Dear GAIA Friends,
After a great deal of thought, reflection, discussion, and prayer, I’ve made the difficult decision to close GAIA’s doors at the end of May.
As you can imagine, this decision did not come easily. GAIA has been a true labor of love and such a source of joy, meaning, and fulfillment in so many lives, especially mine! However, after almost 10 years of running and growing GAIA, I’ve determined that it is time for me to take a step back and redirect my energy to my family.
As all working women do, I’ve constantly struggled with work-life balance, endlessly striving to be both a present, engaged mom and an effective leader. I’ve done the far-from-perfect juggle for so many years, but with my twins now in grade school, my oldest stepson about to leave for college, and my stepdaughter leaving in 2 years, the fleeting nature of their childhood is really sinking in. You can’t get this time back, and I feel I have let so many moments pass by without fully being present. I have poured so much physical & emotional energy to my GAIA family — who are so precious to me — but it is now leaving me too spent to put meaningful energy towards my own family, who unfortunately aren’t getting the best of me.
I've always said that when I started GAIA, it wasn't because I thought "the world needed another handbag line"…. but because I thought that refugee women deserved a warm embrace in their new country, and to have dignified, living-wage work as they rebuilt their lives in a foreign land… and the work might as well be focused on creating something cute and fun to wear! Over the years we’ve grown organically and gently, watching in awe as our Artisans have grown as well. And now, as I struggled with what my decision to take a step back would mean for them, I've recognized that the time has come where they are actually NOT refugees anymore. They are mothers, wives, artisans, homeowners… and Americans. These women have transformed their lives. The warm cocoon we created at GAIA has served its purpose, and the butterflies are ready to emerge.
It’s interesting, the timing.… now that I’ve reached a season in my life where my family needs me more, it turns out that the refugee women we employ need us less. Funny how God works like that!
Sharing the news with the Artisans and our team has been pretty heart-wrenching, as you can imagine. There have been some tears — not so much in fear over what’s next, but in sadness over losing the unique, open, and loving community we cultivated here at GAIA. It’s been pretty special: a compassionate, emotionally connected workplace unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I have reassured the team that our friendships will continue, that the bonds we formed will live on.
Our focus now is to help launch the Artisans into their next chapter as smoothly as possible, so they can secure jobs before our target closing at the end of May. We’ll be working on resumes, references, mock-interviews, etc. to help equip them and set them up for success. I’m hopeful that there may be employment opportunities discovered through people within our network. The wonderful thing is, we know each and every one of our Artisans intimately, and can recommend and vouch for them with complete confidence.
We are also exploring the idea of creating a sort of 'Sewing Co-Op' or production facility, in which a group of our Artisans take in tailoring work and/or special sewing projects for Interior Designers, other brands, etc.. If this is something that may be of interest to you, and/or you know of any potential employers, please email me at Paula@gaiaforwomen.com!
Our other primary goal is to celebrate what we’ve created and what the Artisans have accomplished over the past nearly 10 years. Yes, closing our doors is sad, but this will not be a period of mourning. "Project Farewell" will be a CELEBRATION of the loving community we all shared here, and will continue to share! So expect parties, gatherings, and a lot of storytelling to recap our journey over the years. :)
As far as my future, I’m excited to continue my work on behalf of refugees, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. That will never end. I actually expect to expand my advocacy work even MORE, now that the focus and pressure of running a fashion business is removed from the equation. There are so many incredible organizations here in Dallas doing inspiring work, and I’m excited to support their efforts, while continuing to use my voice on behalf of the voiceless.
I read somewhere that a company is the image of those who form it. For GAIA, that would include our staff, customers, vendors, collaborators, advocates, cheerleaders… all of you, the people who made GAIA possible. So much goodness, continuously providing the wind in our sails over the past 10 years. The love, care, and compassion of everyone who intersected with GAIA is what made it so uniquely beautiful. And that love will continue to blossom, even though this chapter is ending.
Closing our doors will definitely be bittersweet -- but our hearts are full. Can’t wait to see what lies ahead, and what grows out of the beauty created through GAIA.
With Love & Gratitude,