Let's Start at the Beginning...

Let's Start at the Beginning...

Little Jen

Okay, just kidding not that far back...!

When people ask how Purse & Clutch got started, I usually start the story in June 2011, when I asked my dear friend Rikki Marler how I could help out her newly launched business in India that sold handmade, fair wage accessories and household items. 

But when I really stop and think about it, Purse & Clutch was born - little by little - years ago. 

The story would take days to transcribe, but here is a short synopsis of the slow birth of what is now my very own business, serving those with limited opportunities for dignified work in a way I never thought I would - through fashion!

I think my eyes began to be opened to the lot of the less fortunate first through week-long trips to Monterrey and Saltillo, Mexico, as an enthusiastic high schooler. These emboldened me to spend a wonderful summer building an orphanage in Cochabama, Bolivia, where I was further able to see the effects of short term charity juxtaposed with a fascinating business model where Fair Trade Bolivian coffee sales sustainably funded the building of additional orphanages and upkeep. Upon graduating college, I had the opportunity to move to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to teach Chemistry at an affluent private school in the mountains. Volunteering at a nutrition center and child sponsorship program opened my eyes a bit more to what long term change could look like for those with limited opportunities and poverty mindsets. 

My journey then took me back to the States where I helped develop and teach Leadership Studies courses at John Brown University while I had a Fellowship with a Non-Profit leadership training organization that was run with a For-Profit business model. This was amplified by my Leadership and Ethics graduate program where I was able to study first hand the Guatemalan artisan market and the challenges that the women were facing to become viable businesses with which they could support their familes while keeping their culture intact. 

After graduating, I moved to the lovely city of Austin, Texas, where I began working with a start-up branch of a local Non-Profit that gardened in people's backyards and sold a portion of the produce at the Farmer's Market to create employment opportunities the homeless and formerly homeless of the city. 

Gardening taught me the importance of knowing where my food comes from and had a profound effect upon how I began to view life. Processes began to matter more than simply the results. This was blossoming from the seeds of my Ethics studies where how things are done are just as important as the final product and often times shine a spotlight on what we truly value. 

These crazy, disjointed post-college experiences finally were being knit together to prepare me to see the possibility of a beautifully curated retail shop that values processes and sees the necessity of having a product that stands on it's own in the fashion world apart from the story of how it was made.

It allows people the opportunity to begin to think about where their purchases come from without having to sacrifice style (which allows the business to be much more sustainable.) Business met fashion by accident and the result is Purse & Clutch as you see it today. 

 

 

 

January 24, 2013 by Jen Lewis
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