When I first set out to look for items for the gifts for good, that made a difference and had a powerful story, I came across Branded Collective jewelry after seeing an IG post of one of the beautiful messages of a wearer to the makers of the jewelry. This is just one of the amazing aspects about BC that struck me, the ability for a wearer to actually thank and express their thoughts with the makers.
The makers are survivors of human trafficking who are empowering themselves through employment and art of jewelry making via the Branded Collective through a Nashville non-profit.
Fortunately, I could never imagine being a victim of human trafficking; but the fact that it is someones daughter, sister, friend is too horrific to even comprehend; how can we not support those that are working to raise awareness and help the survivors rekindle a love for life and pursue their dreams like the lucky rest of us.
Branded Collective has made it simple for everyone to help conquer this cause and Sparkle + Conquer want to do the same by bringing these stories crafted into the jewelry to as bigger market as possible.
With amazing change-making businesses like this, I always want to know about the founders; what's in their sparkly minds when they decided to take a stand and fight for a cause.
We can think that we may not be "good" enough to start a social enterprise and that our impact won't be great enough, but this is my "why" for this feature series - every small act of good can help, you don't need to be the next Maya Angelou, Dorothy Day ....OPRAH... to have an impact.
Sparkle + Conquer will bring you a glimpse into these Changemakers minds; to meet the makers, celebrate the work they are doing and to ignite and inspire you to support and start some good!
I was lucky enough to have co-founder Lauren Carpenter show her generous nature in allowing Sparkle + Conquer to be a stockist (New Yorks ONLY stockists btw, sounds so exclusive Huh! Lol) and respond to my light probes to get a glimpse into her mind.
Let's start with the basics, for those not yet lucky enough to know about Branded Collective, tell us what it is + about its mission.
BRANDED Collective exists to empower survivors of human trafficking through meaningful employment and economic independence. Our hope is that each employee is inspired to rediscover the dreams she has lost and is empowered to go forth and pursue them. We do this by teaching the art of jewelry making to survivors of trafficking through a Nashville non-profit called End Slavery Tennessee.
How did this beautiful social biz idea come about?
I started BRANDED Collective in 2012 with my dear friend Emily Landham Mahoney. Our mission was to help victims of human trafficking and also raise awareness about the issue in Nashville.
We raised $10,000 in startup capital for our company by selling 100 signature BRANDED cuffs for $100 apiece. After that, we kept stamping numbers on cuffs (and now we’re at almost 20,000 BRANDED folks)!
Our mission has deepened over the years, and in 2015 we began providing job training and employment for survivors of trafficking. Now all of our products are survivor-made and our mission is to empower survivors through meaningful employment.
Creating social impact businesses require a certain drive that inspires them and the work they do. Who inspires you?
In this work, I am extremely inspired by the survivors we work with. They are incredible people, and it is my desire to see them succeed and rise above. In life, I’m also inspired by God, family and friends. I love people!
Do you have a fav quote?
I'm a quote lover, I could read them all day to get inspiration.
I love all kinds of quotes, but one that has stuck with me over the years is the quote that inspired our company from the beginning:
“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.” This was said by William Wilberforce to Parliament in 1789 when he was only 25 years old - the same age as Em and I when we started our company. Wilberforce is such a strong voice in abolition history!
Ohhh that's a powerful one! I think that one will be a stickler for many!
I think people can forget sometimes that success in a business doesn't just start that way, and that you and your co-founder would have started with nothing but an idea. How did you feel starting from nothing but that sparkling idea to now, a tangible thriving business?
I feel hopeful! It's a lot of hard work, but it has already been so much more than worth it. And there is still so much left to do! We never thought that our business would grow to this point - and we’re just excited for what’s ahead and how many more survivor lives we can impact through the BRANDED story.
Any advice for budding entrepreneurs wanting to start a for #SocialGood biz? (Wink Wink Nudge Nudge)
Hard work and sacrifice goes far. It sounds a bit cliche, but it’s so true. I always tell people that there might be weeks, months or even years of doing multiple jobs or working extremely long hours to get to the place they want to get in their entrepreneurial journey.
I know that has been true for both Em and me, but never giving up on our common vision has been key for the growth and success of our business.
Another piece of advice I would give budding entrepreneurs is to be open to advice and also open doors of opportunity to listen to your audience. They will always give you the best advice!
Besides being a Social Entrepreneur and doing good in the world, you're also a human being so spill. What's Your Guilty Pleasure?
I love hot yoga!
I know it’s good for you but… does that still count as a guilty pleasure? I’m a little addicted to it and attend class at my local studio about 4-5 times a week.
My new obsession is also Buti yoga - it’s a tribal dance type of yoga set to hip hop beats. I find that whichever class I’m taking, it’s my time to really just clear my head and not think about anything except what I’m doing on my mat. I also love a good challenge, and hot yoga can definitely be very intense.
(I just googled Buti Yoga it looks SUPER FUN! Sweaty and bendy but FUN! Totally trying that!)
Where Can We Find You On The Weekend?
My husband has been a full-time traveling singer-songwriter for about 12 years, so sometimes I go on the road with him on the weekends! It’s a great change of pace and always an adventure. When I can’t travel with him, we like to sleep in on Saturdays and fix a big breakfast.
We’re both self-employed and work quite a bit, so those low-key Saturdays are THE BEST. However we also live in Nashville, so there is always a lot going on. We’re coming up on festival season, so for the rest of the year most weekends you will find me at a craft fair or other event slinging BRANDED cuffs and telling the BRANDED story!
So you're doing all this amazing work, it's our turn. How can we help Branded Collective continue to have an impact on stopping human trafficking + reach its goals?
Spread the word! The best way you can support BRANDED is to purchase a product and tell other people about it. This is how folks can support our amazing survivor employees and also raise awareness about human trafficking.
Thank You so much Lauren and fellow co-founder Em for all the amazing work you are doing. Awareness is key in gathering support to conquer a cause - I know I was not aware of how big the problem is still today until recently.
One stat that really got to my Mumma gutz is that worldwide, 2 children are being trafficked per MINUTE. Frightening.
I hope this story of starting something for good has inspired others as it has me. As consumers we have it easy, all we have to do to help Branded Collective make a difference is to get BRANDED - be it the next addition to the wardrobe or as a gift to someone special (and the jewelry is not just for us ladies ladies! )
Thanks to You Guys for virtually joining in on some changemaker chatting + supporting Sparkle + Conquer: Your #SocialGood Gift Service.