This inspiring story is of a not for profit rising startup called Freedom and Fashion, started by Bonnie Kim and Laverne Delgado, based out of the United States. Using the arts of fashion and beauty, they empower youth and women to overcome sex trafficking, domestic violence, and other injustices. Here is the story of Freedom and Fashion in Bonnie and Laverne’s own words.
Introduce us to the idea of Freedom and Fashion
Freedom is relative. Though physically free, most survivors of trafficking, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse are still held captive by the trauma they have experienced. Without a breakthrough, mental captivity can lead to more abuse, addiction, homelessness, even suicide.
Here are some of the facts:
- Human trafficking (modern slavery or trafficking in persons) is the illegal trade of people for sexual exploitation, forced labor, or forced organ removal purposes.
- The average age of a teen entering the sex trade is 12 to 14 years old.
We explore trade-driven industries while engaging in imperative conversations addressing self-image, vulnerability, leadership, character development, and more.
By combining creative job training with professional and personal coaching, our programs strengthen the brain’s right hemisphere, which enables our students to create a new vision and accomplish aggressive goals.
Each course is unique and intentionally customized to serve the students and their support systems (i.e., family, schools, homes, partner organizations, etc.) which have been proven to help our students break through unhealthy cycles, heal from past traumas, and experience freedom.
What’s your strategy story? What led you to start Freedom and Fashion?
Since I was a little girl, I’ve looked up to 2 women; Mary Magdalene and Tomb Raider. Both women are intelligent, strong, independent, adventurous, and loyal. To this day, I try to embody their power and spirit. I have a huge heart for youth and women. I can’t accept that so many are abused, trafficked, and killed every day. This hits home for me.
When I was 4 years old, I was sexually abused. Later in life, I survived domestic violence. I can identify and relate with those we serve and understand the immeasurable power that can come from that pain when productively applied. To me, there’s no investment more worthy than that of an underdog.
Because of this, I invented our educational mentorship programs designed to unlock each mentee’s gifts, talents, and expression. If they participate and we do our jobs well, the underdog always wins. It’s beyond inspiring when I see them fight for their freedom in the classroom. It helps me push through any barrier set to hold me back. If they can do it at 12, I can do it at 32.
What marketing, operation strategies are you adopting at Freedom and Fashion?
We are tiny but mighty. The grass-roots approach works well for us, and it’s a part of our culture to keep things as personal as possible—quality over quantity. We can easily rack up numbers for the sake of marketing, and that’s not to say that serving as many people as possible is not our goal. However, we need to ensure the authentic transformation is happening in our classrooms. That takes more time, care, and consciences with a single individual when done well. We’ve served many of our students and their families for many years and follow them through their healing journeys throughout the highs and the lows.
We found that when we stay focused on our survivors and their healing integrity, good things follow. We share as many wins, big or small, with our supporters and create and know and bold with those we serve.
Deisi is one of our survivors who has been with us the longest. Through intentional storytelling, our supporters know her face, her name, and have seen her preserver throughout the years. Freedom and Fashion is not just an organization. It’s Deisi, Zandra, Idalia, Cierra, Chelsy, Kelsey, Kennedy, and so many others. We make sure those who invest in our students know the lives they are pouring into.
What is your competitive advantage at Freedom and Fashion?
There are many organizations that use the trade of fashion and beauty to teach. Few use it to heal, but Freedom and Fashion is the only organization that utilizes this language for all the above while enabling transformation in the mind and raising awareness of social justice issues.
Freedom and Fashion is an innovative, local nonprofit organization creating big impact. Using the arts of fashion and beauty, we empower youth to overcome trafficking, homelessness, and other injustices.
Beginning as an awareness platform, F&F quickly became known for our compelling, story-driven fashion shows. Since its inception, this platform has been an opportunity for youth & women to rise above statistics & tell their true story of power.
In 2013, F&F incorporated educational mentorship programs designed to unlock each mentee’s gifts, talents, and expression. Our programming goes beyond fashion, beauty, and the expression of art. We explore trade-driven industries while engaging in imperative conversations addressing self-image, vulnerability, leadership, character development, and more. By combining creative job training with coaching methodology, our programs strengthen the brain’s right hemisphere, which enables our students to create a new vision and accomplish aggressive goals.
Annually, a fashion show is held in Los Angeles to celebrate all of the young designer’s creativity while simultaneously raising awareness & funds for the students that follow.
Share a story when you have been customer-obsessed
I’ll tell you a story about one of our powerful students. (they are considered our “clients”)
We love full circle impact at Freedom and Fashion! Oftentimes our graduates come back into the classrooms as mentors to our new students to pay forward the love and knowledge they received while in our program.
One graduate, Chelsy, has gone above and beyond in serving other girls who have gone through abuse and trauma like her. She not only volunteers with us in the classroom but she attends our team meetings to help us cast vision and strategize ways to evolve our service. She’s also an advocate and travels with us to different companies to share about Freedom and Fashion and the impact we’ve had on her life. She’s a leader in her work place and constantly uses her story of overcoming to empower other girls who are going through similar hardships. Chelsy is a representation of so many strong women and girls in our programs… and we truly are so obsessed.
Any strategy mistakes you have made and what did you learn?
If politics are present, it’s my fault! It appears that generally, politics have become accepted as an unavoidable part of work culture. I’ve made a mistake early in my career of underestimating the negative impact they have on teams and organizations. Trying to eliminate politics without addressing issues at the leadership level is pointless. That is where it starts. It’s now a top priority to confront myself and my peers about any disagreement that can evolve into more and create politics within the organization.
Finally what advice do you have for your fellow entrepreneur readers?
The power of public recognition. I’m convinced this is underestimated because many of us tend to see flaws before wins and even if we do identify our victories, rarely do we share them. (That’s tied to our view of self and is a longer conversation).
From a young age, human beings crave praise and have a strong desire for positive affirmation. This continues to hold true for employees in the workplace. Giving public recognition displays a deeper level of awareness from leadership, expresses appreciation for those being recognized, encourages others to strive for excellence, and builds trust. Neuroscience shows that oxytocin is produced in the brain immediately after a goal has been met and recognized publicly. The benefits go far beyond the moment of praise and can have a lasting impact on a company at large.
Disclaimer: The information in the above story is provided by the startup and The Strategy Story takes no responsibility for the authenticity of the product and services offered by the startup. Reader’s discretion is advised.
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