Imagine Goods: Imagining a World Without Human Trafficking

I’ve asked my friend, fellow pastor’s wife, and amazing entrepreneur Michelle Kime to talk with you about her company Imagine Goods and how it came about. Started by Michelle and Aiyana, another ministry wife, Imagine Goods works to provide fair-wage employment to women who are survivors of human trafficking or are vulnerable to trafficking. Great mission. Cute clothes and bags. Right now, Imagine Goods is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to expand their business (and maybe earn some additional cash through a social enterprise pitch). Read Michelle’s story, and then if you would, consider a donation to help them achieve their goal to employ more women.

Aiyana (left) and Michelle founded Imagine Goods to fight human trafficking.

Ten-plus years ago Aiyana and I traveled for the first time together to Cambodia. I was a restless mom of four who had done a lot of traveling in my life, and so when Aiyana asked me (on only our third time meeting each other) if I would travel along with her to Cambodia I said, “YES!!” Ten weeks later I was on a plane and taking a trip that changed my life and my heart forever.

This tee expresses Imagine Goods’ philosophy perfectly and is available in women’s and men’s styles. Simply click on the photo.

 

The idea of “trafficking” was a new one to me ten years ago. It wasn’t in the news like it is now Celebrities weren’t talking about it. I had never read a book about it. But when I traveled to Cambodia I was seeing some of the reasons for it and the aftermath of it firsthand. I had always believed that with new knowledge there comes new responsibility. Now I certainly had new knowledge. I went home from that trip and read and studied and knew that I had to do something.

Aiyana and I continued traveling to Cambodia. We started a nonprofit and we worked to raise awareness and raise funds for things like clean water wells, sanitation projects, and other concerns our partners in Cambodia were working on. One thing kept coming up though. Our Cambodian partners were working with survivors of trafficking. They were training them in the art of sewing, but finding thriving wage jobs in that field was very difficult. And jobs (besides returning to a brothel or begging) were very difficult to find for survivors, especially survivors who had been a part of sex work.

Just click on the picture to buy one of these cute little bags that started it all!

So, we started a side project for these women, to help supplement their sewing income. We designed simple bags, using fabrics we could source from the open markets in Cambodia (trying to keep as much money as possible in country to help their struggling economy) and sold them here. This side project continued to grow. We added aprons, more complicated bags and, eventually, clothing to the sewing projects.

Shopping the fabric market in Phnom Penh.

We’ve always tried really hard to listen to our in-country partners. They know their needs and their country better than we do. What we began to hear is that what they needed was more steady jobs. So five years ago we made the change from a nonprofit to a business. From building wells to creating jobs. We are in Cambodia two times each year picking out new fabrics, meeting with our partners, and continuing to build relationships. Eighty percent of our goods are sold online (www.ImagineGoods.com) with the other 20% being sold in local boutiques and at vendor events.

The Kate dress is available in black, grey and blue. Just click the picture to go to the page.

The artisans in our production partner’s employment center are receiving not only a thriving wage, but also: onsite child care, health care, mental health care, family style lunch, and continuing education. These things make a drastic difference in the life of an entire family. Now a child is not growing up in a brothel or on the street, but instead in a safe onsite daycare – next to an empowered and employed mom. But every time we visit, we see that there are more survivors who have received job training but are on a waiting list for the employment center, and we want to create more jobs.

 

Aprons for mom and her littles! Click on the picture to check out the collection.

So how do we create more jobs? That’s the question we asked ourselves last January when we sat down to look at our impact from 2017. We knew we needed help to continue to grow and empower more survivors. We were thrilled to be one of the ten ideas/businesses (out of 40 who applied) selected for this year’s Social Enterprise Pitch, organized by local nonprofit, Assets. Since May we’ve been meeting from 6 pm to 9 pm nearly each Tuesday night to sit under some amazing teaching and learn new business skills and strategies. We’ve met some inspiring people and are encouraged to continue in our growth strategies.

There is also a competitive part of this program where we each developed a crowdfunding page and are to put our business “out there” to see who is willing to be a part of what we are doing, to see if there are others who believe in our business. Monies from crowdfunding will go towards our new project and our new growth.

Napkins, tablecloths and table runners—see what’s available (including this pattern) when you click the photo!

Once the crowdfunding phase is completed (it is live from August 22 to September 5), the team at Assets will review all the business plans, the money donated and number of supporters who give via crowdfunding, as well as a 5-minute “Pitch” we give about who we are and what we do. Using this data, they will choose five businesses to go on to the LIVE PITCH (think “Shark Tank”). We sure are HOPING to be a part of that event, which will be on September 29.

We exist to empower survivors of trafficking through employment. We create beautiful and compelling goods for you, the consumer, to buy with a clear conscience, knowing that your purchases are ethical and empowering. We’d love to have you be a part of more empowerment!

This is Carol back again. Please consider how you might be part of a chain of empowerment by helping to fund Imagine Good’s expansion. Simply click here to make a donation.

Take a minute to “like” Imagine Goods on Facebook too!

 

Comments

  1. Wow, how precious.

  2. Please remove me from your email addresses.
    Thank you
    Ron Boring

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