Perspectives: Rhonda LaBatt of Redemption Market
With a background in teaching and Latin American studies, this mom of three launched an ethical fashion business to combat sex trafficking around the world.
Rhonda LaBatt’s online boutique, Redemption Market, sells fair trade gifts and high-quality, fashionable products with a focus on sustainability and ethical treatment of designers, artisans and their local communities. In partnership with change-making organizations around the United States and the globe, Redemption Market works to restore opportunity for women escaping sex trafficking, helps build schools in developing countries, and provides counseling and other vital services to victims of trauma.
You have a unique philosophy that drives Redemption Market. Tell us about that. What is your mission and how are you working to affect positive change?
Redemption Market is an ethical fashion boutique where every purchase supports a cause. We offer stunning handbags, jewelry and home decor that is both fashion-forward and affordable. We are in partnership with established social justice groups that make life better around the world, and our main focus is working with women rescued from trafficking. We all want to buy meaningful products, so why not help someone out at the same time? It’s such a winning combination. Our boutique is available online, and also at local pop-up venues in the Phoenix area.
One of the most beautiful aspects for me as a female entrepreneur (and mom) is to see my three teenage daughters not only support me in the business, but also witnessing the change in their perspectives about the power and dignity of women in general. They have now grown to be advocates for anti-trafficking efforts, sustainability issues and ethics in fashion. This came about as an unexpected byproduct of them just helping out with the markets, and observing my own journey as a first-time business owner.
Let’s talk a little bit about that journey. How did you come to work in ethical, purpose-driven retail?
I started Redemption Market in 2014 in response to a plea from a group of women in Cambodia, who, having been rescued from sex trafficking, were now looking for a place to sell the handbags they made in their rehabilitation program. Interestingly enough, my plan wasn’t to begin a business, but to just follow the leading of my heart to make a difference where I could.
Those initial products were so easy to sell, and there was such a distinct connection between the consumer and the artisan. We knew the names and faces of the actual women in Cambodia who were being impacted for good. I was deeply moved, and realized this could be a meaningful and successful venture. Not only that, it was something I could do as an individual woman, working from home, with the support of family and friends.
Redemption Market has now grown to work with more than 15 distinct groups, but in every case, there is a situation of great darkness or sadness, whether it be trafficking, modern-day slavery, dirty water or poverty. Our goal is to take what was intended for evil and turn it around for good. “Redemption” Market is the place where the sadness is redeemed for happiness and the darkness redeemed for light.
Thank you for sharing that. I’d like to dive in a bit to your entrepreneurial experience. As a business leader, what would you say used to be your biggest weakness? And, how did you improve upon it?
Comparison. Isn’t that the perennial struggle of women everywhere? Especially now in the world of social media, it’s so easy to look at someone else’s business/Instagram feed/outfit of the day/website and just feel…lacking. One day I realized I was still trying to get in the “popular girls’ club” on social media, and I really had to stop and analyze my motives. I built Redemption Market in an effort to reach out to women trapped in slavery, and here I was trying to see how many likes and followers I could amass.
I made the decision to continually come back to the reason behind everything I do, and have to continually remind myself to “keep my eyes on my own paper,” not paying attention to what others are doing, but only what I can accomplish with the resources that I have. There’s so much freedom in that.
Returning to the work behind Redemption Market, what are 3 things you want every woman here in the U.S. to know about your cause?
The cheap fashion we are accustomed to buying actually comes at a very heavy price in terms of slave labor and the environment. Real humans with hopes and dreams are at the other end of the products we buy.
Ethical choices can be both fashionable and affordable. It is easier to make a difference than you think! Don’t just give up because you think the world’s issues are so big. Little changes and choices really add up. If we all do something, lives can definitely be impacted for good.
I started my business alone as a woman and as a mom of teenagers. I want to encourage other women and other moms not to fear being entrepreneurs or small business owners! Take one step at a time, and before you know it, you will have an amazing business that impacts others.
I appreciate this reminder, that’s for sure! Finally, how can RUBY readers stay connected with Redemption Market?
Redemption Market is easy to find online at redemptionmarket.com. There are always new products arriving, and you can feel good knowing that lives are being changed with every purchase. Readers of RUBY can take 25 percent off their first purchase with code RUBY25!
Katarina Kovacevic is founder and editor of RUBY. Follow her on Instagram @Little_K_Kata.