In our third week of celebrating Women’s History Month, and we’re happy to introduce Amanda Armstrong, the founder of Beautifully Made Fair Trade. She brings the joy of Haitian artistry beyond the island and into our homes! Inspired by Haitian artisans while working elsewhere in Haiti, her dedication to fair trade has blossomed beyond imagination!
What inspired the start of Beautifully Made?
Our family moved to Haiti back in 2010 and lived there for 3 years. My role was to oversee a children’s home and make sure everything was running smoothly. Along our journey, I came across artisans handcrafting metal from a 55 gallon steel drum. I was so impressed with the creativity and time that went into every piece. I loved the fact that I could help create jobs and empower them through their craftsmanship. After being around poverty each and every day, I wanted to help in creating change. This was one small way to help. I have an interior design degree so my brain started rolling. Twelve years later, I’m still creating designs alongside our artisans in Haiti. We have slowly expanded into India and Kenya.
How is Beautifully Made organized and how many artisan groups do you currently partner with?
Our artisans in Haiti have small individual shops (like 8 x 10 spaces or so). These shops are all located in one small village. Each artisan displays their product on the walls in their shop. They handcraft each piece outside on the dirt ground. We work with ten different artisans in this village. Each artisan has a group that works under them. Our artisans in Kenya have a workshop that has 20 artisans. Our one artisan in India creates his products from his home.
I also oversee a children’s home in Haiti. Each purchase of our products supports our 24 kids. Our kids were once “restavek” (child slave) and living in extreme poverty. The home was opened in 2014 and called Freedom House Haiti. www.freedomhousehaiti.com
We know that every business had to pivot during the pandemic. How has COVID impacted the way the artisans work and/or how you work with them?
COVID was extremely hard. Not being able to travel and meet with our artisans [in Haiti] makes it super tough. Honestly, the unrest in the country right now makes it feel the same way. We are unable to travel to Haiti and the working environments are unsafe due to gangs. We have learned how to adjust by planning in advance on our products due to traveling. Technology has helped us stay connected.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Innovation and technology for gender equality.” How do you use technology to benefit the business and the artisans’ lives?
Technology has been a huge factor for helping us stay connected with our artisans when we are unable to travel and meet with them. Our artisans will find design ideas on the internet to help them create new designs. When we ask our artisans to create custom pieces, I will send over digital designs through apps we share.
What is your personal favorite product and why?
I personally love our steel drum products (the story behind it). We are taking something that is overlooked or unseen and creating something “beautifully made.”
When women work, the impact of the investment is greatly multiplied. What benefits or positive changes have you seen in the communities where the artisans work and live?
We love empowering women to help provide for their families. We see so many children in children’s homes around the world when we travel (I oversee one). When women have consistent work, they are able to provide for their kids and never have to worry about giving them up. This is such a common thing we see all the time.
We love your commitment to empowering others. What advice would you give to women and girls who are interested in getting involved in causes they are passionate about?
Don’t say to yourself, “I’m only one person… I can’t do much”! We are created to love and to serve others (in small and big ways). Our family saying in our home is, “Blessed to be a blessing.”
What woman in your life has had the biggest impact on you personally?
My mother because she raised my sister and I on her own. I felt heard, seen, safe and loved. Even though my father wasn’t around, I had the perfect childhood because of her. She taught me how to love.