Kundakala: the power of sustainable funding

Introducing Kundakala

Kundakala aims to support women to become financially independent through the provision of tailoring skills and entrepreneurship support. Its founder, Poornima Kirloskar-Saini, started the organisation in memory of her mother and Indian artist, Kunda Kirloskar. 

The organisation hosts a successful Make and Mend Programme and Upcycling Project for ethnic minority women across the boroughs of Hackney and Lambeth, with plans to start in Camden this Spring. Such programmes support women to earn their own income alongside caring and cultural responsibilities which require flexible employment opportunities. 

Sourcing seed funding

None of this would be possible without seed funding which started to bring Poornima’s vision to life and Smallwood is proud to have enabled Kundakala’s inception. 

In March 2022 Kundakala was awarded short-term seed funding by London and Quadrant (L&Q) Housing Association which supported the first 6-month Make and Mend Programme. This was specifically to support L&Q residents in Barnet, a local estate, with the aim of upskilling women and providing community cohesion. 

This L&Q funding was then combined with a grant from Smallwood’s Essential Needs Fund to engage women in Hackney. 

Kundakala was 1 of 5 specialist women’s organisations to be funded through this initiative, which gave Poornima a chance to evolve an initial programme into something increasingly tangible and sustainable. Over the 7-month funding period the Make and Mend Programme ran 42 training sessions for 21 women. 8 of these women went on to undertake business start up training and 20 women undertook paid work placements.

Building around long-term funding

Smallwood has since become a keystone funder for Kundakala. In March 2023, following the success of the Essential Needs Fund, Kundakala was invited to apply for longer term Smallwood funding which now funds their core costs, 4 Make and Mend Programmes and a year long Upcycle Project which transforms discarded fabric into sustainable, hand-made products. This funding is for 3 years and is built to be flexible around the developing needs and aspirations of our grant partners. So far, a total of 50 women have been reached.

At this time Kundakala was further sustained by 2-year funding through Peabody Community Fund to expand their Make and Mend Programme in Hackney, thus deepening their expertise and trust within the area.

With long-term, flexible funding in place Kundakala could focus on supplementing this income with short-term grants. For example, Kundakala went on to receive grants ranging from 6-months to 1 year from the National Lottery Community Fund Awards for All, Together for London award from the London Community Foundation and again from the Peabody Community Fund to run a Make and Mend Programme in Lambeth.

Although Kundakala has made strides in securing funding since its inception, the search for funding to meet demand and support long-term stability is ongoing. As Poornima notes, Kundakala is a grassroots organisation striving to maintain momentum: 

“We have grown from a small pilot project into an organisation that offers women a clear path to financial resilience through our programmes.The word has spread and we have waiting lists in some of the boroughs we operate in, and we are continuously fundraising to deliver everything we’d like to do in 2024 and beyond.”

The Kundakala Collective

Alongside tackling women’s short-term financial needs, the Make and Mend Programme and Upcycle Project supports women to build their confidence and skills with a view to earning their own income, whilst also making savings altering and mending clothes for themselves and their families. A brilliant example of this is the new Kundakala Collective which has formed in the now sustainable ‘eco-system’ that is Kundakala. 

Founded in 2024, the Collective is a cooperative of micro businesses from the graduates of Kundakala’s programmes that platforms their availability for alterations, repairs and sell hand-made products. The Collective signifies the next step in Kundakala’s organisational growth and commitment to helping women realise their ambitions, and become financially stable. You can find out more about the collective and see individual artisans here.

The transformative power of reliable, long-term funding has allowed Kundakala to blossom into an organisation that truly reflects the aspirations of women with lived experience. 

Why highlight this?

Grassroots women’s organisations have so much to offer the most marginalised members of their community, but they are often not awarded the funding needed to rise to their full potential. Whilst short-term funding opportunities are crucial to keeping services open, smaller women’s organisations in particular find it increasingly difficult to source sustainable funding that allows for financial stability and long-term planning. 

This is especially true of the women and girls sector, in which over half of awarded grants in 2021 were under £10,000 and only 3.9% of funding went to small womens’ organisations. Smallwood’s own research into the importance of women’s organisations, conducted in partnership with the Women’s Resource Centre, highlights the social value generated by women’s services is 5 to 11 times greater than the amount of money invested in them.

Kundakala’s ongoing success is a powerful case study for funders to look toward offering seed-funding and long-term funding for irreplaceable women’s organisations. Not only does this strengthen the sector, it enables individual women to live fuller, safer lives. 

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