Kristin Keen founded Rethreaded Inc., a 6-year-old nonprofit that creates jobs for survivors of human trafficking. The Grace scarf, made from donated T-shirts, is its signature product. Rethreaded announced a partnership Nov. 28 with Southwest Airlines, which donated 27 pallets of leather to create more products. It operates at 820 Barnett St., where it makes and sells items.
We are using business to change the lives of survivors of human trafficking. It’s not a program. It’s employment. Internationally, we buy and sell items from companies that are giving them employment. Locally, we give direct employment to survivors to offer stability, healing, empowerment, education and practical job skills. We currently employ 15 women.
It all came from some not-positive experiences in my earlier years and I never wanted another woman to feel that way. That became my life mission, and business just happens to be an amazing venue for change and empowerment.
I graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in nutrition and then I was like, I don’t want to do this. I applied to get my counseling degree but instead I went to India. I ended up spending five years there. We founded Sari Bari and started with three ladies. Now it employs 120. We’re still one of their largest wholesalers.
One hundred percent of our women come out of severe complex trauma and addiction. We hired five women this summer and four were brought in by our survivor employees who go back and get their friends. That’s invaluable because my word does not mean the word of a survivor who’s been through it, has overcome it and now has a new life.
We’re an upcycle company. We take T-shirts and make them into new products. The scarf outsells everything. Southwest Airlines repurposed all their seats and replaced the leather, and we started making earrings and key chains and key fobs. In the works we have mouse pads, coasters and a portfolio. We have a corporate gift line, coffee from around the world. We just did a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars providing corporate gifts to all their sponsors. We have a new product this year, Coffee Toffee. You can even eat toffee and change lives. Everything we sell is made by a woman somewhere in the world.
From Day One it has been an almost magical journey. On our opening day we were expecting 200 people and 500 showed up. We needed a car and we get a phone call within a week, “We just feel like we are supposed to give you our vehicle.” Everything we need usually just walks in our door or finds us or we find it in some crazy way.
Our dream in 10 years is to be a $10 million company and to employ 100 women. If we had 10,000 square feet, we could do everything we needed to do. We have the land donated and there is a building on it, but it needs a total rebuild.