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Better Together

Better Together

Carlo Dollero
April 23, 2024

In Mexico, we have a saying that goes like this; “Educa a un niño y educarás a un hombre. Educa a una niña y educarás a una familia.” In English, “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual but if you educate a girl, you educate the whole family.” 

At Shasa, the fashion company I founded and lead with my brother Armando, we believe deeply in the power of empowering women. It has informed our growth and identity over the years, both in terms of how we manage and grow the company, and in terms of how we give back to our communities. As I look back over the last 20 or so years, in fact, I find it hard to separate which came first, our intentional focus on women within Shasa, or our work with a girls’ orphanage we have helped build, Casa Hogar Alegria.

Armando and I worked hard for many years to build Shasa into the large company it is today. You can read about how we did that in an article he published with Tugboat Institute’s Evergreen Journal in 2022. From the beginning, once it was clear that fashion was our focus, we focused on women’s clothing; I suppose the connection to women started there. As we built the company, between the people who designed and made the clothes to the ones selling it in the stores, to the ones helping us devise strategies around marketing and growth, it naturally happened that we grew into a company populated mostly by women. Today, over 85% of our 2000 employees are women, and we are proud of that.

When we were in the earlier stages of building Shasa, our wives became involved in an orphanage for girls that was founded in 1997 – Casa Hogar Alegria. Not long after, we had grown the company to a place where it was clear we had a future, and where we began to understand clearly what kind of company we wanted it to be. In essence, though we didn’t have the language for it at the time, we knew we wanted to be an Evergreen company – one that intends to endure for the long term, that is committed to staying private to retain independence, and that cares deeply for the people in the organization and in our communities. Groups were starting to approach us to sponsor their community projects and we wanted to make a choice that would align with our Purpose and be meaningful for our whole company. We looked at what they were building at Casa Hogar Alegria and decided to make that our exclusive focus; we understood that we could have far more impact by focusing all our efforts on one project, and this one aligned so perfectly with who we had become as a company. 

First, I’ll share some history of the evolution of this beautiful project. Then, I will explain how deeply integrated it has become to our Purpose and our identity.

When Casa Hogar Alegria was founded in 1997, it took in eight girls, and looked after them in a rented house. The group that founded it was responding to a need that was sadly increasing in Mexico – an abundance of abused and abandoned young girls who had no one to take care of them and were living on the street. The state in Mexico has projects to support orphans, but the budgets are badly insufficient to care for these children in a meaningful way. It was clear from the start that housing was just a small piece of the support that would be needed to raise girls who were strong, balanced, and prepared for the world. In addition to food and shelter, the girls need emotional and behavioral support, they need education and support in their schooling, and they need the social skills and training to grow into successful, productive women. Therefore, at Casa Hogar Alegria, the girls are supported by an interdisciplinary team of pedagogues, psychologists, educators, and administrators. This comprehensive model is quite unique in Mexico.

From the beginning, we supported Casa Hogar Alegria financially, but we quickly become interested in this unique model. Once we had decided this would be the sole focus of our service to the community at Shasa, we became deeply involved. For the first ten years, Shasa was by far the largest donor to the project. In the years since, my brother and I have managed to recruit a number of other values aligned and purpose driven companies to join us, and Casa Hogar Alegria has grown to encompass four different houses in three locations, supporting 213 girls and employing over 90 people. I became the president of the board of directors in 2020, and while I will be passing the torch to someone else soon, I have helped set the mega goal of serving 500 girls by the year 2025. It’s a stretch goal, and we might be a few years late in getting there, but we are on our way.

How does all of this align tightly with who we are at Shasa and what does that look like? First, like I said, most of our employees are women. Further, many of them are women who came from challenging circumstances, and for whom their role at Shasa has allowed them to build a stable and wonderful life, raise their children and care for their families, and grow and be fulfilled as people. At Shasa, it is important to us to develop our team, and we prefer to hire from within when at all possible. We have many, many employees who started out in entry-level positions, at the store, in the manufacturing facilities, or in our offices, and who have developed and grown into leaders. For this reason, the work with the girls at Casa Hogar really touches them personally. Even if they were never orphans, they can relate to the plight of a young girl with few resources and prospects in today’s society. 

Conversely, it is incredibly meaningful for the girls to interact with the women on our team. They hear their stories and are inspired to see possibilities for themselves. Most of them come from a place where they have no role models who are successful, independent women, and when they meet the women on our team, they start to be able to see a better life for themselves. It motivates them in school and beyond, and they start believing in the possibility if their own success. 

These important interactions take place in lot of different places and ways; our team’s involvement with Casa Hogar takes many forms. Our employees elect to spend time with the girls at Casa Hogar in both formal and informal ways. We host big celebrations at the houses for holidays, such as Christmas and Children’s Day, which is big in Mexico. At these celebrations, we have all sorts of activities for the girls, from cupcake-making to jewelry-making and more. Everyone wears costumes and it’s so much fun. We also have two collections per year at Shasa that are designed and sold specifically in support of Casa Hogar, one of which launches at Christmas and one that launches on Children’s Day, so those celebrations incorporate those launches as well. As often as possible, we invite the girls to our stores, to see what our company has created and what it stands for, and also to see what kinds of opportunities exist for them in the world. 

As you can see, the meaning and the benefit of the relationship between Shasa and Casa Hogar is reciprocal. The director of Casa Hogar Alegria tells a story that illustrates perfectly the symbiotic relationship between our two organizations. When people come to visit the house where the babies live, she brings them to see two little girls who share a crib. She says, “Why do you think these two babies share a crib?” People’s first guess is usually that they are twins or somehow related. “No,” she replies. “They are nothing to each other. They have no shared history. However, when they are alone, they cry. When we put them together, they are happy. It’s like Shasa and Casa Hogar Alegria. We are better together.” What could be more People First than that?

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