Karyn Puller is the founder of Delicate Fortress Creations, a social enterprise and "shop with purpose" that sells products to help support and employ victims of human trafficking. Instead of just selling one brand, however, Delicate Fortress Creations aggregates products from various entrepreneurs who have started businesses to empower women facing social injustice. In the questions below, Karyn shares more about her business and the story of a simple tag on a bag that led to a Google search that changed her life.
4 Questions with Karyn Puller, founder of Delicate Fortress Creations
1. What made you decide to create a social business?
My background is actually in pediatric occupational therapy. I had started working in that field, but was never content with the choice. When I started having children I decided to stay home with them and just started praying for the future job I would have when they went back to school.
A couple of years ago I received a promotional item when I ordered Christmas presents for my kids and it was a Freeset bag that had a tag on it that said "In business for freedom." It spoke about human trafficking and I had no idea what that or Freeset was, but I knew it was something good. I googled "Freeset" and learned about the incredible ways they were helping women who had been forced into human trafficking live lives of dignity and sustainability, and I was hooked.
2. How did the idea for the business model come about?
I began doing a lot of research to see if there were other companies like Freeset and sure enough, there were. It was difficult to find them all though, and I wished there had been a store I could go to and know I was helping people with every purchase. Simply enough, when I couldn’t find one I decided to start my own. I bought the book "Starting an Online Business for Dummies" and just went at it! We celebrated our two year anniversary this past January.
I am not a business expert, marketing expert or retail expert by any stretch. My ideas for the business have come about while I pray (still!) in the shower. Digital Fortress Creations is a God thing. It is not something that has been created from my skill set at all.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
As time has gone on, my desire to care for these women has only increased. This business has raised compassion for the orphan in me and as I learn about how orphans are so very vulnerable to trafficking, I learn that the root of that vulnerability comes from the fact that their parents simply couldn’t provide for them. Poverty seems to be the driving factor for people who end up in forced prostitution. I am not okay with moms willingly relinquishing their children to an orphanage or a trafficker because they don’t have sustainable employment. I want DFC to help change that.
4. What is your biggest challenge?
One of our biggest operational methods at this point is fundraising. We love hosting fundraisers because it raises awareness of trafficking and extreme poverty to many people who don’t already know about it. It helps provide sustainable employment to our artisans by increasing demand. And it helps us partner with adoptive families, non profits and women’s groups who do so much for orphans all over the world. We operate in the traditional sense as well by keeping our retail outlet online 24/7.
5. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I’m still learning how to reset. This has been challenging in ways I never anticipated and while that is a great way to learn and grow, it also is something to wrestle with. I am not a sales person and feel very uncomfortable asking people to buy things. I do feel comfortable with advocacy though and that is what keeps me going. I know that every single purchase made with us is helping someone and I’m not afraid to ask others to change someone’s life. I believe in that. I believe in opportunity and sustainability and dignity for our artisans, their families and their communities and that’s what keeps this on its feet. It's not about me.
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