“Most of my time was spent with women who had been in vulnerable situations or leaving a life of prostitution. Many of these women were moms, and the way they fought for and loved their babies through hard situations was just humbling. Clearly we had different upbringings, but it was often the things that we had in common that made a bigger impact that the differences. The humbling part of empowerment in cases like this, is that I thought I would be the one to offer support, but in many cases I ended up learning and receiving so much care from them as well.”
This was an answer that Brittany Bentley, co-founder of Parker Clay, an Ethiopian based luxury handmade leather goods manufacturer, gave in response to a question about the contrast she has observed between her own life and that of the women that her organisation works with. Mrs. Bentley runs Parker Clay with her husband, Ian Bentley.
In 2011, the couple first travelled to Ethiopia and returned to their California home with a new member added to their family. The couple had adopted an orphaned girl from Ethiopia, but unsatisfied with that in terms of addressing the various social ills they observed in the country, they permanently relocated in 2012.
One of the major issues they saw in the country that they felt needed addressing was the lot in life that underprivileged women had been handed.
The couple were especially concerned about the number of women that fell into a life of prostitution due to a lack of educational and financial opportunity. While working on plans to address this, and exploring the various attractions that the country has to offer, Ian came across a local leather goods shop that sold “extraordinarily” designed bags.
Of note to him besides the designs, however, was the effort that went into them and the fact that they were made from ethically sourced leather.
This set the ball rolling for the ideation of Parker Clay. The founders not only aimed at creating a brand that was based on local Ethiopian culture, they wanted to help women become financially independent. Currently, woman make up eighty percent of the company’s workforce and many are selected from a Women at Risk.
In a statement to Yahoo finance, Brittany Bentley affirms that “people are very important to us…we want to be growing at a pace that is sustainable and healthy for all of us”. According to Ian Bentley, the fulfillment of this mission entails bringing people into the salary workforce that have never had that opportunity before.
Based on the company’s own numbers, about forty six percent of their workers gained their first salaried employment at the company. Unique about Parker Clay, however, is that it is a company that goes above and beyond to ensure its worker’s are not only living, but thriving as well.
Ian and Brittany have certainly ensured that this mission does not just remain a hollow promise, with their employees earning wages that are eighty-seven percent higher than those of comparable positions in the nation. With their original investment bearing fruition, the couple plan on exponentially increasing their workforce from 150 to 250.