Business is a powerful tool. It drives the economy, promotes innovation and enables people to grow and thrive in their everyday lives. A born entrepreneur, Kristin Keen quickly recognized that power, and decided to leverage it to help support women through her business, Rethreaded.
After spending some time in Calcutta, India, listening to women’s experiences with sex trafficking, she was driven to do something to help them rise above such oppression. The solution: starting a business selling the women’s handmade blankets. “I was able to see the power of business in the lives of these women. Suddenly they had a community, people who cared about them, they regained their confidence and they had economic independence,” Kristin says.
After spending a few years launching that business, she came back to Jacksonville, Florida, and was surprised to encounter a community of women facing the exact same struggles with sex trafficking that she saw in India. “I started to know women here and felt we had to do something,” she explains. “The cycle is that a woman will end up in the (sex trafficking) industry, experience some severe complex trauma, and will sometimes come out of it with either a criminal background or no employment background. It’s setting women up to go back to where they started from.” Again, she turned to business and launched Rethreaded in 2012, which sells up-cycled products made in their warehouse, as well as products made from women around the world, like scarves, jewelry, home goods and handbags. To best support women, she developed an unique non-profit business model that employs sex trafficking survivors in Florida, and partners with other businesses (like the one she started in Calcutta), to benefit as many survivors as possible.
“It’s providing women a second chance.”
Today, Rethreaded employs 15 women in Florida, and was responsible for 900 days of work for women in India, through their partnerships. Kristin explains that Rethreaded is a business, but also acts as a place to support women to develop their careers. “Usually, I’ll ask during the interview what they are good at, and many of them don’t know. So we try out different jobs to see what they’re good at,” she says. Women currently work in all aspects of the business, including production, inventory, sales, finance, administration and marketing. What’s more, an onsite mental health counselor works with employees to help them with self-care and access to resources. “We run our business principles based on trauma principles. We talk about choice, safety and trust,” Kristin says. “We feel we have a model that other businesses could run by.”
Recently introduced to NAWBO, Kristin was inspired by the powerful network of fellow women business owners and is in the process of becoming a first-time member. She was excited to attend this year’s National Women’s Business Conference in Minneapolis and provided lanyards to participants. “It was amazing,” she says. “We even got our first NAWBO order during the conference! Women will advocate for each other.”
What is your #1 piece of advice for those who are not sure how to “do good” as a business owner?
“I really believe that business moves the world. Everyone on the planet needs to have a job and earn a living. Business is how we change the world, and how you choose to do business can change lives. Do your business well and the best you can. You can really impact people’s lives by how you treat them in your business.”