Shared Trade is excited to partner with BRANDED Collective, another social enterprise making an impact in our hometown of Nashville, TN. You can shop for their beautifully polished and unique cuffs here.
Like so many Americans, BRANDED Collective co-founders Lauren Carpenter and Emily Landham believed human trafficking was an atrocity that happened far from home. However, with just a little research they discovered trafficking happens in their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. It is every bit as much a tragedy in the states as it is outside of them. The numbers are astounding: 94 children trafficked per month in Tennessee alone. As it turned out, doing something to change these numbers did not require a plane ticket or a move. They could engage the abolition from home. In fact, their own home needed (and still needs) abolition. Nashville became the birthplace of the BRANDED Collective and Nashville remains its home.
Lauren and Emily started their business with a two-fold desire: Excellence and Abolition. They wanted to create a product people would buy simply because it was excellent and beautiful. They also wanted to surprise buyers with the story that every BRANDED product is handmade in Nashville by survivors of human trafficking. In short, the women who make these cuffs are the buyer’s fellow Nashvillians. Women who walk their same streets and shop at their same grocery stores. “We want our products to bring home the reality of human trafficking,” Emily states. “Because it is in our home. When our buyers hold a cuff in their hands and knows it was also held by a survivor right here in Nashville, it’s amazing what happens. Sometimes it’s hard to watch. The reality of trafficking in sitting there in their palm. We’ve actually had buyers cry when they talk to us, or just get really angry. To hold something in your hand that was held by a woman so mistreated in your own hometown is a shocking experience. And we believe it is necessary.”
BRANDED not only achieves excellence through its beautiful products but also in its production. Each piece of jewelry is ethically made from start to finish. The metal is sourced from a U.S. company that excavates in Arizona. It first comes in sheets and is sent to two ladies in Nolensville, Tennessee who cut the sheets into blanks. Those blanks are then taken to a garage in Old Hickory where Lauren, Emily and Emily’s fiancé, Houston, grind down the corners and sand the edges. From there the blanks are brought to the offices of End Slavery Tennessee. End Slavery is a Nashville-based non-profit dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of survivors. BRANDED serves as the organization's for-profit jobs program. Lauren and Emily bring the metal blanks to the End Slavery Office and teach a group of brilliant women how to stamp, polish and bend the cuffs. “The process is so much fun,” Lauren says. “We sit on the floor and listen to loud music and make jewelry. It’s therapeutic and laid-back and down right silly. I think it’s refreshing for the women to work with their hands and do something beautiful that people are actually purchasing and enjoying and want. It such fun to see the women be proud of their work.”
The company’s goal is to employ more women for more hours; and to offer them other forms of work. BRANDED dreams of a studio where the survivors can not only stamp the cuffs but use the Dremel tools, handle packaging and order fulfillment, and manage various aspects of the company. As one of BRANDED’s survivors said, “Not everyone who is a survivor is uneducated. That’s a common mistake people make in their thinking. But we really are smart.” Yes, they are! These women want to work and to be trusted with a standard of excellence. This is BRANDED’s mission: Excellence and Abolition. Together we wear the story, share the story and change the story.