#knotforsale | An interview with Freeleaf
As many of you know, finding and shopping with ethical brands is one of my pursuits and passions. Thanks to the connective world of social media, I came across the brand Freeleaf, and their mission to provide employment and encouragement to sex trafficking victims was one that really struck a chord with me. After participating in Dressember last year (and getting ready to participate again), I am so much more aware of this injustice happening all over the globe. I had the opportunity to talk with Jessica, their "Jill of all trades" aka social media guru, about the company with a few interview questions. A couple of the questions were answered by Jessica and a couple by Adisyn, the founder. Friends, this post is longer but it is also worth the read. So go grab yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy!
Can you tell us how Freeleaf came about?
I (Adisyn, our founder) never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. Being a natural introvert, a cautious decision maker, and a lover of simplicity, I always assumed I wouldn’t make a very good front-person or leader. But I have always been a rooter for the underdog. In college I studied International Studies & French and envisioned myself moving to French-speaking Africa to work in community development. But when I graduated in 2011 and applied to work for non-profits and social enterprises, nobody would hire me because I didn’t have any overseas experience! Crushed, I decided to spend a gap-year in Asia learning Mandarin and volunteering before I planned to go to grad school. Seven years later and here I still am.
A few years ago, I met a local Chinese woman named JiaYi (her introduction can be found at https://bit.ly/2tLMHpV). We realized that we both had a passion for women-in-need in the city, and slowly began talking to at-risk, abused, and exploited women to gather more information about what their needs were. It didn’t take long to realize that the root of so much abuse and exploitation was economic. When women are poor and lack educational or economic opportunities, they often find themselves vulnerable to abuse and/or exploitation. Slowly, we realized that if we wanted to create a safe space for women to heal in a sustainable and substantial way, we didn’t need to create some non-profit or charity program—we needed to create a business. So Freeleaf was born June 2016.
I love your tag #knotforsale. What inspired the knot and the one strand for each item?
Years ago, one of our founders Adisyn was sitting on her apartment floor in a foreign country dreaming about starting a company that would provide employment to women in need, and brainstorming ideas for what products she could make. She loved the idea of incorporating ancient knotting traditions into modern applications, so she made a coaster out of a piece of scrap rope. Little did she know that this would provide the basis for the products Freeleaf produces today.
All of our products are hand-knotted from a single strand of rope or cord. Knotting is an ancient art-form that has been practiced in China and all over Asia for centuries. In addition to tying knots for functional purposes, knots have been used to show elegance and express blessings. Freeleaf bases the design of all of our products in accordance with this rich history and significance of the Chinese knot. In addition, the process of knotting can be quite messy as a single strand of rope is molded to become something beautiful. For example, our large cotton rug uses over 200 feet of rope! Throughout the process of tying the rug’s knot, it’s easy to feel like you’re making a bigger mess than you started with. However, with patience and dedication, the knot slowly begins to come forth and eventually you’re left with a stunning product. I find that this process so often mirrors our lives—if we’re willing to be patient and keep walking through the messiness or chaos of whatever’s going on around us, I believe that beauty always wins.
What is your goal for yourself and Freeleaf in the next five years?
For Freeleaf, we would love, love, love to have more women that we can provide employment for. In order to make that happen, our goal for the next five years is to create more wholesale partnerships across the states (and the world!). We would also love to see our influence grow in the social media world. Right now, it is one of the best places for meaningful conversations about justice, anti-trafficking, human // women's rights, etc to happen. We want to be a part of that conversation with the media we produce in order to promote a culture of conscious consumers, vulnerability in relationships, and intentional living (and so many more things!).
For myself, as the photographer//designer//social media director for Freeleaf, I want to be a better artist! I want to produce photographs and content for Freeleaf that create an intimate connection between the reader and us at Freeleaf. I want to start a conversation with our followers that encourages them to be a better neighbor, serve the homeless in their neighborhood and support companies that are doing what they can't to bring justice on a global scale.
How do you balance entrepreneurship and home life?
This one is tough! I love my job and I find myself checking pinterest for ideas, surfing instagram for inspiration, reading Brené Brown for my next quote, but all of this falls under the category of "work". I'm learning to differentiate for myself what is work and what is play and how to take time to pause, pray and play. It really isn't easy to set those boundaries. When I'm struggling, I try to go back to the words of Brené Brown, "Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them."
And just for fun, what's your latest favorite read?
Right now I am reading CS Lewis' Space Triology! I got stuck reading Harry Potter on repeat and my husband was trying to encourage me to find something new to read so he bought me the book series. It's been more enjoyable than I thought it would be (especially considering it's science fiction). Narnia was a life changing series for me (I learned so much about myself through that read) so I have high hopes!
Since holiday shopping is in the near future, consider making a purchase towards a company bringing about real change in the world. Their rugs, coasters and jewelry would make an excellent gift.
* This post was in collaboration with Freeleaf. All pictures and opinions are my own.