Kelsey Bock and her husband, Austin, wanted to create an opportunity that brought freedom to others through a retail marketplace. “Business as Missions” is a concept that is becoming more and more common. Young entrepreneurs, like the Bocks, are implementing a sustainable business plan that benefits individuals lacking freedom around the world in all the forms it takes, and allows them to make a decent living at the same time. Business for good.
Western Michigan University
Bound For Freedom is a retail store located in downtown St. Joseph, Michigan where every purchase made directly supports partner organizations delivering freedoms around the world. These include providing sex trafficking survivors safe outlets to work in, giving impoverished communities sustainable jobs or helping build wells and schools in developing nations. Every product sold moves to equip others toward freedom.
Products sold at Bound For Freedom include items such as specialty gifts, coffee/tea, clothing, bags, jewelry, certain food items, home + decor…etc. It is an extremely welcoming atmosphere with an equally welcoming staff.
Owners and founders Kelsey and Austin went to Indiana Wesleyan University and studied business. While there, they were fortunate to meet many organizations and non-profit leaders from around the world who would share their story either in seminars, chapel, or just in the student center.
In addition to learning about issues like slavery, human trafficking, poverty and various injustices occurring across the world, they both had the opportunity to go on several mission trips to countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Colombia and even Germany. Seeing organizations on the front-lines battling challenging social problems made them wonder what they could do at home in the U.S. where most people have no idea what is actually happening in other countries around the world.
Their education, coupled with these experiences, led to their desire to be a marketplace for fair trade and social justice companies to sell their products, make a living, and in turn do their part to help bring people into freedom, whatever that may look like.
Major impacts of the business include creating economic opportunity for individuals in the supply chains of partnering organizations. This occurs through fair pay for those who make the products Bound For Freedom sells. The impacts also include creating safe work environments and providing clean water to areas that lack it. Bound For Freedom's purpose is to positively impact lives by creating different types of freedom.
For example, one product/company they partner is "Mexican Hammocks." It is an authentic Mayan hammock located in southern Mexico that is purchased at a fair trade price. The aim of partner "Mexican Hammocks" is to develop reliable, alternative sources of income in areas of high unemployment and relative poverty. Mayan villagers hand-make these hammocks as their only source of income to provide for their families. When purchasing a hammock, the customer is enhancing a Mayan family's income. This particular product, therefore, fosters economic freedom.
It gets tricky to grow your fair trade business quickly. Unlike traditional retailers who often maximize profit by squeezing suppliers, at whatever cost, fair trade shops like Bound For Freedom work with partners who can ensure that every part of the manufacturing lines are clean and fair. While admittedly the profit margins are not as large as those of other retailers, Kelsey and Austin benefit by applying an ethical mindset to their business. While it is an intangible benefit, purpose is important to them.
Other important business benefits include customer awareness and reputation. Increasingly, this type of thinking and business practice resonates with customers who share similar values with the Bocks. These customers' principles align with those of Bound For Freedom and this can create increased customer loyalty because they want to get behind the same movement.
In addition to supporting freedom for individuals around the world, businesses like Bound For Freedom that pursue an ethical mindset by partnering and supporting fair trade and social justice have an impact on consumers. Through its presence in St. Joseph, the store causes local consumers to ask themselves questions like:
1. "Where is my product is coming from?"
2. "How can I make small changes in my life to help instead of harm?" (even if it’s switching your toothbrush or bath soap to one of our products or a fair trade product)
3. "Maybe it isn't all about me?"
As consumers, companies like Bound For Freedom create a sense of stewardship for our surroundings and environment.
Kelsey Maiko Bock, Owner / Founder
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Saint Joseph, MI, US
Business Website: https://www.boundforfreedom.org
Year Founded: 2012
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
As a business and a movement, Bound For Freedom sells fair trade products and social justice merchandise, all with one purpose in mind -- to combat and raise awareness of global, local and national issues of injustice that plague our world today.