We are thrilled to announce our latest Brave Brands partnership. Allow us to introduce you to Rebecca Gardner, founder and director, of Hands Producing Hope. The overall vision of Hands Producing Hope is to see all people (regardless of gender, ethnicity, or geographical location) be afforded opportunities to have dignified and respectable work, to provide for their families, and flourish in their communities. They want to see a universal growth in an understanding of the impact an individual can make with their time, resources, and talents. Hands Producing Hope is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana but also does work in Costa Rica and Rwanda! We asked Rebecca a few questions about her vision. Here you go…

How did you get started?

I was a college student with a passion to see those who are disadvantaged or overlooked in society have a voice and have opportunity. I was hungry to turn my learning into real action. After living in Costa Rica my senior year of high school and returning various times during college, I decided to partner with some friends of mine there and create a program for a group of indigenous women I had met who lacked opportunities for work or a place to learn of their value and worth.

What is your mission?

Our mission is to provide the economic, educational, and spiritual resources necessary to empower remote communities to rise above poverty. This means providing dignified work and educational opportunities so our artisan partners can provide for their families and invest in their local communities!

Why do you do what you do?

Because I believe that no matter where you were born or what barriers have come against you, you are valuable and you deserve to have a life filled with opportunity, joy, and hope. But I also know that far to often, because of barriers far beyond their control, women around the world are unable to work and provide for their families. Not only are they not able to work, but often times they have never been in an environment that they are not ever told of their value or worth. This is why I do what I do. I want every woman we work with to know that their dreams matter, that they are deserving of the highest of respect, and that anything is possible!

How have you evolved since the start?

We are constantly evolving! For example our product line started with handmade cards and envelopes made from recycled paper, then we added in jewelry but each piece was one of a kind and designed solely by our artisans. Then we decided to create more consistency and trendy pieces so we began helping source materials and helping with designs. And now we have seamstresses sewing products, basket weavers weaving with vines, Rwandan artisans making baskets from grass, and local refugees making wall hangings and tassel keychains.

Another way we have evolved is how we fund our programs! We started by focusing solely on selling our artisans products in order to fund their work and our community programs. While that is still a large part of how we operate we have shifted recently to pursuing monthly and one time donors! This is a big shift for us and we are hoping it will help us sustain what we have built and help us grow our impact at an even faster rate!

Can you tell us about your impact thus far?

Our impact is unique to each woman in a lot of ways. For Console what has impacted her the most is that she can now afford health insurance but for Francios it was that she was able to afford to buy doors for her house. For other women its being able to earn a consistent income and for others it’s the opportunity to learn to read and write! So while each story and impact is unique, here are some of the things we have been able to provide over the last 5 years: Aside from providing over 100 women with dignified work and a place to learn of their value and worth we have provided a wide range of life skills classes over the past 5 years! We have taught classes on finances, personal hygiene, family planning, parenting, and nutrition. We have sent 4 women through tailoring school, enabling them to start their own businesses as seamstresses. We have started a Literacy School which has two campuses and we have graduated 45 women from it already with another 45 currently enrolled. We have helped multiple women finish their high school educations and others attend a program to go through primary school for the first time. We have thrown parties, graduation celebrations, had coffee times together, and gathered in their homes. We have spoken about our dreams and made it widely known that these ladies deeply matter and are so unique and important!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see everything a bit more refined, honed in, and grown strategically. At that point we hope to have a whole team of monthly donors who are helping us grow our organization and our impact. A consistent base of donors will help us grow our staff on the ground and grow our local programs! I would like to not only be working with more women by that point in time but also be providing our existing partners with more work and more training! I want to create a microloan program for artisans who are wanting to start their own businesses and I would like to develop a business training program of sorts to help set up budding business owners up for success. I can’t wait to see where we are 5 years from now!

What advice would you give to someone starting a mission-driven business?

To those of you with an idea,  wait to have it all together before you start or you will never start! And find people who are strong in the areas you are weak and don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are a slew of people who have gone before you who would be happy to share advice and be a sounding board– know you aren’t alone in the journey, you just have to reach out! Also, when things get hard, go back to your why. Your cause/mission/why will help you push through the day to day challenges!

What are some of your fave brave brands?

So many! Here are a few: Sseko Designs, SoloHope, Rose and Fitzgerald, Thistle Farms, and The Citizenry. There are countless more that I have shopped from or connected with over the years but these are some of my personal favorites!

How was your experience collaborating with Stout Heart on their quest to show some love to #bravebrands in the world?

So wonderful. I am thankful for their desire to promote companies that are making a difference in this world and that they are willing to share their platform with Hands Producing Hope!

Anything else you’d love to share?

Check out our website and shop our products at handsproducinghope.org and follow us on Instagram at @handsproducinghope.

Photo Credit: www.rebekahviola.com.