I’m so excited to introduce you to one of my woman crushes/kindred sisters, Shannon Keith. Shannon is the Founder of Sudara. She is a devoted wife and proud mama, lover of Jesus, justice, food & wine. She is an abolitionist and nerd at heart. Her latest interest includes Kombucha brewing! Read this fascinating and inspiring interview with Shannon below.
In 2005, you took a trip to India that opened yours eyes to a tragedy occurring daily to women and girls throughout the country. Can you tell us what you saw?
I saw women and children trapped in red lights areas with no hope for a different or better life. Freedom was beyond their grasp. All of the women and children are in this situation through exploration of their poverty and the caste system; some are tricked, others are forced and many are born into the sex trade- all perpetuating the cycle of generational sex slavery. None willingly choose this life if they feel that there are other dignified options to support themselves and feed their children.
What did you do once you returned home?
I gathered a few like minded friends, created a non profit, and did tons of research to confirm the flash of inspiration I received in India about the job creating solution that came to me via PUNJAMMIES™ -the line of women’s pajamas and lounge wear.
What is your definition of social entrepreneurship?
It is a real profitable business model that has a social good metric baked into the DNA of the business. Businesses that actually exist to help solve a social or environmental cause through their business model.
Your business was originally called The International Princess Project, but you’ve since change the name to Sudara. Tell us about the significance of this name and why you picked it.
Our former name [International Princess™ Project] has served us well and we will always cherish the meaning behind that name. As we move into the next decade as a company, we deepen our commitment to find ways to generate even more jobs for women looking for a way out of sex slavery — that means we need to offer more great products to you, our current customers, and broaden our product lines so that we can welcome new customers, too. The name SUDARA allows us more room to grow into additional products that can appeal to many different kinds of people.
SUDARA is inspired by the Sanskrit word meaning ‘beautiful.’ As we considered a name that would carry us into the future, we were drawn to the idea of beauty and the many ways it is revealed. It is seen in the people we work with, in the products we work together to produce, in moments of vulnerability within the communities of women healing from sexual slavery, and most important, it is the ever-growing confidence in the voice of a woman who is living in Freedom.
What is Sudara’s social mission and how do you accomplish it?
To create pathways to freedom for women and their children who have escaped the sex trade in India. We accomplish this through dignified job creation for women via the sewing of Sudara products. Beyond the most important impact investment of providing dignified job creation we also have a non-profit arm that allows us to provide for those same women across their entire ecosystem.
What’s the best thing about being a ladyboss?
There are so many benefits… like locking arms with other professional women within Sudara and those women we partner with in India, bringing the female perspective on business and work life harmony, but personally the single best thing is that I have the privilege to model to my own 3 children [2 of which are girls] that women make fantastic leaders and we can and will have a greater voice within the business and entrepreneurial world in the future. There is plenty of data out there showing that female led organizations are actually more profitable than those without females in top leadership positions… but that is a whole other topic for an interview!
What advice do you have for other world-changing women who want to start something bigger than themselves?
Go for it! The world needs you, your unique talents, passions and perspectives are exactly what will change the world. This is basically the exact topic of a TedX talk that I just gave this spring. Please click the link (above) if you’re interested in listening to my talk.
What are three practical ways people can support Sudara and help accomplish your mission?
1. Join our social media links and share with all of your friends/ networks across ALL of your social platforms [FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.] asking them to do the same. You are joining us in starting a MOVEMENT if you do!
2. Educate yourself about human sex trafficking issues in India and in the US, so that you are knowledgable and can speak to others about the issues from an informed position.
3. Buy Sudara products often [sudara.org] for yourself and as gifts. You vote for or against freedom with your pocketbook every time you shop. With Sudara products you can trust the supply chain and when you wear them not only are they beautiful and so comfortable, but you are wearing a statement of freedom and a conversation starter.