What I've Learned: Impact at Parker Clay (An Intern's Perspective)


Whether you’ve purchased a product from us, browsed our website and store, or even shared our story with a friend, we at Parker Clay would like to thank you for your support. We are not your average leather goods company; a big piece of what makes us who we are is your desire to make conscious change through your actions. Your decision to make an impact through your everyday choices fuels our mission. Because of this, we think it is crucial to be transparent and clear about how your decisions help empower Parker Clay’s actions.

Founded in 2014, Parker Clay began with the mission to empower the vulnerable women that Ian and Brittany Bentley had come to know in Ethiopia. We partnered with Ellilta-Women at Risk (E-WAR), an Addis Ababa local NGO, to train and provide jobs to women transitioned out of prostitution and rescued from human trafficking. Providing job stability and skill training to Ethiopian women, Parker Clay keeps women out of prostitution and equips them with the stability and tools to live with more opportunity. Though about 150,000 women in Addis Ababa are involved in sex trafficking, E-WAR has for 20 years provided prevention and rehabilitation services to those at risk from and those who have survived the sex industry. Providing Ellilta-Women at Risk with money to continue running, consultations, purchasing their woven goods and jewelry, as well as connecting them to international buyers, Parker Clay has been a useful partner to this NGO as we’ve contributed to more than 360 women completing their rehabilitation program—with 94% of them successfully reintegrating back into society.

Parker Clay, since its beginning, has partnered with Ethiopian production facilities in order to help develop the quality and capacity of the leather industry. As we have helped in building our factory partner’s production ability, connecting them to new clients, and introducing them to our international market, our past production facilities have benefitted from our consulting and presence. In other words, these factories can make more, can connect to new businesses, and can sell to more customers—all things necessary to create opportunity and break the cycle of poverty as more people get jobs and the industry grows. Increasing our control of the supply chain, too, is key to having our products be made ethically. As of September, we founded a Parker Clay production facility in Addis Ababa under Ethiopian ownership. With our own facility, we can be even more intentional about who we hire, the quality of production, and workplace conditions.

We persist in seeking out ways our products can be made sustainably and with quality. With 80% of Ethiopians working in agrarian lifestyles, the leather we use comes from the livestock trade that makes up a large and historic portion of Ethiopia’s economy. Producing leather goods, then, is a sustainable way of adding value to Ethiopia’s local economy. Furthermore, we’ve worked with local leather tanneries to choose quality types of leather and to select our vegetable-based dying process. Though we typically use a synthetic process to dye our leather, we are increasingly using a veg-based dye that is consciously sourced on select products (check out our new grey and camel products)—reducing our environmental impact.

Back here in the US, we continue to do the work to grow our business. Parker Clay has reached key milestones that illustrate ways we’re working to make our mission and ourselves accessible to wider audiences. In October 2016, we opened our first store and warehouse in Santa Barbara. Our new location acts as a product showroom, venue for sales events, home base for our Santa Barbara staff and provides storage for our inventory. In March 2017, we released a three-part virtual reality experience that explores the experiences of women working in our production facility, the daily life of one Ethiopian woman who works for us, and Ethiopian culture. The in-depth experience helps bridge the gap between our story and your desire to help—showing you the realities and joys that Parker Clay deals with daily. As we grow and increase our reach, we hope that you will continue to follow and support us as we seek to provide lasting opportunity to those we partner with in Ethiopia.

If you wish to be more engaged with the work we do at Parker Clay, feel free to reach out to us with questions by email or by social media or check out our website at www.parkerclay.com. Parker Clay supports organizations in the SoCal area and collaborates with the Uffizi Order, a local organization in our own community that works to fights trafficking in the Santa Barbara area. We encourage you to work and volunteer with local non-profits, networks, and organizations that work to empower woman rescued from sexual exploitation in your community. We believe that our ability to act ethically extends from our global community all the way down to our local neighborhood. We believe we can connect these two spheres, the local and the global. We will keep working to support those in our communities by fighting human trafficking with people in our own backyard and around the world!

 

Thanks for reading as this is my last PC post -- and stay tuned for news and updates from future star interns!

-Cole 


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