Inspiration With Action: Behind the Scenes with The Empowerment Bag Founder- Vaishali

I’ve always been a strong believer in spiritual connection. There have been several amazing people I have come across during the Sisterhood Shopping journey, that I have been able to share a deep closeness with, sharing the same fundamental values, beliefs, life goals and dreams. Vaishali from The Empowerment Bag is one of these incredible humans. We have only been able to meet via social media, but I was instantly in awe of this special woman’s ability to find her passion and take action on those passions at such a young age….yeaaaaa…my 20’s weren’t exactly about changing the world but more the reason I am so inspired by this special person!

Vaishali is the Founder and Owner of The Empowerment Bag. She took her passion to stop human trafficking and sustainability, and put action behind her passion-creating these beautiful affordable/sustainable and ethically made cross-body bags. Incredible, right?! Well, even crazier…Vaishali founded and led an anti-human trafficking task force and was awarded a scholarship to work with the Cook County Adult Probation Sex Offender Unit and Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation all before the age of 18! Needless to say, I had to learn more about this incredible woman. We went back and forth on Instagram, and I am SO EXCITED to share her incredible story with you!

“Inspiration is Good, But Inspiration With Action Is So Much Better”-Chris Guillebeau

(SS): Vaishali, the work you have done with The Empowerment Bag is incredible and the bags look great! Can you tell me a little more about the mission behind The Empowerment Bag?

(V): The Empowerment Bag aims to provide financial independence and safety to survivors of sex trafficking through the sale of practical and eco-friendly lifestyle bags.

All our bags are made by women at risk of exploitation in West Bengal, India. These women are given an alternative to the sex trade through literacy training, sewing skills, and employment with fair wages. 5% of sales goes back to a nonprofit in the same community that provides shelter, education, and healthcare to trafficked women and their children. Our bags are made from recyclable jute or organic cotton. They are also created using only water-based inks, avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals and dyes.

(SS): That’s amazing! Personally, I have been witness to the power of offering a financially secure alternative to at-risk women. How and why did you start The Empowerment Bag where you did and with the women you work with?

(V): I started working at an industrial supply company right after college. I was feeling unfulfilled in my career and knew I had to create a larger, better social impact. Always a self-starter, I wanted to launch my own social good business to fight trafficking and exploitation. This was because I had spent a lot of time in high school and college involved in anti-human trafficking efforts. I had organized film screenings, brought speakers to campus, and campaigned for anti-trafficking legislation. The Empowerment Bag is my way of bringing together my passion for anti-trafficking work and social entrepreneurship.

When I couldn’t find a line of practical, ethically-made, and environmentally-friendly bags to keep up with my busy lifestyle, I decided to create The Empowerment Bag.

(SS): Many times we don’t realize that social entrepreneurship is a gift that can change the lives of so many. The fact that you realized this so young is incredible, but what motivates you to continue the mission despite challenges that come up along the way?

(V): I know that each and every sale we make helps provide financial independence and safety to an exploited woman- that keeps me going! Our partner facility in India employs over 200 at-risk women. Some of them have never had a shot at fair, healthy, and safe employment before. I know so many stories of women who bought their first water filters, signed their names on their first official paychecks, or saved up money to put their kids through college. These women are so hard-working. When they succeed, they share their rewards with their children and communities. This is what motivates me to keep growing The Empowerment Bag. I know this work can transform entire communities for the better!

(SS): Girl, I hear you! There is something to be said about putting economical sustainability in the hands of women (insert flex emoji)! What are three pieces of advice that you would give other young girls or women contemplating a change towards social entrepreneurship?

(V):

1. Always be doing. Don’t ever become stagnant. Keep finding and pursuing your passions. For me, that comes from reading books, watching documentaries, and networking with inspirational women. Do whatever you need to do to keep moving forward. Even when you’re unsure of your path or next steps, take a new class or read educational articles. You’ll always feel good about yourself if you keep doing something.

2. Work smarter, not harder! It’s good to be a hard-worker, but don’t be stupid about it. Quantity doesn’t always produce quality. Do all your tasks as efficiently as possible. Use resources like Fiverr and Upwork to outsource the work you’re not good at or don’t like. Focus on your strengths and get help with your weaknesses. This way, you can spend more time on the stuff you really enjoy in your work.

3. Find and maintain balance. I wish I knew the importance of this earlier. I am still struggling today to find balance, but I have gotten a lot better! Doing work you love is SO important but so is eating healthy, exercising consistently, sleeping enough, and not developing bad habits like drinking alcohol or smoking. You can’t be perfect, but try to do well in all aspects of your life. And yes, this also means breathing and loving yourself!

(SS): Okay, you just made me take out an extra notebook and take notes. Thank you for your incredible and powerful advice. You are an absolute inspiration! Is there someone in your life that inspired you to get to this point?

(V): I am constantly inspired! I feel like I find new inspirations every day. My mom has inspired me since the start- she is very talented and has so many side hustles. My fiancé is also a hard-working side hustler, and I love talking to him about business. Some others that inspire me right now are Kyle Bergman of Swoveralls, Hannah Davis of BANGS Shoes, and Ellen Marie Bennett of Hedley & Bennett.

WOW, thank you so much Vaishali! I am a better person because you thought to reach out on Social Media. The inspirational power of connection is the foundation of this interview and the ability to put your passions to action is the message. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

To learn more about Vaishali and order your very own Empowerment Bag, CLICK HERE.

Paola Berisso