MEET THE MAKER | THE LOYAL WORKSHOP
Who is behind The Loyal Workshop?
New Zealand Founders, Paul and Sarah Beisly were introduced to the idea of business as a tool for freedom during a trip to Kolkata in 2002. They spent 2010 learning Bangla, the local language, one of many steps they have taken on their journey. In 2011 they launched their little family into the madness of Kolkata and dreamt of a business that could provide an opportunity for freedom to victims of trafficking and forced sex work.
Starting a business like this one isn’t without serious challenges, but the dream of freedom for women trapped in the sex trade was worth pursuing. In May 2014 the workshop opened.
Where is The Loyal Workshop based?
We are smack-dab in the middle of bustling Kolkata, in an area called Bowbazar. Our workshop is perched on the edge of the second largest red-light area in Kolkata, where an estimated 1500-2000 women are still trapped in the sex trade.
What makes The Loyal Workshop an ethical, freedom business?
We exist to bring freedom, dignity and restoration to women enslaved in the sex industry through holistic care and by creating a working community that crafts high quality, eco-friendly, leather goods.
In 2019 we became members of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). This means our practices are externally audited and approved by the WFTO community. We work hard to uphold the following Fair Trade Principles
As well as special emphasis on the following areas:
Exit Support- Becoming free from slavery is a complex journey. We take a holistic approach of supporting her as she fights for her freedom. Our support includes: Informal counselling, group therapy, legal advice, debt reconsolidating, spiritual formation, budgeting support, addiction support and regular health checkups.
Education- Educating women is the future of development. We provide 6 months of maths, English and Bangla classes. We also work with our artisans to ensure their children are going to and staying in school.
100% of Profits Reinvested- All profits are reinvested back into the business and the community to enable us to offer freedom to more women.
What makes The Loyal Workshop leather different?
The supply chain is another area where The Loyal Workshop are approved by the WFTO. Leather tanneries are a major global polluter. Many tanneries dump chemicals and employ child labour. As an ethical business we didn’t think we had a future with leather goods. Until we discovered an Eco-Friendly Fair-Trade tanner right here in Kolkata.
Sheong Shi Tannery is led by revolutionary tanner Patrick Lee. He developed a secret natural recipe (approved by the Fair Trade Association) replacing the harmful chromium’s usually used in the tanning process. Patrick was among the first tanners to move into the government regulated tanning complex with a centralised effluent system. He also collects rain water to reduce his water use and refuses to employ anyone under 18. Patrick has helped us get our business off the ground, by developing a unique, ethical, full-grain veg-tanned eco leather just for us.
Who are the artisans behind The Loyal Workshop products?
Our seventeen artisans are women from backgrounds of poverty, each with their own story of trauma and oppression: sold, stolen, trafficked and forced against their will into the sex trade. Without prospect of finding alternative employment, they were trapped.
Now they have chosen to come and work alongside us at the workshop! These are women with dreams, talents and larger than life personalities. Each a gem in her own way, we are privileged to spend our days with these courageous women. Open up your satchel or bag to find the name of the woman who made your bag. You can find it on the inside pocket, etched in English with her own signature in Bangla or Hindi underneath.
Today there are an estimated 27 million people trapped in modern-day slavery. Purchasing The Loyal Workshop products directly helps towards this injustice. Shop the products here. One woman made your satchel from start to finish. She is real and her struggle for freedom is significant. Read her name on the inside pocket. Tell her story to your friends and family.