Introducing our Apprentices

Introducing our Apprentices

Twice a year I teach an eight week Apprenticeship program focusing on how the ins and outs of starting a social enterprise. It's easily one of my favorite aspects of being the Director of Purse & Clutch because it's so inspiring to work with women who are passionate about Fair Trade and sustainable businesses and are eager to learn and share ideas. This season's Apprentices are no exception. 

I asked both ladies a few questions so that you can get to know them a bit as you begin to see their faces and their projects come to life in the next couple of weeks:

   

Shara Peace

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Uvalde, a small TX town. Fortunately, I got to spend most of my life growing up in Austin. My family moved to Austin when I was 5 and I lived there until about 2.5 years ago when my husband and I moved to Boulder, CO. I have always told myself that at some point in my life I needed to move and experience life in another city but how do you leave one of the best cities in the US.? I never—ever—thought I would live in Colorado but we are doing our best to enjoy its beauty and make it feel like home. The mountains help! The truth is it will be difficult to call any place home outside of Austin! My husband and I both have family in the Austin area so we go home to visit often and catch up with friends hitting up all of our Austin favs while there.

How did you become interested in Fair Trade Fashion?

Fair trade fashion become an interest of mine after working in Ethiopia in 2009 with a fair trade organization who employs local women living with aids who have been ostracized from their communities. Up in a remote mountain village, a community of these shunned women make beautiful jewelry and scarves to earn a living wage to pay for their health care costs and support their families. These products are sold all over the world through the fair trade organization. I saw that when given an opportunity to learn and demonstrate their skills everyone has a contribution to make. They were able to make lovely products using resources available to them, recycling magazines and coffee beans, and spinning their own cotton. The women were able to work in a caring, safe environment that promoted growth and offered stability and education. I love that fair trade fashion offers so much!

Who are some of your fashion icons?

My fashion icons are ordinary people who let fashion act as an outlet to express who they are—their fun quirkiness, their shy yet whimsical nature, or perhaps their introverted thoughtfulness. I feel like your style can change throughout different phases of life and I love how versatile that can be…it’s freeing.

The one person I have explored fashion with throughout my life is my best friend and now stylist and fashion blogger, Jen Pinkston. She’s brilliant. Throughout college as roommates we dug through each other’s closets, mixing and matching and having fun with what we wanted our style to say about us. Last time I went to visit her in LA my luggage got lost and for two days I had to live out of her closet. It does not get much better than this! From now on, I’m planning to just go visit her without luggage! You’ll definitely want to check out her blog

What countries have you visited? Which was your favorite and why?

I have had the joy of traveling to Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Dominican Republic. Although, I’m the worst flyer known to man so the actual flying there and back parts were less than ideal. You do not want to be the stranger stuck sitting next to me on an international flight forced to hold my hand and keep me from spiraling into a full on panic attack. ;)

All three places were incredible and opened my eyes to what I wanted to do with my life—the type of people I wanted to spend it fighting for. They all opened my eyes {and heart} not only to poverty and oppression but to cultures, community, beauty, resilience, and opportunities that are being provided by nonprofits and organizations who work hard to allow so many people to reach their full potential. Also, the pyramids were pretty rad (that I rode past on a camel). And I didn’t complain when I stood on the shore of the Mediterranean, cruised down the Nile River, or splashed about in the Caribbean.

What have you enjoyed most about being an apprentice with P&C so far?

I have loved getting to spend time each week with Jen and Janelle (the other apprentice), talking about everything Purse & Clutch. It’s great to get to talk shop with people who share your interests and passions. Jen has made the apprenticeship so hands on, creating projects that actually allow us to learn and practice how to create and sustain a social business. I feel like every week I am acquiring authentic skills that would assist me in starting my own social business. I have been challenged to grow in areas that were intimidating to me—giving me the confidence that I am better at certain things than I realized.

I really love that we have been able to touch on various aspects of social business and encouraged to focus more heavily on the areas of Purse & Clutch that appeal to us. And, how awesome that I get to be an apprentice remotely?! While I’d rather be talking face-to-face over coffee, it’s pretty fabulous that I get to participate from Colorado!

 

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Janelle Whitehead

Janelle Whitehead

Where were you born and where do you call home? 

Gosh. This question always trips me up. I was born and raised in Plano, TX and live in Austin, TX. But "home" is such a hard thing for me to nail down. On one hand, Austin is home. Obviously. My husband and puppies and community and life are all here. But I have left so many pieces of my heart in other places, it's hard to call one place home. In fact, I feel most "at home" sitting in this one spot in downtown OKC because of the memories I have there and the people I loved that surrounded me in my time in OK. And then there's the Dallas area, where I spent most of my life and where my parents are... Basically, I'm terrible at answering this. So, you know, moving on...

How did you become interested in Fair Trade Fashion? 

As long as I can remember, I've loved being a part of organizations that "do good" for others. But when I was in college, I started a degree in non profit management and really started digging into the idea of what "doing good" was. Was a companies' giving model helping or hurting? As I fell more in love with sustainable development, I began to learn more and more about the other side- the side that non fair trade brands don't talk about.

It hurt my heart like crazy to know that the $10 top I bought was as cheap as it was because it was made by underpaid, overworked women, men, and children. I believe that we are all made in the image of god, so it pained me to know that my brothers and sisters across the world were being treated without respect or second thought- and that my purchases fed the demand for cheap labor.

So last year, after doing a massive purge of clothes I didn't wear, I decided to make sure all future purchases were from brands I knew had a transparent labor policy and paid their workers a living wage. I want men and women to take pride in the work they do and to be able to use it to support their families long term and I know the only way to change the policies of brands I like that *don't* meet ethical standards is to create more demands for those that do.

Who are some of your fashion icons? 

Well, to be super stereotypical of every bohemian girl there is... I'm obsessed with the Olsen twins. Specifically Mary Kate. Homegirl knows how to rock layers. I also love love love Stevie Nicks and a blogger named Jess, who you can find at BohoBabyBump. I switch back and forth between a more yoga/nomad kind of hippie and a more chic hippie who wears flowy layers and isn't afraid to take mega risks.

What countries have you visited? Which was your favorite and why? 

I have been to England, Uganda, Haiti and Costa Rica. I absolutely loved all of them, but I think I left a huge piece of my heart in Haiti - so I have to say Haiti. I taught at a music camp there and it was such a sweet time of getting to know students and being blown away by their hearts and talent. The only downside? I hate seafood... Which is mostly what is readily available there!

What have you enjoyed most about being an apprentice with P&C so far?  

Can I say having an excuse to get coffee with Shara and Jen once a week? Because that's pretty wonderful. But honestly, I'm loving learning more about marketing and all the random business stuff I absolutely wouldn't have thought of. I'm realizing just how much I love the communications aspect, but also how many "non-communications" things have to happen (like apps and analytics and finances) before you can really develop your marketing and communications. I don't think in that sort of way, but I'm enjoying learning it... and realizing I would probably need a business partner if I ever start my own. Otherwise, I'll be all outreach for a business with no foundation!

February 17, 2015 by Jen Lewis
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