There are so many times while we’re working in the studio with our amazing employees that we think to ourselves, “I wish our patrons could see this!” We want so badly for you to see the good your support and purchases does. Your simple piece of jewelry does enormous good in the lives of some extraordinarily brave young women.
The cuff, earring or necklace you wear actually does elicit profound change in the life of a REAL woman. To protect the identities of these women, we cannot share their names or faces with you. But here we sit, side by side with them. Each day we witness them grow and learn and share their stories. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we listen to music or Harry Potter or just the steady sounds of jewelry making.
We see and hear precious things each day. We are so honored to do this work and be part of these survivors’ lives. We also deeply want for you to have at least a little taste of our daily experience. So, we are starting something called Survivor Vignettes. These will be simple stories of moments we have here at BRANDED. We hope this will inspire you as we have been inspired. We hope you will see just how much profound change a simple purchase can make in the life of a brave young woman seeking a new and better story! We want to say thank you and we want to give you a taste of the JOY we receive when we witness the extraordinary good done here at BRANDED.
A Real Cowboy
This particular moment happened early on when we first started working with survivors. We didn't know the two women we were working with very well yet, so we kept our conversations light. We talked about favorite foods and movies and music. Both ladies were particularly big fans of country music (we acquired an extensive knowledge of Luke Bryan in those early days).
“Country’s Biggest Hits” Pandora station played in the background as we continued to chat and make cuffs. Then, a song by a certain celebrity came on. I (Emily) made the comment that he hadn't been around for a while, his old music still played but nothing new had come out in a few years. One of the women said, “Well, that’s because he got married and had three kids. He wants to spend time with them right now. He’s taken a sabbatical for his family.”
The other woman working was rather shy. She mostly listened to music and quietly did her work. But at this particular moment, she got very pensive and said, “Now that’s a real cowboy!”
I giggled and I thought it was a clever thing to say. But over time I’ve continued to think about this moment and have come to see it as much more than clever or comical.
Here is a young woman that has been grossly mistreated by the world, by men especially. She’d been trafficked for sex for much of her life - objectified and told she was nothing special, just a body to be used. Her life has been full of struggle and severe disappointment. As I understand it, she was first trafficked by her own family. Her childhood was stolen from her, her innocence, her physical safety and so many dreams shattered. This young woman had every reason to give up and grow bitter.
Yet, she still dared to believe in the possibility of goodness. Maybe she had never met a “real cowboy” - but she was willing to believe that there was at least one gentleman out there who treated his family with respect, who had chosen them over greed. In short…
She had hope!Despite the extraordinary trauma in her life, there was still that little girl in her who chose to believe in beauty. It was a simple moment and a little funny too. But I think of it often. When I have a dark day or a disappointment, when I want to grow bitter or resentful… I remember this moment. It reminds me that there are good things around us. There are hard things too, yes. But, they need not steal our HOPE!
We could not be more thrilled to tell you about our new product collaboration with Mission Lazarus: the Freedom Collection. The metal part of these leather cuffs is hand-stamped by survivors of trafficking here in Nashville who are now free from their oppressors. The leather part is handmade by young men in Honduras who are free from the grip of poverty by being given the opportunity to work. When you wear this bracelet, it directly impacts someone else's story, helping them Walk In Freedom.
We have been honored to work with Mission Lazarus to produce these products with such an amazing story. Mission Lazarus provides education, medical assistance, refuge and employment for communities in Honduras and Haiti. If you haven't heard of them yet, check out the website in the link above. You'll certainly be inspired!
Purchase your bracelet today and share your freedom story with us on Instagram using the hashtag #walkinfreedom.
Lots of exciting things are happening at BRANDED Collective but we have been slacking on our blogging skills. :) For that, we apologize and we'll try to make it up to you. For starters, we just added three new pieces to our collection:
Medium Aluminum Cuff: $35
Large Aluminum Cuff: $45
We love the combination of all three of these pieces together. What do you think?
Also another HUGE announcement is that we just stamped our 20,000th product! We are continually grateful to each of you for your support of our mission to empower and employ survivors of trafficking in middle Tennessee. We love this moment from our #20,000 celebration:
We just updated and strengthened our story page, too. Check out the new and improved story page to learn why we do what we do.
Onward and upward!
We are overjoyed to welcome 4,500 more BRANDEDs to the family!!! For seven weeks in April and May, we worked tirelessly to fulfill our biggest order yet. We employed seven extraordinary survivors up to three days a week and worked with 14 incredible volunteers to create over 4,500 cuffs.
Now the exciting news is here...
WE ARE IN THE SUMMER CAUSEBOX!
We could not be more proud to be a part of this exciting initiative. CAUSEBOX is a quarterly ethical subscription box. Order one box and inside you will find eight amazing products made by companies with ethical missions. Seriously, get one! You'll be thrilled with what you find. It's a treasure box and we are so humbled to be one of the treasures inside.
Thank you, CAUSEBOX! Thank you to all our buyers and survivors who make extraordinary days like this one possible.
And thank you to all our new BRANDEDs! We welcome you all to our mission, our movement, and our FAMILY.
Here we are... Over 10,000 strong! ONWARD.
One of the more difficult parts of the work we do is saying goodbye. Working with the incredible women at End Slavery Tennessee (EST) is a rollercoaster ride of high highs and low lows. They work hard, day by day, to heal from the past, the trauma, the pain of drugs and violence and haunting memories. They are without a doubt amongst the most resilient and determined souls we have ever met. We’ve learned so many lessons from the women at EST. One of those lessons is far from easy: At some point it’s time to move on to the next chapter, to say goodbye to where you are and take that brave step into tomorrow.
Lauren and I made cuffs with E and V for about six months. We’d sit on the floor of the offices at EST and stamp cuffs for hours. We’d play loud music and shamelessly sing along. We developed inside jokes and drank coffee and ate muffins and made fun of each other (V and I have a deep appreciation for epic film-scores, while E and Lauren would rather jam to 90's rock or hip hop).
E and V became our friends. We love them, we miss them, we are so proud of who they are. They may not know this, but they helped us build BRANDED Collective into something so much bigger than we ever imagined.
But seasons do pass and these two wonderful women have moved on. They have pursued full-time jobs elsewhere and new adventures are calling. We miss them. We always will. Thank you, E and V, for all you have done for us and for BRANDED. And in honor of all things epic, always remember what Sam said to Frodo when things got really stinkin’ hard… “There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”
Go get ’em, you two powerhouses!!!