Our newest duo founded BRANDED Collective.
Many victims of human trafficking are BRANDED; their captors physically mark them with a number or symbol. The process is often violent: a forced tattoo, a burn or knife cut. When you receive your item from the BRANDED Collective, you are BRANDED. Each piece contains a unique number that represents one of the millions trapped in the nightmare of trafficking.
The BRANDED Collective employs survivors of human trafficking from Nashville-based non-profit End Slavery Tennessee. The women work with local artisans to design and handcraft the jewelry collection. 25% of the profits go to the rescue and restoration of survivors.
Here's a peek inside Lauren + Emily's partnership.
How do you collaborate together?
Lauren: Emily and I founded the company in 2012 out of the desire to help survivors of trafficking in Nashville. Emily is the visionary - the one with the big creative ideas who is always thinking of the next step. I'm the integrator - the operational cog that keeps it all moving and focuses on the day-to-day. We make a good team! I couldn't do this without Em, and I think she would say the same about me.
Emily: No idea!!! We are so totally different. But somehow it works. I often stand amazed and how Lauren can get so much done in one day. I tend to be more of the head-in-the-clouds big picture idea person. So for me, I can work slow and spend a lot of time thinking... about everything from our story to our company culture to our employees' success to our patrons involvement.... etc etc etc. Lauren is a do-er. I will have an idea and she will have this innate ability to either strategically make it happen or point out to me where it will fall apart and how we can improve it. We both do a lot of the same things too but as BRANDED grows we are working on capitalizing on our strength and really defining who does what - it is super cool to see how different we are and really fun to figure out how our differences compliment each other. Sure, we drive each other crazy sometimes but its always a good laugh too ;)
Why did you decide to do what you do as a duo versus going solo?
Lauren: We both realized that we had similar desires, and we saw the opportunity to create a sustainable social enterprise that could really make a difference in the individual lives of survivors. As co-founders, we depend on one another a lot. I always say that if Em wasn't here, BRANDED Collective would never have a new product or a new idea! If I wasn't here, we just wouldn't get as much done. I think we are both really fortunate to have one another in this adventure, and our strengths and weaknesses really complement one another.
Emily: For me, I knew I had (and still have) extreme limitations in business skills. My background is in theatre and art sooooo... I love to make pretty things and telling stories. I also really have enjoyed turning our story and our products into a working business model. However, I need a lot of help staying focused and turing lofty ideas into something functional and sustainable. Lauren really is excellent at taking a creative concept and turning it into something tangible.
What’s one challenge you have you faced in collaborating?
Lauren: Well, we are really different! :) We work differently, and that is a challenge. We have had to realize that we aren't the same - and that's a GOOD thing. It's hard to understand one another sometimes, but we have come around to the point of understanding that we're just not the same, and that's ok. It makes us stronger leaders for our employees.
Emily: Hmmmm... I think for me communication. We are leaning how important it is to listen and share thoughts and constantly make sure we are headed in the same direction. I think Mission Statements are helpful with this... we always gotta make sure we are standing on the same foundation and living by the same core values. Our daily difference will not cause us too much trouble when the foundations are the same. In fact, differences are quite strengthening when they are all standing on the foundation and headed to the same goal.
What’s surprised you most about your partnership?
Lauren: How long we have been working together and how it has all evolved. At the beginning, we started the company as a passion project. Five years later, it has turned into so much more. I think Em and I are constantly evolving as people and as leaders, and we have had to do some work to allow ourselves and each other to flourish in the right roles within our team dynamic. It has been hard work, but well worth it!
Emily:Probably how much we've both changed. We were very different people when we started BRANDED and so much life has happened inside and outside the company. I think we are both seeing how starting something like this really is a process and a story and it is very, very much alive. We have to stay in constant communication and have a great deal of patience and flexibility. There really are very few constants in starting a company, so much changes all the time... even the two wild ladies who started it! It is super fun and exciting to see all the changes, scary too at times, but really thrilling.
Who’s your favorite dynamic duo? Fiction or nonfiction. Why?
Lauren: Hmmm... what an awesome question! I'm a big music fan (I married a singer-songwriter too) so I would have to go with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. So many Beatles songs were written by the two of them and I think they are just an amazing example of the lasting impression that a good duo can make on this earth. There were four Beatles of course, but tons of the songs were written by John and Paul. Anyone can listen to a Beatles song and get it. :)
Emily: Sam and Frodo. Because seriously guys, I am a nerd and hobbits are precious and Sam has the best perspective on life I've ever read...
FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam.
SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam?
SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.