News

Making bags, mending women’s lives at new business

NEW WINDSOR – A different kind of enterprise has found a place in Orange County’s Business Accelerator.

Unshattered is a not-for-profit organization aiming to give women a renewed chance at life as they overcome issues including drug addiction and alcoholism.

It’s the brainchild of Kelly Lyndgaard of Hopewell Junction. She stepped off IBM’s executive ladder early this year to volunteer running a business using materials from used jackets and upholstery to make women’s bags. They sell for an average $65 online at Etsy, and at local craft fairs.

“The market is women with a sense of fashion, but who also want to make a social impact with their purchase,” Lyndgaard said. “By buying a bag you’re making a difference in the direction of a woman’s life.”

Revenues go to the Walter Hoving Home in Garrison, a residential rehabilitation center for women. The expectation, though, is that sales will grow sufficiently to soon pay graduates of the home’s six- to 12-month program.

“They’re going to make this into a real company,” said Vincent Cozzolino, managing partner of the Kingston-based Galileo Technology Group that runs the accelerator. “They have a real product and they sell out.”

Unshattered is looking for permanent workspace, possibly in the Newburgh area, Cozzolino said. The accelerator, meanwhile, is providing advice on business topics including marketing.

Lyndgaard’s interest was ignited after hearing women from Hoving speak at Valley Christian Church in Hopewell Junction around Christmas 2012.

“It was a very transformational experience for me,” Lyndgaard said Wednesday. “It changed my perception totally about addiction … I had always been pretty judgmental about it, feeling it was a result of irresponsible choices, rather than a way to deal with traumatic events in people’s lives.”

Lyndgaard joined the Hoving board of directors in 2013. She became chairwoman in September.

The rehabilitation center operates on donations and fundraisers. Enter Unshattered as a new funding stream. The first batch of bags made $21,000 in 2014, double the goal.

“And we’re on track to double what we did last year,” she said.

One worker, Jennine, 30, (the women didn’t want their last names published) credits Unshattered with helping her to learn to work with others for a common goal. She won’t be staying with Unshattered, though, instead opting for a position working in another state with recovering addicts.

Jessica, 27, says she’s waiting to see how Unshattered progresses.

“It’s all brand new,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have a (permanent) place and I can manage it.”

Unshattered began work at the accelerator in September. A grant from the Workforce Development Institute pays the rent.

“The training and opportunity provided to the ladies in the Unshattered program is laying a foundation for their personal futures, while also helping to bring the cut-and-sew industry and its jobs back to Orange County,” said Mary Jane Bertram, regional director of Workforce Development Institute.

All of the bags have what Jennine called the Unshattered signature, a band of gold thread. The idea comes from kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing pottery, with a meaning of more beautiful for having been broken. It dates from the 1500s when broken items like tea cups were mended with gold.

Jessica likes that idea. She said she’s had a variety of jobs including retail and waitressing, but Unshattered might lead to something better.

“When I was a little girl, my dream was to be a fashion designer,” Jessica said. “To have this opportunity is such a blessing, a gift. I feel very lucky to be part of it.”

jwalsh@th-record.com