couldn’t stop thinking about all the opportunities her daughters would have, compared to the children of the mothers all around her. When her daughters were born, they were gifted a large collection of traditional Bangladeshi ‘kantha’ blankets.
“I was a bit overwhelmed to receive so many, and wondered what we were going to do with them all, but I soon realised they could be used for pretty much every task on my daily to-do list as a parent, from swaddling the girls as tiny newborns, to functioning as pram liners, sun shades, mini playmats, breastfeeding covers, or even makeshift changing mats while out and about,” says Laura.
“Their vibrant colours and traditional ‘kantha’ stitching drew compliments wherever we went! I realised there could be a market for them, and this was how I could create opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh to provide for their children with dignity – and the idea for Khushi Kantha (Happy Blanket) was born!”
Laura set up a crowdfunding campaign, and was successful raising £10,810 to kickstart the project in 2021.
“Our utimate goal as a social enterprise is to build better futures for the next generation, through taking a multi-dimensional approach to sustainability,” she says. “Our children will inherit the earth – and we want to pass it down to them in the best state possible, by creating our sustainable, multi-purpose baby blankets using circular production principles.”
The mothers Laura partners with in Bangladesh have the opportunity to use their skills and draw on their cultural heritage to earn income under working conditions that represent the opposite of those of the garments industry Bangladesh is so famous for, she says.
“We pay over seven times the typical local wage, more than 1.3 times the minimum wage paid to urban-dwelling garments sector workers (whose living costs are nearly double), and nearly 1.5 times what we have calculated to be the local Living Wage,” she says.
“From my 14 years of experience in the international development sector, I know that for positive change to be sustainable, you need to go beyond the individual household level. That’s why we will be investing any profits we generate in strengthening the fabric of the community where the mothers live, based on their priorities.”
Laura says the most useful tip she received before getting her crowdfunding campaign off the ground (from Jes Bailey at Crowdfund 360) was to have an ‘official’ launch date – but actually launch your campaign to friends, family and other well-wishers the day before, so that when people you don’t know click on your page, it looks like things are going well.
“Implementing this strategy meant we were able to hit 25% of our £10,000 target within 24 hours of launching,” she says.
Since launch, Happy Blankets has trained their first group of mothers, creating around 1,400 hours of safe, fairly paid, flexible work for them. It has also supported another struggling rural artisan community, by commissioning hundreds of yards of 100% cotton yarn to be hand-dyed to match our colour palette and hand-woven into traditional handloom fabric.
“We’ve now delivered all 117 blankets that were pre-ordered through the campaign and our ‘How to make your own Happy Blanket’ workshop,” says Laura.
She is diversifying the product range, to help build up her customer base, so she can keep creating opportunities for the mothers she’s partnering with to provide for their children with dignity.
“My priority right now is producing our first ever Impact Report, which will present the methodology we’re using to understand our socio-economic and environmental impacts, including mapping the carbon footprint of our entire supply chain, and tracking how we’re contributing to the fulfilment of each mother’s dreams for herself, her children, her household and her community,” she adds.
Inspired to act?
DONATE: You can donate to crowdfunders like Laura’s that give back to people and the planet on Crowdfunder.
BUY A BLANKET: Help support Laura’s social project by buying a blanket off the website.