Vele: Women’s Empowerment Meets Good Ethics

Today’s dose of #InnovateForGood inspiration comes from Velé co-founders Tiffany & Lauren. Velé is a Not For Sale partner brand that produces beautiful handcrafted leather goods under ethical guidelines, while spreading a message of women’s empowerment and contributing toward Not For Sale’s work around the world. 

“You Are Worthy. You Are Wanted.” 

These are the words that drove us to build Velé, an ethical leather essentials line designed with the belief that all are worthy, wanted.

Our creative partnership began fittingly in a middle school sewing class. We bonded over a shared love of essentialist style and the confidence that self expression through fashion fueled us with. Years later, it was only natural that we would venture into the world of fashion as a career. Yet we were disheartened to learn that in an industry that empowered us to conquer our day with confidence, less than 5% are paid a living wage out of over 50 million garment workers globally (The True Cost). The fashion industry has a seismic impact on the lives of many, and today there is a $150 billion industry of forced labour supported by fast fashion prices (ILO).

We looked at the stats, and knew that while we had fallen in love with the world of fashion for the way it could empower and unleash creativity, if we were going to start a brand, it would need to be a vehicle of bringing dignity to it’s makers. That’s why at Velé we guarantee the traditional artisans who handcraft every piece in Ubrique, Spain, fair living wages and are dignity in their work. To further this vision, 10% of each purchase supports Not For Sale in ending human trafficking.

“You Are Worthy. You Are Wanted.” 

There was one more layer of fashion we wanted to change. We were tired of the industry constantly throwing messages at women that they weren’t good enough; that if they only purchased this or that, they would suddenly find success or feel beautiful. Velé is built on a foundation of supporting, respecting, and accepting women, regardless of their shape, size, or color. We make pieces to enhance your life, not change it.

That’s why every piece we make is embossed with a message of empowerment inside to remind you that no matter what the world is telling you, you are worthy, “You are wanted.”

Conscious Coffee Project: Connecting Students to Ethical Brews

 

Globally consumed at the rate of two billion cups a day, coffee is the world’s second most traded commodity. The market pressures that result from this high demand can push producers to commit labor rights abuses as severe as human trafficking. This is a concern especially in regions affected by poverty, where vulnerable communities are more susceptible to exploitation. In order to minimize human rights violations within this industry, it is up to us, the consumers, to demand products that hail from a fair, transparent supply chain. We have the power and responsibility to hold enterprises accountable and call for a shift in labor practices.

That’s why I’m leading the Conscious Coffee Project. Sponsored by the Anti-Trafficking Coalition at Berkeley, Conscious Coffee is an effort to foster a supportive network of cafes near the UC Berkeley campus that sell ethically sourced coffee. We will feature this network on a website and app geared toward students, both of which will serve as informational tools while operating through a financial incentive– users who frequently shop within the network can earn rewards like a free cup of coffee from their favorite cafe

There is a perception that products with labels like Organic or Fair Trade are too expensive for the general population to afford, let alone college students who are scrambling just to afford Bay Area housing costs and overpriced textbooks. If the goal of ethically sourced products is to empower economically marginalized populations, shouldn’t they be accessible to consumers who also struggle financially? This irony inspired me to add the rewards system portion of the app. Not only do I want to provide Cal students with the information they need to make conscientious consumption choices, I want to give them the financial resources to make these choices viable.

Because human trafficking is such a huge, complex phenomenon, it can be difficult to figure out how to work toward its eradication in a meaningful way. My internship at Not For Sale this semester has taught me that it is not enough to throw money at a cause, trying to fix the problem after the damage has already been done. We must seek innovative solutions to prevent vulnerability to exploitative situations from taking root in the first place. As consumers and changemakers, our voices and minds are integral to the abolition movement. Together, through entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology, let’s stand up for our values and make a sustainable impact!

Behind the story

Behind the story

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Leap to freedom

Leap to freedom

Hoa was not yet 17 when she was trafficked. How it happened is a very familiar story. She was facing hard times. Someone she knew offered to help. She left home thinking she was on her way to start a new job, only to find it was a trick. What happened next is even...

The Decision

The Decision

Tung’s early years had wonderful moments of joy. He has some very happy memories of his mother. They travelled together on holidays, and when she was sick he stayed with her at their home, nursing her through the long nights of her fever. When she died, Tung’s world...

Almost Impossible

Almost Impossible

Phuong disappeared 3 years ago. She was offered a chance to work in a restaurant in another town, and followed someone she thought was a friend. At the time, Phuong felt lucky. As a child, a terrible motorbike accident severed one of her legs, leaving her with a...

A Little Boy Found

A Little Boy Found

It was about a year ago that Dak first came to Not For Sale Vietnam partners Blue Dragon. His journey to Hanoi, where he met a social worker on the streets, is one of those incredible stories that could well be made into a film one day. He had run away from home in...

An Everyday Hero

An Everyday Hero

In coming weeks, Not For Sale Vietnam partners Blue Dragon will reach the milestone of 1,000 people rescued from slavery. Many people wonder exactly how we conduct these rescues. While we have to be careful about revealing operational information that might put our...

How do we tackle the world’s most challenging problems through business and innovation?

How do we tackle the world’s most challenging problems through business and innovation?

That’s the question explored by over 200 attendees at the Innovate For Good Conference on April 4th, a joint conference held by Just Business, The University of San Francisco School of Management, and the Commonwealth Club. Speakers from various sectors of the business world took to the stage to engage in lively conversations about the interaction of profitable businesses and social good impact.

Here are 8 key takeaways from last week’s event:

If you missed out on attending this impactful event in person, you can watch a taped replay with subtitles here. And, stay tuned for our upcoming international Innovate For Good Conferences by signing up for our e-newsletter!

1. The enterprise can be the mission.

The lines are becoming blurred between “business only” and “non-profit only” mentalities. We’re in the 21st century, and we should be looking to enterprises to create a positive impact in the manner that they source their materials, produce their product, and engage their communities. Business can be the catalyst for change, if businesses are willing to go above and beyond to make an impact. As Dave Batstone, Not For Sale and Just Business co-founder shared; “We’re not talking about CSR, were not talking about charity, we’re talking about transforming business.”

2. Do the right thing for the right reasons.

If attaching a social cause to your business is only done for the marketing edge or to stroke your ego, it won’t be truly authentic, and it won’t evoke the genuine response and support that is so vital to creating thriving, viable business. Your mission should be so ingrained within your company’s DNA that it’s not even the main “selling point” of what you do. Your product or idea should be able to “sell itself” as an amazing product, first and foremost, without depending on a “cause” attached to it. As Jostein Solheim, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s shared, “Do ten amazing things and talk about one.”

3. Don’t do it alone.

A business on its own can’t change the world. However, companies can use their power and influence in the marketplace to join a collective effort to help change the status quo, set new standards, and influence the system. A company is only as strong as its loyal supporters, who also have a role to play – consumers who create a demand for more responsibly made products and more transparent and ethical business practices allow “good” companies to thrive and grow.

Zachary Batstone, Co-Founder of Z Shoes Organic, Rusti Porter, Sr VP of Marketing at REBBL, and Sarah Gordon, Co-Founder of Square Organics. Each of these panelists are radically transforming business through new methods of aligning profit with purpose.

4. Your professional path doesn’t have to be linear.

With many young, aspiring entrepreneurs in the room for the Innovate For Good Conference,  Stripe’s Sarah Heck stressed the importance of following your own path and not someone else’s: “This can be a singular path, many different paths – as long as you’re following what you’re passionate about. If you have a good idea, find a way to make it so that you’re not impeded by barriers.”

5. Profit’s not the only thing in the equation anymore.

Younger generations are thinking differently about the way they’re building businesses. Instead of just focusing on profit, people are seeing problems and looking for opportunities to solve them.  Established companies and new startups alike need to be aware of the concept of a “triple bottom line,” or a blended model that prioritizes other standards beyond profit, t consider the company’s impact on people and the planet, as the concept inches closer to becoming the new standard for doing business.

6. Entrepreneurs are everywhere.

Damian Bradfield, President of WeTransfer, stressed the thought that entrepreneurs are everywhere and geography is becoming irrelevant when it comes to building a team to execute an innovative idea. Companies can make an impact simply by expanding their horizons and looking outside Silicon Valley to discover the abundance of investable capital around the world. With this mindset, we can change how the business world sees countries like Uganda: as a place of investment, rather than a place for donation.

7. A compelling story is your company’s heartbeat.

Lisa Curtis, founder of Kuli Kuli, shared her belief with last Wednesday’s attendees that innovators must have a compelling story so that people can become invested in their idea. According to her, sharing the “why” of your company or idea will draw the right people to you who care about the same cause and will champion your idea. Lisa also underscored the importance of building the right relationships with funders and investors – “being picky” isn’t a bad thing! When looking for investors and even collaborators, ask, “Do they believe in your idea? Are they acting on behalf of impact? Are they willing to grow and share that sustained interest in your company?”

8. Don’t be paralyzed by perfection.

If you have an innovative idea, you have to find the right balance between creating a product or service that exudes excellence, and missing your opportunity to act at the right moment because too much time has been spent pursuing a perfect model. Mistakes are a growth opportunity for companies who are truly pushing the envelope and experimenting with new ways of creating positive impact. Jostein Solheim, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, imparted wisdom on this topic in his keynote address; “We’re incredibly imperfect as a company. But that doesn’t stop us from acting. Don’t let perfection get in the way of doing things.”

We’re profoundly grateful for the wisdom shared by each and every participating innovator at the Innovate For Good Conference. For more information on how Not For Sale is exploring the potential of ethical business as a tool for empowerment and fighting global injustice, follow our #InnovateForGood Campaign on social media, sign up for our e-newsletters, and check out our sister organization, Just Business.

Innovate For Good

Innovate For Good

This month, Not For Sale launches our #InnovateForGood campaign. We’ll be celebrating outside-the-box thinkers who are creating solutions for injustice through entrepreneurship, and sharing stories of global impact from innovators in the Not For Sale ecosystem and beyond!

 

Why We Innovate For Good

Human Trafficking is a complex issue, with deep roots in racial and gender inequality, poverty, and many other forms of injustice.

Entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology are powerful tools in the fight against human trafficking. Using these tools, we can work to ensure systems that protect, empower, and offer opportunity to people who are vulnerable to being trafficked.

One of the biggest ways Not For Sale innovates for good is through building and partnering with businesses that are committed to funding freedom and creating dignified and stable jobs.

Business might not be your first thought when it comes to setting up systems to reduce injustice and exploitation. After all, we’re used to stories in the news about corporate greed, products made in sweatshops by exploited workers, unequal wages, and human rights violations. It’s true, business can be used to exploit or hold power over a more vulnerable group – which is why it’s incredibly powerful when an entrepreneur or company decides to make a radical move toward doing business differently.

What does it look like to “Innovate For Good”?

Innovating for good takes on many different forms in the Not For Sale ecosystem. It always starts with a fresh new idea, and a desire to do things differently. Check out these three stories of innovation in action from our programs and partners:

A Snack Can Change the World

Square Organics started with a passion for health and wellness, and the drive to create a high quality product that filled a need in the snack market for protein-rich and allergen free energy bars. Square Organics’ founders, Sarah and Drew, knew early on that they wanted their company to make a positive impact on the world in more ways than one. This led them to partner with Not For Sale, setting aside a portion of the company’s profits every quarter to donate to programs around the world. This revenue is funneled toward Not For Sale projects to fund education, housing, clean water, nutrition, and emotional support to those who have been exploited. Square Organics is proof blending profit and purpose: so far, $42,983 has been contributed to Not For Sale.

Offering Dignity and Equality through Creating Jobs

Innovating for good can also look like using a fresh new approach to tackle an issue of injustice. Not For Sale South Africa partners with Surfers Not Street Children, a youth program that uses surf lessons to draw homeless kids off the street and into an educational program. The program’s surf lessons are part of a holistic approach that also incorporates housing, education, and counseling. Learning to master the waves is a vital component in restoring dignity and promoting healing for each child. There’s something about this combination of practical care, self-sufficiency, and sport that works – with street kids following in the footsteps of program participant and 15-year-old top surfer Sne Makhubu. She is not only excelling in the sport of surfing, landing sponsors and competing, but serving as an ambassador for change. Sne inspires street kids in Durban, South Africa, who are still trying  to imagine a different future, and forge a new path for themselves as Sne has done.

One Young Woman Making Waves

Innovating for good can also look like using a fresh new approach to tackle an issue of injustice. Not For Sale South Africa partners with Surfers Not Street Children, a youth program that uses surf lessons to draw homeless kids off the street and into an educational program. The program’s surf lessons are part of a holistic approach that also incorporates housing, education, and counseling. Learning to master the waves is a vital component in restoring dignity and promoting healing for each child. There’s something about this combination of practical care, self-sufficiency, and sport that works – with street kids following in the footsteps of program participant and 15-year-old top surfer Sne Makhubu. She is not only excelling in the sport of surfing, landing sponsors and competing, but serving as an ambassador for change. Sne inspires street kids in Durban, South Africa, who are still trying  to imagine a different future, and forge a new path for themselves as Sne has done.

You can be a part of the movement

In order to make “business done differently” work toward freedom, we are changing the system. We need entrepreneurs and innovators with fresh new ideas. We need companies who will operate from a place of transparency, good ethics, and care for the global community. We need conscious consumers who are willing to make different choices when they think about the impact of their purchases.

Our everyday purchases could be funding freedom. Think about this: in the USA, we spend an average of $173 per week on food. $1,700 is the average amount a family spends on clothing. What if we were to divert some of those dollars that we’re already spending toward contributing toward the freedom and dignity of others? Companies have the power to innovate for good, but that power is only as strong as the consumers who choose to support those companies and champion their cause.

When you purchase a product from Square Organics, REBBL, Spence Diamonds, Boll & Branch, Z Shoes Organic, Vele, ALEX AND ANI, AllSaints, and Bumble Bee Foods, you are choosing to support companies who #InnovateForGood as part of the Not For Sale ecosystem.

 

Want to partner with Not For Sale? Know an entrepreneur who wants to innovate for good? Put them in touch with our team: [email protected]

Ready to learn more about our impact brands, and how our programs around the world benefit from how they #InnovateForGood? Stay tuned for a wealth of stories and information, and be sure that you’re signed up for our upcoming newsletters – including invites to our Innovate For Good conferences and other events around the world.

 

San Diego Students Innovate For Good

As a community of entrepreneurs, we are highlighting the innovation (and perspiration!) that inspires the amazing enterprises we see all around us. And, most importantly, celebrating the impact that motivates the entrepreneurs and their work. You can also align profit and purpose through partnering with us or investing in companies that give back to Not For Sale.
Get more involved with Not For Sale.

Get involved or give to change the course of a life affected by modern slavery.

High school students like Shawdi Sani showcase their commitment to Not For Sale’s mission and capacity to #InnovateForGood.

Sani, a junior at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, took initiative to livestream Not For Sale’s March Kickback Sessions in her school’s study cafe.

On March 2nd, Aloe Blacc, Family of the Year, and Mt. Joy lent their voices for a great cause — in benefit of Not For Sale’s anti-trafficking efforts. You can watch the livestream on YouTube.

Before the concert, Sani presented statistics about human trafficking in San Diego in order to fully engage the audience with the topic at hand. The issue feels personal to Sani, who admits that she was initially shocked to learn the extent to which human trafficking affects her hometown– San Diego places 13 on the FBI’s list of US regions with the most reported cases of child sex trafficking.

“We need to erase the mindset that human trafficking only happens ‘over there’ and not near us. We need to be proactive and spread awareness,” Sani says. “I believe we need to discuss it and discuss ways of prevention to make sure that no one in our area is vulnerable or uninformed about the issue.”

Now, Sani plans to work with the Raven Abolitionists at Canyon Crest and the school’s Humanitarian Cause Club to put on a school-wide awareness based assembly in May, in which she will discuss how to recognize human trafficking signs and other prevention tips.

Not For Sale applauds Sani’s efforts to empower her community with information about how to stay safe and protect others from human trafficking’s far-reaching effects. Her initiative is a stellar example of how to #InnovateForGood!

 

Together, we #InnovateForGood to create a world without exploitation. We are creating the new model for how businesses can change the world. Your partnership with Not For Sale goes beyond simply donating — It means that impact is embedded within your business’ DNA.