When we take a human-centered approach to making, we embrace our place in human history, learn from the tradition, and honor it in a way that makes sense for our communities, today. Maker Heidi Ledger of Thread Spun, a San Diego based textile and home goods company, creates fair wages and opportunity for local refugees. She believes in using purchasing power for ‘good’, to create jobs, empower artisans, preserve unique cultures, all while protecting our earth. Read on to find out about how Heidi chose a social enterprise model for her business and how it directly impacts local refugees.
Here at The Ecology Center, we are inspired by nature’s perfect design – where there is no waste, and everything is regenerative. As we set out to model what our ideal looks like, we’ve identified the importance of taking a human-centered approach. This is one of the founding principles of Handmade and one solution for regenerative/sustainable production. Can you speak to this point as a surfboard bag designer? What made you choose a social enterprise model for your business over a more profit-driven approach? And who does it support specifically?
Heidi Ledger of Thread Spun: I came up for the idea behind Thread Spun when I was working for a local San Diego refugee resettlement agency in social services provision. Through my work, I helped refugees from around the world to rebuild their lives in San Diego County, and a very large piece of that was helping people to secure employment. Refugees experience both traditional and non-traditional barriers to employment, and the result is that many people have valuable skill sets that are unused, or that they end up in low-wage jobs with little potential for growth. After years of witnessing many people, especially women, fail to become and/or stay employed, I became determined to try to be (even a very small) part of the solution.
The purpose of the business has always been to create fair wages and opportunity for refugees and other vulnerable population groups around the world. The local piece is obviously employing individuals who have been resettled. We currently create above living wages for three women originally from Afghanistan now settled in San Diego. On a global level, we utilize fair trade and handmade textiles from around the world that create fair wages. We have five cooperative partners in developing countries including Burma, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mexico and Guatemala, whose members hand-weave and naturally-dyed all of our textiles. We also give 25% of all of our profits to our charitable partner, Circle of Health International, a 501(c)(3) organization providing disaster relief, healthcare training to health and social service workers, and supplies to women and children in crisis situations around the world.
We seek to be intentional in utilizing environmentally-conscious materials and methods whenever possible. I am constantly thinking about how to create beautiful goods that offer opportunity without harming people or planet. When you study the history of human development and progress, advances often come at the expense of one or the other, and it doesn’t need to be that way.
Visit https://www.threadspun.co/ for more information and to shop Thread Spun goods.