Sari Bari - Women-Run Workplace of the Year
Company: Sari Bari Private Limited, Kolkata, India
Company Description: Sari Bari is a safe home where women, who have been exploited in the sex trade, can have their dignity restored and experience new life in the making. Each of our products made from the Indian sari is marked with a woman's name, a woman who now has the opportunity to make a choice for freedom and new life.
Nomination Category: Company/Organization Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Women-Run Workplace of the Year - More Than 10 Employees
Nomination Title: Sari Bari
Describe for the judges the activities and accomplishments of the nominated organization since the beginning of July last year (up to 525 words):
Sari Bari was co-founded in 2006 by Sarah Lance, who promised three women she would help free them from the sex trade. “A woman is trafficked every eight minutes,” Lance said. In India, around 3 million women are trafficked, 40 percent of which are minors.
While she started sewing at age 12 and held positions as an administrator and bookkeeper, Lance had no experience starting a business when she co-founded Sari Bari. . Her college degree was in fine arts. She feared the company would fold the entire first year.
Lance’s creativity and business sense have helped Sari Bari produce quality products from day one, allowing the business to thrive. 11 year later, Sari Bari offers a place where women can rescue themselves from the sex trade and employs 138 women at four production sites, three of which are in red-light districts in Kolkata. The other production site is located outside of the city and employs mothers whose daughters are at risk of joining the sex trade because of poverty.
The women are trained in sophisticated sewing techniques used to recycle old saris into blankets, purses, bags and scarves that are sold online, primarily to customers in the United States. While Sari Bari is not a rescue organization, the women are paid a living wage and given healthcare benefits, a pension, tuition assistance for their children and opportunities for advancement. “We believe that Sari Bari must offer support to the whole person. We work to create an environment that restores the whole person to a whole life.” Through these means, women get to “start new lives”. Sarah Lance
The organization’s unique products and mission of freedom created a loyal customer base, which helped expand the company’s revenue and product lines. Sales grew from roughly $66,000 in 2012 to nearly $168,000 in 2015.
In 2016, Sari Bari won the $1 million Opus Prize for humanitarian social entrepreneurship, awarded each year to a faith-based individual or organization changing lives in the world.
Sarah Lance said the prize allows the company to establish more production sites, employ more women and better support current employees, all to help push against the tide of sex trafficking in India and around the world.
"This truly is for the women of Sari Bari and, more importantly, for the women who have yet to find freedom," she said. Kyle Scott, director of Sari Bari USA, praised Lance, “Sarah has created a company that promotes upward mobility,” he said. "It's beautiful to see her celebrated."
Lance’s faith and spirit encourages the women of Sari Bari to be passionate in promoting the freedom of other women. Sari Bari recently appointed two former sex workers to its board, a first in the industry, and also invited 19 of its women workers to become shareholders in the firm, becoming brand ambassadors for continued growth. “Now we have a waiting list of women wanting to join us,” Lance
Every woman at Sari Bari has chosen for freedom, and through Sari Bari’s counseling and support programs, as well as the safe, loving, loyal environment of the workplace, they are rebuilding their
Provide a brief biography of the person or persons who lead the nominated company (up to 125 words):
Sarah Lance is the co-founder of Sari Bari, an organization based in Kolkata, India. Sari Bari provides dozens of women who had been ensnared in the sex trade with new jobs in design and sewing through which they gain income, health care and access to education. A California native, Lance worked in Omaha from 2003 to 2005 for the mission Word Made Flesh.
Choose one (even if both apply): The CEO (or other principal manager) of this company is a woman, and at least 40% of the management team is comprised of women.