“Each woman has a dream, and I’d like to follow their dreams as well, ” said Kristin Keen, Founder and Executive Director of Rethreaded.
Rethreaded, a social business that provides sewing jobs to women in Jacksonville who have come out of the sex trade, does just that. Social entrepreneur, Kristin Keen, started the Florida based company after working for five years in the red light district of Kolkata, India. Keen moved to Jacksonville, Florida with the desire to use business for good to break the cycle of the sex trade. Rethreaded provides a four-month holistic training program for women who are coming out of lives of addiction, violence, human trafficking, and prostitution. Many of these women leave prison with felony records, creating significant challenges to employment. Rethreaded is a safe place where women are paid a living wage to become artisan seamstresses and “upcycle” donated t-shirts into new creations for sale.
“All of our women say that there is love and acceptance [at Rethreaded]. They aren’t judged for their past. That’s why women stay with it and believe in it, ” Keen told me.
Rethreaded receives donations of used t-shirts and upcycles them into new clothing and accessories. Currently, their upcycled product line includes children’s clothing and women’s scarves and they are working to expand their product platform by the end of the year. Rethreaded also serves as a retail vendor for global companies, such as Sari Bari, with similar missions of providing economic opportunity for women coming out of the sex trade.
“I asked our women, ‘What do you want Rethreaded’s voice to be? What do you want people to know?’ One woman told me that she wants people to be able to see her for who she is now, not for where she’s been. There’s a huge stigma attached to anyone associated with sex trade.”
Three women have successfully completed Rethreaded’s seamstress, training program. Wages start at $8.25 an hour during a month of training and are increased to $10 per hour once the women begin working full time. The goal is by the end of the year, Rethreaded will employ nine, full-time seamstresses and expand their upcycled product line. In five years, Keen would like to see Rethreaded’s model replicated around the world.
One of the seamstresses recently told Keen that she wants people down the street from the crack house to know they have a place to go. “Taking Rethreaded global is great, ” she told Keen. “But I want to go local. I want women to know there’s a safe place for them to go.”
To buy Rethreaded’s products online, click here. For information on becoming a “Rethreaded Online Advocate” email info [at] rethreaded.com. And check out their cool infographic below: