Q: How would you describe The Tote Project in three words?
The Tote Project: Empowering, hopeful, and intentional
Q: How did The Tote Project come about?
The Tote Project: The Tote Project was born out of a shared dream and passion for empowerment. Fay had been hand-sewing purses out of vintage fabric and donating a percentage of her profits to help fight human trafficking. She wanted to transition into mass-producing tote bags in order to make a bigger impact, so she reached out to Michelle about starting a business together. They knew from the start that they wanted to find a fair trade factory to make the totes, but had a hard time finding any that were certified and able to do the job. After months of searching they connected with Freeset, and after learning that Freeset has a fair trade certified factory AND trains women who are rescued from sex trafficking to do the sewing, they knew they found the right vendor for the job. The next step was picking the organization to donate to. They wanted to find a local organization making a big impact that needed some extra funding. During the search, multiple people and safe houses pointed them to Two Wings. Two Wings works with local survivors and helps them transition out of safe houses and pursue their dreams. As best friends, Fay and Michelle always talked about volunteering together one day, but they never dreamed they'd have the opportunity to collaborate on something of this scale and help survivors around the world.
Q: What's been the biggest blessing or reward giving back? Any cool stories to share?
The Tote Project: Last year we did an art therapy session at the Dream Center with local survivors of sex trafficking. We gave each woman a blank petal and had her draw an artistic representation of hope inside. At the end we put the petals together to form a flower and made a tote for The Dream Center to sell at events. Going in we didn't know what to expect since it was our first time working one on one with victims, but we had the most incredible, life changing experience. Seeing the women who have experienced so much trauma in their lifetimes and could be filled with joy was incredibly humbling. Human trafficking is such a dark, heavy subject, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by it. But getting to meet these brave ladies, hear their stories, and learn how their lives are being changed provides us with constant motivation and encouragement. Together if we hold on to hope, we really can end modern day slavery.
Q: What is your current favorite item that you sell?
The Tote Project: Michelle- It's so hard to pick just one! I love them all for different reasons. I've always loved the meaning behind "Free to Give" because it's such a blessing and privilege to give of yourself -- whether it's time, money or energy. It's a very special aspect of freedom that may not come to mind right away.
Fay- It changes every week! Right now my favorite freedom statement is "Free To Roam.” Now that spring is here, I grasp every moment I have to get outside and reconnect with nature. Our work is a constant reminder of how lucky we are to freely roam and explore the world around us whenever we choose. The simple act of coming and going, of one's own accord, is something that's so easily taken for granted.
Twitter + Instagram: @TheToteProject