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Lotus Sky shows how supporting a women-run business can change the world

Photo courtesy of Lotus Sky

When you purchase a bracelet from Lotus Sky, you aren’t just buying a bracelet. It’s so much more than that.

The company is designed to change the lives of women, to create a chance for female artisans in Nepal to be in charge of their futures, to slowly change a culture.

Their website perfectly says it all: Here at Lotus Sky, when we say 100% woman run, we mean ALL WOMEN. To really break it down: No dudes in US offices buying from huge dealers in Nepal. And when we say, "Empowering women," we mean this to the core. From our crocheters, to our designers, to our North American shippers, we are making it happen, fueled by womanpower the whole way!

This is why I wanted to tell their story. It’s important.

Sarah Chapman started Lotus Sky in 2012 when she was in Nepal for grad school. Her business started as a small collaboration and she had no idea what it would become. She started with only four artisans and now has roughly 120.

“I didn’t have any clear intentions that it would grow outside of that. I just wanted to do something to give back in a small community,” Sarah told me. “The longer I was there, putting more effort into the project, being seen as an independent woman without a man, the more it became apparent to me the realities of how we are treated as women in the U.S. and Nepal is very interconnected.”

Women can’t open bank accounts in Nepal. They don’t have any financial independence of their own. But with Lotus Sky they can make their own money and invest it in a way than their husbands would, like in their home or their daughter’s education.

“We looked like little women just doing handicrafts. The men weren’t really paying attention. As small as it was, it was making an economic change for the future generation.”

Photo courtesy of Lotus Sky

I first interviewed Sarah Chapman in 2015 when I was a reporter. I was inspired by her story and the business she created. But when I saw a Lotus Sky booth at the Flint Art Fair this summer, I knew I needed to tell her story from another perspective.

I now own two of their beautiful, beaded bracelets. I’ve found myself saying lately that I want to put my money where my passions are. And that’s what I was doing when I bought a bracelet at the art fair. I knew I was supporting a women-owned, women-run business. But I didn’t fully understand what that actually meant in this case.

I wasn’t just supporting a good cause and supporting women. By buying a bracelet and supporting Lotus Sky, customers are giving the women artisans financial freedom and choice -- something they didn’t have before.

“When you create a business that is completely women owned and operated, women can rise as leaders on their own terms. It redefines what it means to be a leader. It shows that it can be safe for women to have power and for women to have money, it shows that it’s possible,” Sarah said. “We can help people help themselves. We are fueling an economy that continues to fuel itself.

“That’s the difference between a handout and creating change in a community. Women choose to invest in the next generation and children. These women will pay it back over and over and over again.”

Creating a social enterprise

Lotus Sky is more than a business. And it’s not a charity. It’s a social enterprise.

The company aims to hold its weight in the international market by creating high quality products. The difference is the goal of the company -- to create social change.

“We don’t want to disturb quality. We want to empower women, creating a culture where the women can work together to rise to what an international marketplace can expect,” Sarah said. “The story of who we are and what we stand for is just an additional meaning to it. It’s a collaborative business setting that works within the system of Nepal to improve the lives of the women there. We want to truly create economic sustainability in the community we have in Nepal.

“If the women continue to produce quality products and train new women and grow the social enterprise, the marketplace will support that.”

Lotus Sky doesn’t just want to give the women artisans a livable wage. Sarah wants the women to have an investable wage. She hopes more will start thinking that way.

“Empowering with an investable wage not just a living wage is important. Aiming to ensure all artisans can save 15 percent after all living expenses are covered is what we do,” Sarah said.

It’s about creating a culture, a community and a brand. That leads to change. Women (and men), we play a major part in that.

“By purchasing that bracelet you as a consumer must consider people who are outside your immediate community and you will rise or fall together. We create a feminist brand and provide women with economic choice and means,” Sarah told me. “ By creating those connections with our consumers, they will go out in their communities and spread the word and we create a culture together.”

Photo courtesy of Lotus Sky

Lotus Sky started small. Sarah wanted to help a small community she was in. Now, her business is so much more. It’s about making sure the women have all the resources and training they need. The bracelets are a symbol of the project and what they are doing, Sarah said.

“It’s not so much selling bracelets but selling awareness. We can do things differently. Not every woman has the choice to invest their money where they want. We can slowly change global communities,” she said.

It’s also about changing the communities we live in.

Now Lotus Sky wants to start telling more personal stories and inspiring the next generation of social entrepreneurs.

“We need more women. We need more women to step up. It might be a community in your own backyard. Ask yourself ‘How can I impart these skills and give economic power to more groups of women?’ It’s difficult but so rewarding,” Sarah said. “The last seven years have been so so difficult but if more women step up and start recognizing their own power, then we are moving forward.”

Everyone has their place and their own gifts to give something back to the community no matter where they are. Everyone has somewhere where they are meant to be and a purpose.

Sarah didn’t know what she was created when she started collaborating with women in Nepal. She simply wanted to make a small difference where she was.

“Social enterprise can be done anywhere. There’s a need for it,” Sarah told me.

But one thing Sarah knows for sure, is that change really can and should start with women.

“Women really are the key to changing communities. They invest in their children.”

Written by: Sarah Elkins

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