This week was pivotal for me, a crucial turn in the story.
I had the honor and privilege to meet with five congressmen and their staff on Capitol Hill as I defended the rights of companies like Trades of Hope and the rights of women who join them to earn a flexible, fun income! In every meeting, I found my self in an out of body experience, watching myself discussing issues so close to my heart with our country's law makers. With each persuasive word from my mouth, I felt pieces of myself falling into place. Founding Trades of Hope was the best gift and caused me to grow up quickly, leading me to feel out of place at times. But moving to D.C. has felt like filling an Elisabeth-shaped hole in the world that has been waiting for me my whole life.
Watch this fun recap video to learn more!
My goals were threefold:
1. Show my support for HR 3409, a bill to end pyramid schemes to protect the work of ethical companies like Trades of Hope.
2. Protect the rights of women who join these companies as independent contractors, so they can keep being their own bosses!
3. Share with congressmen how direct sales is a beautiful opportunity for Americans to easily be entrepreneurs and for our economy to thrive!
Thank you to everyone who has been so thoughtful and supportive as I moved to D.C. and have been able to have unbelievable, new experiences!
This event was organized by the Direct Selling Association (DSA). #DSAhillday2017
If I had to guess, I would estimate that I've been to Haiti about 20 times in my 22 years. I stopped tallying the number of trips at age 13. So, when my trip to spend some time with our artisan partners in Haiti this summer was quickly approaching (amidst the height our catalog design and production, a business conference, and as I was preparing to move), I was not super stoked, if I'm being 100% honest in my humanity. I love Haiti and my friends + family who live there, but the trip sounded like a lot in the middle of a lot. But you guys, it was one of my favorite Haiti trips ever! I hugged so many familiar friends, shook the hands of my business partners, and kindled new relationships. In the whirlwind of so much beauty, I was reminded again of why I am so passionate about creating sustainable jobs to develop communities and end poverty. Here are some of my trip's highlights + reasons ending poverty through job creation is so important.
1.) Dignified Partnerships
Before Trades of Hope, I did nonprofit work in Haiti at the organization my parents founded from the age of 8 years old to 14 years old. Even while I was a kid, I noticed the awkward dynamic of adults in Haiti having less opportunities in the world than I did as a child. Today, after feeling that weird, unjust feeling for years, my favorite part about sustainable business is that everyone involved is in a dignified partnership. Everyone from the artisans, to artisan group leaders, to the retail company (Trades of Hope), to customers who buy our ethically crafted line of fashion accessories -- we all need each other! All roles are needed to develop communities and end poverty. It's a honor, full of beauty and fun, to partner with these amazing women!
Below are some artisan partners using their creativity and skill to make some of our accessories! Also below, I'm smiling with Chandler (right) who founded one of our partnered artisan groups and with Fabienne and Faby, the group's Director of Operations and boutique manager. The group photo is of the leadership team at one of our partnered artisan groups. They are all stewarding their teams in their work and guiding them in conversations about how they can contribute their time to activist projects to make Haiti better!
2.) Educating Others on How to End Poverty
I love this business because it offers opportunity to learn about and education on what is hurting the world and what we can do to change it! There was so much I didn't realize while in nonprofit work. No one told me that by donating free things, I'm actually hurting someone's chances at success, as well as the local (and national) economy. No one told me that I should think about where I buy my clothes from because most are made in sweatshops. No one told me that a woman can transform her life and the life of others when she just has a job opportunity.
Not only do I get to learn and educate others, but I get to see the lightbulb go off in others' eyes and watch them turn into educators themselves! This is the group I lead down to Haiti, who all had those lightbulb moments. And now, as they educate others about how we can make this world flourish, they are creating a higher demand for ethically made fashion. It's a beautiful and ever-growing ripple effect of change!
3.) Hope for a Beautiful Future
Without a doubt, my favorite part about the trip was meeting Jolina. She was one of the first artisans in her artisan group and today is a stockholder in the company! Jolina has so much authority and confidence while she talks about what her company does. She told me that if someone had just handed out free peanut butter to stifle her hunger for a day, she would still be living in extreme poverty. Hand outs meet a momentary need, but do not solve the problem of poverty. But because she became a part of the artisan group and consistently earned a living wage creating accessories, she bought some land without her husband even knowing, built a house, and now her husband loves the house! Jolina has the pride in knowing that she made that happen! In addition, she now runs a side business she started selling peanut butter, a business that employs other people as well! She is such an inspiration to me and a shining example of what job creation is doing: creating hope for a beautiful future!
This is Ismaella.
She creates necklaces in one of the artisan groups with which Trades of Hope partners. She gave me permission to share her words: “I don't need to ask my mom for money. I became more independent economically, and I can help others also.” Ismaella says her dream is to be a lawyer one day.
I’ll be traveling to Haiti next week on a business trip to see her, and I’m thankful, more than ever to be in this business partnership with her.
Tomorrow, May 13, 2017, is World Fair Trade Day.
Many of the things we buy on a regular basis are made by women, men, and children around the world who are treated and paid very poorly. Approximately, 40% of the world's population exists on $2 dollars a day. When I was a teenager, $10 finds at Forever21 was exciting. Now, I see things on sale for $10, $5, or even $2 and think, “Someone in the process of this product is being taken advantage of.” Underpaid, mistreated people toiling in sweatshops or even slavery contributes to the cheap prices available to us, most often also leaving a damaging footprint on our environment behind.
Fair Trade creates space in the world for socially conscious, dignified, and safe partnerships between product-makers, product-retailers, and product-consumers. Some of the Fair Trade principles include, but aren’t limited to, supporting safe and empowering working conditions, create opportunities for economically and socially marginalized producers, paying producers promptly and fairly, and respecting cultural identity.
Tomorrow is a day to celebrate women like Ismaella who, through fair trade practices and socially conscious shoppers, can reach for her dreams. It is also a day to put our foot down. People toiling in sweatshops, child labor, slavery: these are realities that do not need to exist.
How can we do our part to empower those who are economically and socially oppressed and protect our beautiful world?
1. We can lower the demand.
By not buying cheap products, we lower the retailer’s ability to order more inventory, also lowering the availability of abusive positions that take women, men, and children captive. With most brands not prioritizing the human who make product, this realistically is a gradual change. Don’t try to quit buying everything you do now immediately. That’s not feasible! Just find a couple ethical brands (like Trades of Hope!) or products at a time or choose one area of your shopping to slowly change for the better.
2. We can shop brands that are conscious.
By purchasing from brands that have humanity, equality, and the environment in mind (even if you pay a little bit more), enables companies to have more job positions for women and men around the world. As a founder of Trades of Hope, I can tell you firsthand how the upward growth of our company directly correlates to being able to help more and more people sustainably and long term. In addition to our company that sells fashion accessories and home décor, there are plenty of companies that sell fair trade, ethically made skin care, make up, clothes, and household products. Spend some time on Google and find brands that fit with you.
3. We can buy less stuff and buy more of what truly brings us joy.
I recently made a lifestyle change by buying less that I might only wear for a short period of time, buying pieces on a whim because I thought I might like it. I started asking myself, “Does this really bring me joy? Or am I just buying it because so-and-so had something similar or because it will make people perceive me a certain way?” Keeping pieces that are better quality and that you are truly excited about longer will also lessen the demand for retailers that don’t have humanity’s wellness at heart. If you do want to let something go, bring it to a thrift store so someone else can get their clothes from your closet, again, lowering the demand of sweatshops.
It’s time to start wearing what we believe.
It would be so easy to wear accessories everyone else is wearing, pieces that can be easily found at every surrounding store. But everything we buy was made by someone, a person with a heart and family and dreams, Ismaella. Trades of Hope creates a marketplace of accessories made by artisans in 16 countries who are now earning a safe, sustainable incomes for the first time.
This is what I believe in.
Poverty ending. Hearts hoping. People rising. Nations healing.
What do you believe in?
No. 01 - Colour Pop Ultra Blotted Lip
This lip formula is light, kiss-proof, and stays on all day! Unlike other stains or mattes, the Ultra Blotted Lip is extremely light weight. I don't usually wear make up to the beach, but I love wearing a pop of color on my lips (as long as I know it won't smear in the heat!). I got some really fun shades to wear out under the sun. All 3 of the shades I got are pictured here, from left to right: Zuma (a more neutral, maroon/brown/red), Double Scoop (orange-y + very in style this summer), and Out of Beach (a really bright red/orange, also trending for this summer).
No. 02 - Accessories from Trades of Hope's NEW Summer Line
Jewelry that you can throw on fast, that makes a substantial contribution to your outfit is so important amidst the whirlwind of fun for Summer. As a co-founder of Trades of Hope, obviously I love our pieces. But I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't share our NEW Summer Line with you! It just released today (yay!), and there are statement and everyday pieces of jewelry, accessories, and home decor. Pictured, left to right: the Copper Hammered Studs (easy to throw on to pick up your outfit), the Indu Tassel Necklace (my favorite in this line, the tassel is removable, giving you 2 necklaces for the price of one!), the Chandra Earrings (statement earrings that are so light, you'll forget they are on!). All of our pieces are ethically made by artisans around the world rising out of poverty through sustainable business and job creation!
No. 03 - St. Ives Blemish Control Apricot Scrub
In the bright sunny days of summer, loving our skin is all the more important! I use this scrub all year round, but am so thankful for it during the hot, sometimes sweltering days! If I am breaking out at night, I use this scrub, and in the morning, my skin is clear! Having dealt with skin issues my whole life, I am not over exaggerating. If you want to love your skin more, grab this! I pick it up at Publix while I'm grocery shopping, but it's sold almost everywhere.
No. 04 - A Go-To Hat to Make Your Crazy Hair Look "On Purpose"
Whether it's a ball cap, a wide-rimmed sun hat, or a fedora (are those still cool?), you'll want a trusty hat when your hair is the last thing you want to focus on. I just got this Washington Nationals hat in honor of my recent announcement that I'm moving to D.C. in the fall. Getting my money's worth is not going to be a problem!
No. 05 - A "Throw It All In There" Bag
Little crossbody bags and backpacks are great while on the adventure, but while on the journey or on the run or on the way to the beach, having an over-sized tote will be a God-send. Get one you love and one you'll be okay giving a little wear-and-tear. You should be having too much fun to worry about your bag holding up for you. This Dasah Tote from Trades of Hope (ethically made by artisans rising out of poverty in Bangladesh) is so sturdy and will fit anything you could possibly want while on your summer excursions!
My answer to the commonly asked question, “What do you do?” often provokes more questions or confusion from the asker. To be fair, what I do is unique, and to set the record straight (a record of which I am very proud and a record that is tons and tons of fun), this, my friends, is my answer.
What do you do?
I am the Co-Founder and VP of Marketing of Trades of Hope, a fair trade company that sells ethically crafted fashion accessories and home décor made by artisans all around the world to create sustainable business and job opportunities to end the cycle of poverty. These products are sold online through our website and socially sold through Compassionate Entrepreneurs. You know what’s really cool? Because they are creating a market for our artisans’ products, our Compassionate Entrepreneurs earn a commission of off their sales. This means that our artisans and Compassionate Entrepreneurs are in a dignified partnership, both needing each other equally to earn an income. Neither of them are superior or inferior due to race, gender, or financial status. How beautiful.
I co-founded Trades of Hope in 2010 with three other amazing women who won’t allow for the heartbreaking realities millions face every day to endure. We believe that sustainable business is what will end poverty in lives, communities, and countries around the world.
When I was 5 years old, my family founded an orphanage and nonprofit organization in Haiti. After Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, all of the children in the orphanage were evacuated and placed with families in the United States for adoption immediately. That offered an empty orphanage and an opportunity to reevaluate. The community’s poverty around the orphanage had not changed during the time of our work there. Yes, children were adopted out of the situation, but there was no long-term solution to the poverty of everyone left behind.
My mom started learning about micro-loans and sustainable business, and through her learning I became aware of new and innovative ways to help people out of desperate situations, ways that actually helped to heal poverty, not just cover it with a temporary band aid.
This is when Trades of Hope was born.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb
All around the world, different countries home talented, intelligent, creative people who don’t want charity. They don’t want to depend on another person. They don’t want a hand out that will quickly run dry. They don’t want to wait powerlessly and remain passive in their lives.
They want an opportunity. They want an opportunity to show people their craft. They want an opportunity to change their own circumstances, feed their own children, reach for their own dreams. And when you give a woman that opportunity, she shines! According to CARE Australia, when you empower one women out of poverty, she takes 4 more people with her.
We empower her to be the hero of her own story.
Our artisans work in 16 different countries around the world, as far as Thailand and the Philippines to as close as Costa Rica and even in the U.S. itself! These are women and men who are earning a living wage so that they can support their families, thrive in their communities, and make their dreams a reality. (FAQ: How much of a product sale goes back to the artisans? Answer: Goes back? The artisan has ALREADY been paid 100% of the asking price before their product is released to our customers! This is amazing for them and so unique! Our artisans are our peers and business partners, so nothing “goes back,” as they have already been paid in full before a customer makes a purchase. Because empowering our artisans is our sole focus, if we don’t sell a product, that is a financial ramification we take on ourselves.)
I love my job so much.
As a Co-Founder, I get to dream up new ways to grow Trades of Hope on a daily basis. I also get to do things like help decide what beautiful products will be released in which lines! (I excitedly always want every piece to be released NOW for you all to see, but we typically plan a year and a half out.) I get to collaborate with the other founders on how to lead our office of Home Team members and how to help our Compassionate Entrepreneurs. But I would say my two favorite things about my job are 1) When I travel around the world to meet our artisans and experience their culture and 2) When I get to speak publicly about how I know sustainable business is alleviating pain and will end poverty. I get to travel the U.S. multiple times a year to speak on university campuses, in leadership forums, in interviews, and at large events with our Compassionate Entrepreneurs (we currently have over 4,500 and growing rapidly!). I love public speaking, sustainable business, and cultivating relationships, so it’s no surprise I enjoy it all so much.
As the Vice President of Marketing, I get to do a myriad of creative, colorful, strategic things such as leading an amazingly talented and big-hearted team of creatives and strategists, branding our company and branding each line release (we have three every year), planning and executing our catalog photoshoots, being the creative editor of our catalogs and business collateral, and strategizing new ways to bring Trades of Hope to passionate, purposeful, world-changing people just like you!
This is what I do.
It is my dream job. More than that, it’s my so-perfect-I-didn’t-know-how-to-dream-for-this-dream-job. When I was growing up I wanted to be a spy (to help people like Kim Possible), then a fashion designer, then a teacher, then a writer – and I feel like I am all of those things now, at the same time, but in such an amazingly purposeful way.
I went to Haiti and saw poverty for the first time when I was 8 years old. I spent my childhood struggling in a vigorous pull between my comfortable home in the States and the responsibility I felt after seeing what I saw abroad and wanting to be on the ground there to help. I felt so misplaced, and I was restless and helpless to be there for my friends and their loved ones. Trades of Hope has been the answer: being able to help those who are in desperate circumstances around the world, straight from my home in the middle of my daily routines.
If you have felt that restless helplessness, there are three ways you can get involved:
Thank you for your sweet time and interest! Sustainable business is what will empower people out of poverty and one day positively alter the economies of countries around the world!
At Trades of Hope, we wear what we believe. Poverty ending. Hearts hoping. People rising. Nations healing.
What do you believe in?
Tomorrow is International Women's Day, a day designed to celebrate women and their economic, political, and social achievements around the world. What a stunning kaleidoscope of beauty, diversity, and culture the women of this world create. Even in light of our revered differences, we stand hand-in-hand, intertwined by sisterhood, respect, and the knowledge that we are better together.
International Women’s Day is also a time to focus on places and situations where women's rights, equality, health, and safety still have a long way to go.
Millions of women all around the world face the physically, emotionally, and psychologically taxing realities of slavery, sexual exploitation, slums, and discrimination.
But through co-founding Trades of Hope, I have seen women who will not allow themselves to remain oppressed.
We are in the middle of a movement: women saying, “no more” and rising to become the heroes of their own stories. They are fighting for their families. They are leading communities. They are claiming respect for their hearts, their bodies, and their minds. Statistically, for every woman who is empowered out of impoverished situations, she brings 4 more people with her.
While I have participated in peaceful protests before and respect those who will powerfully participate in A Day Without A Woman, I'm not striking tomorrow. As a co-founder of a company that creates jobs for women in 16 different countries (including the U.S.), I don't think it is the most effective route for me to support my sisters around the world.
What is another impactful way to empower women on International Women’s Day?
Buy their products.
Literally, to shop.
By purchasing their products, you are financially impacting lives of women and attributing the value that is due to their ideas and talents. This opens doors for women to reach new heights of dignity and success and equality in society, business, and politics. You are empowering women and perpetuating a sustainable solution to poverty and inequality.
Trades of Hope sells fair trade, ethically crafted fashion accessories and home décor, made by women rising up in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the U.S.
Buying a woman’s products positively impacts the economic nature of her life. At Trades of Hope, we believe this begins a cycle of sustainable business that will impact economies of communities and, someday, whole countries.
Hear from one of our artisan partner, Ms. Florence, as she shares how she has become her own hero through sustainable business and today is a leader in her community and her country.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
― Audre Lorde
With relentless ambition + passion I live intentionally to take my dreams from plans to reality + empower other women to do the same. I'm a Trades of Hope founder, public speaker, and designer living in Washington, D.C. When I'm not following fashion trends, re-heating thai food left overs, or playing with my matching redhead pup, I'm offering up fashion shortcuts, life lessons I'm learning, and free wallpapers to remind you of how much you've got this.