The Program

The Gilded Sparrows Network provides a pathway to economic independence for women involved with the justice system.


In three phases, women identify their own personal skill sets, develop a potential business idea, and launch a product line.  They are paid an hourly wage throughout the program.

Phase I (June - July)
New sparrows develop a basic and flexible skill set that will serve them well in entrepreneurship and in future traditional employment.  The “Sparrows” grow in basic workplace skills like time management, dress and behavior, teamwork, and quality control while working on products for the Gilded Sparrows Network.  They acquire basic computer and online selling skills by listing, monitoring, and shipping network products via Gilded Sparrows shops on ebay, amazon, and etsy. Sparrows will participate in at least one pop-up event where they practice public interactions and selling the Network product line - suminagashi and kokedama.      
   Deliverable:  20 hours working local pop-up shops, interacting with customers + tracking of sales/inventory on Square + Excel

Phase II (August - September)
Sparrows assemble a basic and flexible set of skills such as framing, plant care, and simple upholstery through visits to local makers and shopkeepers, allowing the women to connect to other small business owners as well as identify the types of work and design they personally find beautiful. Each Sparrow then selects her own project and develops prototypes of three to five components of a potential product line using a budget of $150 for materials and supplies for the proof of concept phase, which she can manage via Paypal.  They continue to devote 1/3 or their time to network products and use the rest of their time for development of their own potential products as well as complimentary workplace and artistic skills. 
   Deliverable:  3 to 5 prototypes                                                       

Phase III (October - January)
In Phase III the women focus their efforts on their top three potential products, moving to repetitive production in preparation for the holiday gift season.  Each woman is given is a budget of $350 for the production phase, which she can manage via Paypal. They continue to devote a portion of their time as necessary to network products. We host workshops with local makers and business owners to lend a wide view of what is possible in designing a successful business. 
    Deliverable:  Launch of product line at local pop-up shops and an online platform of their choosing

Sparrows who successfully complete the first three phases of the program as evaluated by their attendance and completion of deliverables are eligible to graduate to ‘fledgling’ status, and remain in the program for a second year.   The proceeds of their sales at the holiday pop-ups are deposited in their Paypal accounts to serve as a ‘nest egg’ for their ongoing business.

Network products at our summer pop-up at the Boxyard, Downtown

Network products at our summer pop-up at the Boxyard, Downtown

Gilded Sparrows featured at West Elm pop-up in Utica Square

Gilded Sparrows featured at West Elm pop-up in Utica Square

Second Year program 

Phase IV (February – April)  
Fledglings use the final three months of their three-day a week employment to build their online shop and social media presences and launch their products.  They complete the legal requirements for their business such as filing an LLC, DBA, and copyrights and establishing a basic tax structure. They complete the Dress for Success program, and are supported in their search for traditional employment, which they must obtain in order to move on to Phase V.

Phase V:  (May - December)  
When new sparrows join the nest, the fledglings transition away from it.  In Phase 5, the fledglings continue to be at the nest 1 day a week, but in more responsible roles such as teaching techniques to the new sparrows, and maintaining network product stock at local businesses.  Even though their hours are reduced, they are given a raise in their rate per hour to reflect their increased responsibilities. On their day in the nest, they receive individual business coaching to help them continue working towards their goals.

Leaving the Nest

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Each woman remains a Gilded Sparrow, even when she leaves the nest.  As long as she remains a “Sparrow in Good Standing”, the resources of the network are available to them to help with difficult issues like customer service and platform support.  Their product lines are publicized via the wider network, and they may say that they are “a member of the Gilded Sparrows network” and display the network logo on their shop and social media accounts. Women remain a sparrow in good standing by making a small number of network products each month, by paying an equivalent fee, or by fulfilling volunteer hours “back at the nest”.