Monday, October 31, 2011

Learning From Lee Nesbit, Home Party Extraordinair

Lee Nisbet was browsing through Boho magazine when she stumbled upon an article about Nomi Network’s mission to aid survivors and women at-risk of trafficking and how she could get involved: throw a home party. Since Nomi Network helps to provide employment for this population through product design and development, product sales are key to supplying these women with work. Home Parities give our supporters an opportunity to introduce our mission and sell our products to their friends in an intimate environment, and Lee immediately saw the importance of this endeavor. For her 40th Birthday, Lee said she wanted “to do something that was not focused on (her) but focused on something else that could help the world.” Lee’s desire to help the women and be involved in the fashion industry sparked the planning and execution of one of Nomi Network’s most successful home parties, generating more than $1,000 in product sales, and more importantly, bringing awareness to the issue of human trafficking to her network in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Lee definitely knows how to throw a party. Instead of planning the event at her home, Lee held her Nomi Network party at a retail storefront in downtown Raleigh, Epona and Oak, owned by three sisters who are all friends with Lee. The party was held after store-hours so that it would not interfere with the normal business day and was not just open for anyone coming through, although 400 people were invited via Facebook and the store’s website blog. Lee also sent out personal emails to her book club and her close friends in hopes that they would come. 40 people RSVPed to the Facebook page, and 45 people came to Lee’s party.

“Facebook has revolutionized how we are getting the word out about things. I know much more about events in the community than ever before. … I have a good group of friends and between my friends and the women who own the store, other people were invited that I didn’t know. It was a better to invite people to a store than hosting in my home, where maybe at most 20 people would come. I was thinking about what ways to do it where there were as many people as possible to be invited. A public venue also encouraged people. No one who didn’t know me would come in to my home, but others who didn’t know me now would feel welcome to come to a party I was hosting at a storefront,” says Lee.

Lee wanted to make this party special and centered the theme around Cambodian culture. Lee laid out an array of Cambodian treats for her guests: summer rolls, peanut butter cookies sprinkled with cinnamon, a sweet rice treat that she homemade and lemon grass tea. She also asked her friend to help DJ her party. Lee found late 1960s and early 1970s CDs of Cambodian rock to play in the background. Lee explains, “the music was from such a huge time period because it was right before the Khmer Rouge stifled the artistic progress that was being made.” She hoped to expose her guests to something new, and in the process celebrate the reviving culture and talent that was showcased in Nomi Network’s products made by survivors and women at-risk.

Lee’s party started at 7 in the evening and ended at 9:30 pm. To encourage her guests to stay through the event, Lee held a drawing at 9:15 pm for an item that she purchased. She wanted the vibe to feel casual and did not schedule anything else but the raffle to close the night. A donation jar was also placed where people came in for cash donations, and the storeowners helped take credit card donations at the register. The Nomi Network video played throughout the evening on a laptop that was placed on a stand by the Buy Her Bag Not Her Body® product table.

Lee says she ultimately wanted “people to do their own exploration… There were a lot of people who wanted to just talk about the issue of human trafficking. It stirred a lot of conversations.”

I think the fact that we were all coming together and having a fun time and it was for a good cause made it more fun. It was a fun party - meeting new people, good food, good drinks. They have amazing scents in the store and it was a wonderfully aromatic experience and a good space for a party. People knew you could have fun and help someone else and help the world in a small way. We’re not making huge changes, but anything we can do can help these women,” says Lee.

Lee’s party helped generate over $1,000 that will be directly invested back into training and education for the women at Nomi Network’s partner facilities. Lee selected a limited amount of Buy Her Bag Not Her Body® products to be displayed in the store for sale, but also blew up pictures of other products in a binder so her guests could place orders at the event. Three of Nomi Network’s patch wristlets were sold that evening because her guests saw the pictures in the binder.

“What’s great about Nomi asking people to throw a home party is that it allows people to get involved and be a part of the process. Knowing that you are a part of the process of the women’s rehabilitation is really inspiring. Asking people to do home parties is exciting because it’s not just sending a check. Helping to market the products created by the women, helps the women. I think the fact that when you are purchasing a Nomi Network product you are supporting the women 100%- supporting their jobs and wages and the ability to expand the program is inspiring,” says Lee.

Lee hopes to throw another Nomi Network home party in the future. For those who are considering throwing a party, Lee’s advice is: “Collaborate with a group. Have a group put something together. The more people that feel they’re involved, it helps generate buzz about the event. But get the most people involved without over-extending. I was the organizer and there were people who were willing to help out in any way, like my DJ friend who was willing to bring his equipment that night. It was a good group effort. Or, do it for a birthday. It encourages people to be there. They want to celebrate you. Doing it for a birthday is a great thing when you don’t want gifts but you want people to purchase something in honor of your birthday. It’s also a great way to give gifts for the holidays.”

If you would like to host a Nomi Network home party and help your friends and family purchase holiday gifts, contact Supei Liu at supei@nominetwork.org. You and your guests will receive 20% off all Nomi products! Plus, the host earns Nomi credit for every product sold, which can then be used towards purchasing Nomi Network merchandise. Nomi Network will send your choice of Nomi products along with our Home Party kit, which includes our informational DVD, a set of instructions and a product price sheet. To view Nomi Network’s products, visit www.buyerherbadnotherbody.com.

- Lisa Kim

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