I was part of a women's prayer group in Barnstaple UK that met weekly. We were praying about trafficking as one of the young women in the group had just returned from a trip to Thailand and had worked short term alongside NightLight which is a freedom business in Bangkok. A freedom business is a business that exists to combat human trafficking by employing survivors or those at risk of being trafficked. She had seen the realities up close and personal of human trafficking and the desperate need for employment opportunities. We spent 3 years together meeting, learning, and praying. At this time there was not lots of information out there, but we began to search out and connect with organizations and businesses that were engaging in anti-trafficking work.
Over those years we began to have a heart for Southeast Asia in particular which has the largest trafficked population in the world. One of the contributing factors was poverty which made so many vulnerable, especially women. 4 of us went on the first trip to India to meet with organizations, see their work first hand, and discover what we could do to help. Our first day in India, we found ourselves in the midst of the largest red light area in the world and our hearts were broken at another level for what we had experienced there. It was so devastating and overwhelming that I wondered if restoration could be possible. The next day we went to an aftercare home and were across the table from a woman who had been rescued from that red light area after 25 years there as she was sold as a little girl. With tears running down her face she told me how grateful to God she was for being rescued and having an opportunity for a new life. I was so undone by meeting this woman and she taught me my first of many lessons on this journey. God is able to heal and these women are overcomers. These women are truly some of the most amazing people I have ever known.
We asked each anti-trafficking organization, "what is your biggest need?" Honestly, they could have formed an endless list, but the consistent response was jobs. They told us they could get people out but if they did not have sustainable and restorative employment then even those with a way out would likely be re-trafficked. I met people who had given up comfortable lives in western nations in order to move into red light areas in Asia and provide a way out and sustainable employment. They not only had to adjust to a new culture and language, but they built businesses there, and businesses that were employing survivors who had trauma, medical complications, and often a lack of educational opportunities. They too were overcomers. Doing business for people, to create jobs, to create sustainable freedom.
I came back to the UK and started the business in May of 2011 with the goal of helping to employ survivors. It is not easy...at all, but it is so rewarding to see lives and generations impacted. That was really how the FBA came about. I met several other freedom business leaders and we all discovered we had similar challenges and were so encouraged by connecting with one another. A few of us and some others with a heart for freedom business, decided to start an organization that would be a place for us to connect, share knowledge, bring alongside needed expertise, raise awareness and help to remove barriers. We wanted to see freedom multiplied and to see the next generations of freedom business learn from our mistakes and victories.
When we started the business, we looked at what skills and supplies were readily available to the survivors we were trying to employ. We began with beaded and embroidered handbags and accessories. There was SO much to learn. Since our goal was to employ survivors, the business model and products shifted over the years. My business partner of many years is a bridal gown designer and saw an opportunity in the bridal industry for freedom business. After exploring whether gowns might work, it became obvious that it wasn't a great fit for the survivors we had been working with, so bridal veils became a perfect solution. I launched fully into bridal accessories at the end of 2018.
I partner with the Starfish Project, a freedom business in Asia, to produce our beautiful veils. We design and they sample our veils. Veils are hand cut and hand sewn and they are a fair trade company in their sourcing as well. We also worked together to do a line of bridal jewelry in the UK as well. Each handmade veil and accessory comes signed by the survivor who made it. What is additionally amazing at Starfish Project is that they have survivors in positions across their entire company from photography to accounting to leadership and design.
I am also working to expand into bridal gifts and wedding related items all made by survivors. I love working together to bring beautiful freedom!