Small Business, Big Impact: An Interview with Sudara
At a glance, Sudara sells quality, comfortable loungewear inspired by Indian culture. Dig deeper into their mission, and it is clear that Sudara’s work is about much more than their products alone.
With each robe, top, and pair of punjammies® that you purchase from Sudara, you are not only investing in a wildly comfy closet.
You are also funding living wage jobs and skills training for women in India who are at high risk, or survivors of sex trafficking.
“…To be human is to be gifted. We don’t have to be a saint like Mother Teresa. We can be a plain old sinner like me and still try to impact the world.”
Sex trafficking is a global issue with a daunting scope: an estimated 4.8 million people are trapped in the trade as of 2017 (Human Rights First).
But, while we have statistics like this today, the 90s and early 2000s were a different story.
For many Americans, our only exposure to sex work was Julia Roberts’ thigh-high boots in Pretty Woman. An entertaining movie, sure, but not at all realistic.
Even Shannon Keith, the social entrepreneur and founder of Sudara, didn’t know much about sex trafficking when she visited India in 2005.
She had gone there to build a freshwater well in a community that needed it and, as fate would have it, that community was in the middle of India’s red light district: a “brothel community”.
“I learned that these women aren’t prostitutes,” Shannon tells us. “They have been victimized. This isn’t their choice. All the framing we’ve had [around sex work] is a completely false narrative.”
As Shannon spoke to the women in the community, her heart broke.
“I wanted to help. I’m not saying I had the answers, but I wanted to do something, my little part to bring light to this issue,” Shannon tells us.
With over a decade of corporate experience, Shannon had the hard skills necessary to start a company. The product she’d provide would be pajamas, but the mission would be much larger.
In order find freedom from the sex trade, women need stability, education, and most importantly, options. Safe, steady and living wage employment could be a pathway to freedom.
Today, customers can feel good about shopping with Sudara. Among the many clever marketing campaigns that flood our feeds, some brands actually hold their social impact standards as high as their services.
As a Certified B Corp (Benefit Corporation) since 2015, Sudara puts the same importance on protecting the planet and people as they do on turning a profit.
Further, with their mission-aligned partners, Sudara trains approximately 1,200 women in India per year, in 11 vocations with a 90% job placement rate.
Looking to the future, Shannon hopes that Sudara will inspire people to use business as a force for good. If you’d like to get inspired, join Shannon today on Monday, September 27th to learn how to build a business that helps others — click here to learn more.
Shannon’s mantra: Seeking Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly.