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Leveraging Social Entrepreneurship to Fight Slavery

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Peter Drucker defined an entrepreneur as one who "always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity." I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but after spending a summer in Cambodia and witnessing the poverty and vulnerabilities of women and children in remote villages, I began to crave change.

There is nothing like watching a desperately poor father in a remote village in Cambodia trying to give away his daughter to put things into perspective. I went to Cambodia to conduct micro-finance research. It involved visiting families, most of whom made less than $1 per day. They could not even provide one meal a day to their children. One man offered his daughter to my colleague. Although we were trustworthy graduate students, it made me realize how easy it is for sex traffickers to walk into a village and recruit children. According to researcher Siddharth Kara, human trafficking is a $91.2 billion industry. It is the world's second largest criminal enterprise, topped only by the illegal drug trade. For victims, the emancipation process is extremely challenging. After going through rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration, most girls lack marketable job skills or any source of income. Moreover, without ongoing support, mentorship, training, and job opportunities, too many survivors either get re-trafficked or are compelled to enter prostitution in order to survive. Thus, creating sustainable economic alternatives to the sex trade is essential in the fight against sex trafficking.

Collectively, consumers have the highest potential to create systematic change, by simply changing their purchasing behavior. This is not as easy as it sounds because it is human nature to desire cheap products or anything that is free. How many times have you walked into a store and been instantly drawn to the word FREE. But despite the obvious consumption patterns, the fair trade market is growing.

Research indicates that the market for Fair Trade products in the U.S. has tremendous growth potential. According to a recent Fair Trade Federation report, 88 percent of Americans self-identify as conscious and socially responsible consumers. The U.S. market for sustainable products is currently estimated at $118 billion, including $11 billion for lifestyle products alone. Nomi Network sees an immediate opportunity in the combination of a growing market plus the desires of so many consumers who crave fair trade and socially progressive purchasing options. However, before this market can be tapped effectively, there is an information gap that must be filled. For example, while 71 percent of U.S. consumers have heard the term "Fair Trade," less than 6 percent are able to name a Fair Trade brand. Nomi Network bridges the gap, by developing chic, innovative, and sustainable products that give consumers the opportunity to purchase mainstream products that not only look good but do good.

Nomi Network is a 501c3 organization that leverages the marketplace, film, and fashion to help eradicate human trafficking. Instead of condemning consumers and retailers who often perpetuate the cycle of slavery, Nomi engages retailers to develop and sell products that are made by survivors of sex-trafficking and those at risk. We are bridging the private, non-profit, and public sectors through education and enterprise, to end human trafficking.