Startup Brings Survivors’ Crafts ‘to the Market’

By Natalia Angulo Small Business FOXBusiness

Our mission is to offer freedom to women who are trapped in the sex trade and to provide opportunity to women who are vulnerable to trafficking. ... We do this by providing employment in a safe, loving environment, where women are trained as artisans. The women create beautiful, sustainable, handmade products, while making their lives new. We invite you to journey into the freedom story of one woman with your purchase. Company Overview Sari Bari seeks the sustainable restoration of red light communities and the prevention of the exploitation of women & children in the commercial sex trade Sari Bari is a safe place of employment where women who have been exploited in the sex trade or who are vulnerable to trafficking can experience a new life in the making. The name "Sari Bari" comes from two symbols. A sari is the traditional clothing worn by women in India. In India, a sari represents the essence of womanhood. The word bari mean "house or home" in the Bengali language. Description What restoration means to us: Sari Bari does not rescue women, but rather seeks restoration for those who have been trafficked or held in the sex trade by poverty and lack of empowerment. Approximately 65 percent of women in the red light areas no longer qualify for legal action in the form of rescue. While they were likely first trafficked in their teen years, many are now middle-aged and are trapped by circumstances that have bound them since childhood. What prevention means to us: Helping to prevent new girls from being trafficked into the sex trade is the most effective way to combat sexual slavery. We hope to offer high-risk girls an opportunity to life-giving education and work that will protect them from ever entering the sex trade. To meet this goal, Sari Bari has located its third production site in a village that is a high trafficking area of India. Young women ages 17-25 and living in poverty are offered jobs at this site. Additionally, up to 20 percent of Sari ( Neil Ruskin )

Social Business Spotlight: A Look at Entrepreneurs With Heart

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Business: TO THE MARKET, @LetsgoTTM

Who: Jane Mosbacher Morris, founder of TTM

What: A social enterprise that promotes goods made and stories told by survivors of abuse, conflict and disease around the world in an effort to help enable economic empowerment. 

When: November 2014 (Official launch)

Where: Lexington, KY

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How: From high-power meetings in the nation’s capital to a life-altering trip to India, Jane Mosbacher Morris’ journey into entrepreneurship is underlined by her desire to help others find dignified work opportunities.

The Texas-native began her career working in the U.S State Department in Counterterrorism, then moving to the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. From there she went on to work for the McCain Institute for International Leadership as director of Humanitarian Action. It was with the McCain Institute that she traveled to Calcutta where she met with female survivors of human trafficking who were using their handcraft skills to make a living.

The visit, she said, “really planted a seed in my heart” seeing “how dignified those survivors were in their jobs … I knew I wanted to help provide opportunities … so that they could have access to income and economic [independence].”

After much thinking, Mossbacher Morris left her job with the McCain Institute with the intention of starting a market-driven social enterprise that would create additional distribution channels for products created by survivors, specifically of abuse, conflict and disease. She mined all her resources and with the help of close advisors (Paul Hurley, founder of ideeli, serves as a senior advisor to TTM) opened for business last fall.

Using a three-pronged business strategy, TTM assists local partners around the world by showcasing handmade goods in their online marketplace and pop-up shops, while raising awareness through storytelling. Each product comes with a tag that has the maker’s story on it, and TTM is always sharing stories via social media and blogging. The third prong is more technical and always evolving: In addition to helping entrepreneurs sell their goods, TTM wants to help their partners become more efficient. For example, TTM offers trend forecasting to help the entrepreneurs make more informed product decisions.

“We feel the background for these products is really special, but we don’t want to lead with that, we want to close with that,” Mossbacher Morris said. “We want people to purchase products for their desire for the product, rather than making a pity purchase.”

Biggest challenge: “The good news is that there are a growing number of organizations offering the dignity of work to vulnerable communities [and] many of these organizations have wonderful missions,” Mosbacher Morris said, adding that her wish is to be able to partner with “anyone trying to create economic independence for others.” But in order for TTM to “stay true to our mission” it must be firm in picking only partner organizations that employ survivors of abuse, conflict or disease.

Partnering up: In selecting partners on the ground, TTM uses referrals from inside its network, as well as referrals from existing partners. These organizations need to already have set up shop, and hired and trained survivors to produce handmade goods before TTM can step in to make a scalable impact, says Mosbacher Morris.

Moment in time: “We have received overwhelmingly positive support for our model – people love that we are taking a free-market approach to addressing long standing social issues,” she says. That, and that TTM has been “overwhelmed by orders from all over the world,” which she believes is a reflection of the growing market and desire for ethically-made, socially-inspired products.

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