Letters to You

Survivor Vignette: A Roof for RO

Life has taken much from RO. She is not yet 25 and has already experienced more loss and abuse than most of us do in a lifetime. And yet, she shows up to work every day with one of the most sincere smiles and truest laughter I’ve ever witnessed. This morning in our daily gratitude check-in, in her broken English she said, “Thank you God for a new opportunity of life!” How amazing is that? Despite all the loss, all the pain, all the disillusioning disappointments, RO believes that with each day God gives her new opportunity. She’s a living example of empowerment. For her it is not about fame or money or social standing or even a happy past… it’s about today! It’s about looking at the blank slate of “now” and simply saying, “Thank you, God.”

In addition to this humble gratitude, RO has diligently taken a substantial portion of each paycheck to send money to her family. They live in a roofless dwelling in South America. But, with her BRANDED paycheck RO put a roof over her family’s head. And after that, she built them their very first bathroom. I don’t know about you, but I do not think she could have done this if she’d waited on life to show up for her.

Life told this woman a thousand times that she could not do much and was not worth much. Life has given her a thousand reasons to say, “I give up.” Yet, each day she chooses to refute these lies. Step by daily step, she moves forward. She whispers “little by little” while she works. And, “I can. I can. I can.” She shows us what empowerment really is. It is not flashy, it does not always lead to big money or big fame or big headlines. It’s really quite simple:

Make one piece of jewelry, then another, then another. And one day, you’ve made enough that you can put a roof over your family’s head and a bathroom in their house.

What’s really cool about this story? RO did this all by herself. She made the money and she chose to send it. This is what I love most about the work being done here at BRANDED and End Slavery Tennessee. The items you purchased allowed this young women to help herself. And from there, she chose to help her family. The smile on her face when she shared with us what she was able to do with her pay check… well, that was worth all the accolades and money in the world!

Thank you, BRANDED family, for helping us create a workspace where young women like RO can choose empowerment. Thank you for supporting our mission. Thank you for believing that each day is a new opportunity of life!


In case you like pictures, here are some photos RO’s very proud mama sent back from the construction site…  

Survivor Vignette: Binge Gratitude

So, the holidays can be really hard! It seems to be the busiest time of year professionally and personally. Stress and anxiety can feel as abundant as Christmas twinkle lights. It's easy to focus on all the to-do's and have-to's, the family drama and the plethora of pressure. It is easy to stay busy and ignore the growing anxiety and maybe even hope that one more cookie will fix it... okay, two more cookies... okay, maybe four.

This year at BRANDED, we have started a practice that is quite simple and yet wildly helpful when stress is abundant: a Gratitude Board. Each day we write one thing we are grateful for up on a large dry erase board. It can be simple, like a cup of tea or not hitting any stop lights on the way to work; there is no pressure and no wrong way to do it. It is very simply a step toward Gratitude. It is a mental and physical practice. Taking the time to pause and think and write out one lovely thing... just one. This practice has had a great deal of power over our attitudes and our workspace, and it has opened the door to an abundance of joy!   

BRANDED is currently working with two young women who have undergone extraordinary pain and loss. Every day can be difficult, filled with new recovery challenges and setbacks. To see them stand up, grab a brightly colored marker, and write something good on the board is nothing short of a gift. Yes, there are days when finding a lovely thing is hard. But they do it, every time. And every time I am reminded that "there is good in the world, and it is worth fighting for".

Might I suggest that this holiday, as all the good stuff and the stressful stuff is piling up and squeezing in... you pause and think and write down one thing you are grateful for! If this practice works on you as it has worked on me, you will soon find yourself putting down the cookies and binging on gratitude. You will think to yourself, "just one more thing, I just want to write down that one more lovely thing!"

I will end with this: one of BRANDED's workers just made a huge leap forward in her recovery as her own tenacity and the extraordinary staff at End Slavery Tennessee allowed her to reach a milestone this year. Lauren and I (Emily) had the pleasure of piling in the conference room with the ESTN staff and witnessing this brave woman receive what I will call a "monumental moment". There were so many tears and so many hugs and so much applause. Later that day as we were making jewelry, this precious woman smiled and said, "I am the happiest girl that exists in the free world!"

This holiday season we would like to thank you all for being a part of that. When you wear your jewelry, when you make a donation of money or time to ESTN, when you post your Message of Hope, when you share the story of trafficking and continue to raise awareness, you are part of something very special. You are part of helping strong, capable, determined survivors become "the happiest people in the free world".
 
Thank you, thank you very much, BRANDED family. Hey... look what we are grateful for today!

With so much love and a very Happy Holiday to each of you!
Lauren, Em, PB & RO
December 22, 2017

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Survivor Vignette: A Real Cowboy

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!
October 10, 2017

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How Do You Walk in Freedom?

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.

Buy the "Walk in Freedom" leather snap cuff

Buy the "Walk in Freedom" leather wrap

June 29, 2017

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New Spring Line + We Just Hit 20,000!

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:

Sterling Silver Bar Necklace: $48

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're Part of Something Big This Summer!

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.

 

How We Came to Be


One of our favorite BRANDED stories is the story of our origin. It is quite complex and one day we’ll tell you the whole thing in detail. For this blog post, we’ll keep to the highlights.

We knew we wanted to start a company that sold products and gave 25% of its profits to End Slavery Tennessee (EST). We longed to join the abolition of human trafficking but were not (are not) qualified to join the TBI or be case-workers. Our strengths are creative and entrepreneurial. A social enterprise made sense! 

We set out to sell t-shirts...
However, we needed $10,000 to start our company. How could we raise that? We decided to sell 100 aluminum cuffs for $100 each. On each cuff we stamped a number that represented the buyer's agreement to "Get BRANDED" - to become a number that symbolized one of the 27 million survivors we fight to help.

It was a long shot, but we were determined. 100 cuffs, we could do it! In less than two months we had sold all 100. Family, friends, local businesses... they saw our vision and wanted to join. We were humbled, excited and amazed.

We dove into t-shirt production inspired by our desire to raise money for EST. We did make tees, and sold just about all of them. However, we could not stop thinking about the 100 cuffs and how much they meant to the folks who had bought them. We asked the question... What if we kept selling those? What if we stamped one more, two more, maybe three more? What would happen?

This month we will have reached 9,500 cuffs sold. Yes, 9,500 and GROWING!! Can you believe that?! We’re close to 10,000 cuffs.

It did not take us long to realize we are not a t-shirt line, but a jewelry collection. And though the tees may one day come back, we have fallen in love with making jewelry and adding to our numbers each day. We are a growing family of BRANDEDs.

Thank you, each and all. And of course, a very special thank you to those first 100 folks that said yes to something so much bigger than we realized! We are now 9,500 strong. Thank you First One Hundred...

erin barnett #1 nyk huber #2 carly bergthold #3 amanda pace #4 laser one, inc. #5 given in the name of christ #6 community garage of madison #7 colleen whitver #8  bonnie keen #9 kelly davidson #10 george conners #11 beth conners #12 vonnie thomason #13 rindy schlatter #14 beverly gaia #15 priceless moments by charlotte #16 nan gurley #17 janet ivey-duensing #18 ashley collins #19 michele kolz #20 michele kolz #21 lauren thomas #22 susan hudson #23 cindy landham #24 emily landham #25 bob landham #26 cali huber #27 david blanton #28 ashley blanton #29 katie richards #30 david and lisa ask #31 michelle arwine #32 amy mcclenathan #33 barbara ritchie #34 vicki day #35 joyce jones #36 lee ann estes #37 amanda laake #38 deanna maurice #39 freedom's promise #40 diane arsenault #41 addie graham #42 nick norwood #43 elizabeth "sissy" pace #44 diane west #45 brad cowart #46 in memory of marky pace #47 nashville shakespeare festival #48 stonestreet studios nyc #49 deborah hagerty #50 lynn ross #51 megan hogan #52 cindi parmenter #53 leesa leclaire #54 ashley strawn #55 melanie jacob #56 j.r. estes #57 dawn rolland #58 compass cinema #59 just love coffee #60 gwen moore #61 eric stevens #62 beth sydell #63 mike corl #64 jill englett #65 samantha poore #66 dr. b. g. & faye norwood #67 jodi mcdaniel #68 mark and tasha lemley #69 erin turley #70 christa yandell #71 ashlee walworth #72 the contributor #73 logan yandell #74 sherri joyce #75 sarah condley #76 katie gray landham #77 dustin & courtney koctar #78 alice sullivan #79 cathi carson johnson #80 greg yandell #81 anne whitver #82 alex yandell #83 chris carpenter #84 leslie halpern #85 tricia poore #86 kori francis #87 terri cooper #88 abby fraebel #89 joe shultz #90 jan gotto shultz #91 jessica suiter #92 teresa carpenter #93 john carpenter #94 susan carson #95 jennifer mcleod hagerty #96 tara christensen #97 katy boatman #98 jr landham #99 lauren carpenter #100
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