Giving a great gift feels really good, doesn’t it? Finding something that a person loves and can incorporate into their daily life is a gift in and of itself. Now, what if you could give a gift while also providing women survivors of human trafficking with meaningful employment and healing resources? Main Street Mercantile and Freedom Studios can help you do just that!
With their beautifully scented line of reed diffusers, body washes, lotions and bath bombs, Freedom Studios has been a premier brand at Main Street Mercantile since we opened.
Owners, Vana Lyon (Main Street Mercantile) and Beth Gammel (Freedom Studios) sat down to discuss the importance of the work Freedom Studios is doing. Read their discussion below.
Vana: Freedom Studios is a shop favorite at Main Street Mercantile, but for those that might not be familiar, could you talk to us about the mission of your company?
Beth: Freedom Studios exists to bring meaningful employment to survivors of human trafficking. Our mission is to give survivors the keys to freedom to unlock a new and better chapter in their lives through empowerment, training, and economic independence.
Vana: Why did you chose this particular cause for your company?
Beth: When we learned that human trafficking was happening not in some far-off place, but right in our own city, we knew we had to do something to help. One of the major obstacles a survivor faces as they come out of their trafficking situation is employment. They may have legal and addiction issues as well as deep trauma that prevents them from being able to conceptualize how to start over. This resonated with me deeply as I was just starting over as a single mother of three young children in the fall of 2019. I knew how difficult it can be to get back on your feet as you create a new life for yourself. I had been making candles in my kitchen as a hobby for years prior and knew how calming it was for me, I believed it could be therapeutic for survivors as well. There are multiple facets of positive impact with our program. The work itself is therapeutic, survivors are able to earn a living wage and get back on their feet financially, we have a created a community of support, and we are able to raise awareness about human trafficking with our products.
Vana: Human Trafficking is a very heavy cause. What do you do at Freedom Studios to rise above the darkness and ensure the survivors you work with have a positive and empowering experience?
Beth: It is a heavy cause. We partner with a non-profit that ensures each survivor has safe housing, counseling and support systems in place. Coming to work in the studio is truly an escape for them where they don't have to think about the past. We aim to create an uplifting atmosphere with positive music and therapeutic tasks. The fragrances bring a calming effect, working with their hands, such as creating bath bombs and pouring candles is therapeutic and the repetitive tasks such as hand labeling all of our items brings a sense of stability. We are aware of any triggers that a survivor may experience and accommodate accordingly. The awesome thing about our studio is that all of the women relate to each other and encourage each other on each step of their journey as well. We believe empowered women, empower other women.
Vana: What has been the single most rewarding experience of your Freedom Studios journey?
Beth: One of our full-time employees had come out of an emergency situation right before starting with us in the spring of 2020. After being trafficked for many years, she was told she would never see her children again. She worked hard and prayed DILIGENTLY and right before Christmas in 2021 she was reunited with her children! She is the sole breadwinner for her family, and we do not take that responsibility lightly. She has been with us since nearly the beginning, and she is now a Freedom Studios shift leader and mentor to new employees. We have been so blessed to see her restored and flourish. She is truly an inspiration to us every day.
Vana: On the flip side, what has been the most difficult experience of your Freedom Studios journey?
Beth: I think feeling like the problem is so large and knowing that this is continually happening around the world feels overwhelming at times. We try to focus on what is before us each day and what we can do. We know we may not be able to change the world, but if we can impact one life for the better it is worth it!
Vana: Owning and running a business is tough. What inspires you to continue each day?
Beth: Knowing that these women and their families are depending on us is what keeps us going. We have the privilege of seeing day in and day out the impact this program has on them and we want to continue to do all we can do to see them empowered.
Vana: Tell us about your process for product development. Where do new ideas come from, how are they executed?
Beth: Product development for me comes with an idea of the feeling you want to have when lighting the candle or using the product. I take that idea and sketch it out (very roughly!) on paper. We create and test the perfect scents, labels and packaging to fit the idea. My sister and co-founder Christin takes the ideas and rough prototype and works her magic in design and photography to brand the product.
Vana: Everyone has a personal favorite between Scent 8 and 9….which is yours?
Beth: I love #8 in winter and #9 in summer!
Vana: Is there anything else you think our customers should know about you or Freedom Studios?
Beth: I think most people feel that the issue of human trafficking is so vast, what can they really do to make a difference? We created Freedom Studios to be tangible way for the average person to join the fight against human trafficking. When you buy a Freedom Studios product you are literally making a difference in the lives of survivors. We could not employ survivors without customers like you, and each time someone shares our products and mission they are raising awareness about human trafficking within their communities. You can make a difference.