Meet Parker Clay! Through the sale of high-quality leather goods, they are creating jobs for people coming out of human trafficking in Ethiopia.
Founder Ian Bentley tells the story behind Parker Clay, and the experience that moved him and his wife Brittany to act on the problem they were experiencing.
“Back in 2008 we were moved by the number of orphans living in the world. Some statistics place the numbers at 163 million orphans worldwide. While those statistics are alarming, and we looked at these numbers and said, “What if that was Parker or Clayton?”, our two biological children. From that moment, the journey to Ethiopia started and in 2011 when we brought home our Ethiopian daughter, Selah, who was 5 months old at the time. While in Ethiopia we spent time with a number of organizations looking for ways to address some of the root causes to poverty and the disruption of family. It was soon after this that we packed up our lives and moved to Ethiopia to help with development work centered around job creation and capacity development with vulnerable women.”
Once they were on the ground in Ethiopia, they quickly learned that Addis Ababa’s central market is the site of numerous brothels, where girls as young as 8 are exploited into prostitution.
Ian + Brittany began partnering with Women at Risk, an organization that helps with rehabilitation and job placement opportunities across Ethiopia, so that they could work firsthand with vulnerable women caught up in the commercial sex industry.
They met Zewditu, who became one of the first women to join the Parker Clay team. Zewditu is in her early 20’s and comes from a farming family just outside of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. When Zewditu was a young girl, her mother passed away and a lot of pressure was placed on her older sister to provide for the family. Her older sister was forced to go to an Arab country to look for work so she could send money back to her family. Afraid that she might have to make a similar choice, Zewditu came to Parker Clay where she was trained to sew and offered a job. She now dreams of getting married and having kids of her own.
Zewditu’s story is one of empowerment and change, where her value and dignity was restored through Parker Clay’s unique mission. While they love sharing the story of individuals behind their products, Parker Clay believes that the story of community is just as significant. Parker Clay has cultivated a unique community of farmers, tanneries, and artisans who are involved at every step of the process until the product ends up in the consumer’s hands. Through the purchase of their unique products, the consumer becomes part of a global community and a larger impact.
Ultimately, Parker Clay is about showing these women that they see them, they care about them, and they support them. Their advise for aspiring social enterprises?
“Be willing to go deep into relationship and be prepared for a messy process that comes with developing relationship. Let your vision guide you and be aware of mission drift. You might start with great intentions, but then find yourself compromising the very purpose and impact you are trying to make. Hold ruthlessly to your vision, even perhaps at cost for short term gain.”
Be a part of the larger story that Parker Clay is crafting, and shop their leather goods this season at Spread Joy Market!