Amanda is a survivor of labor-trafficking, a jewelry-designer, an Empowered Woman International entrepreneur graduate, and this is her story…
Every necklace, pair of earrings and bracelet that Amanda advertises in Etsy is accompanied by a story or poem—captions that describe her childhood in Trinidad, her commitment to help victims of abuse, her dreams of a better world.
The caption under a photo of daisy-shaped earrings reads: “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. A poem accompanying a photo of another piece of jewelry starts with: “Life is a gift. Live it and let go of everything negative that holds you back.”
Amanda started marketing her jewelry in Etsy after successfully completing the fall 2012 semester of Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS), a program offered by Empowered Women International (EWI) to help low-income, refuge and immigrant women launch their own business.
She is one of 152 women who’ve overcome major obstacles and enrolled in this program to change the course of their lives. Many now run successful businesses in catering, painting, fashion and jewelry designs, wellness, cleaning and other service businesses.
Amanda survived the underground world of labor trafficking, freeing her from an abuser who treated her like a slave and routinely threatened, blackmailed and isolated her.
Three years ago, Amanda was brought to the US. The abuse continued as she was forced to work without pay, allowed out only to attend classes to earn a GED. After showing up to many study sessions wearing scarves and layers to cover up bruises, program staff suspected she was being abused. They urged her to leave her abuser and go into a shelter for safety.
At the shelter, Amanda told her story and felt free for the first time. Within a few months, she contacted FAIR Girls, an organization that strives to help keep young adults safe from human trafficking. She enrolled in Jewel Girls, a program that offers classes in financial management and jewelry-making, and was determined to become more independent.
“I decided that maybe I can make my very own jewelry and name the jewelry to speak on the behalf of someone who is being human trafficked or is at high risk of being exploited,” she said.
She wanted to start a jewelry business—but didn’t know how. She searched for programs that would teach her business skills and stumbled upon Empowered Women International (EWI). Eager to forge ahead, Amanda enrolled in the Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS). Within three months, she learned to develop a business plan, market her services, get loans and do budgets.
Studying with women eager to leave their destitute past behind, Amanda felt inspired. Her confidence grew as she formed a strong bond with Joanne Clark, the mentor EWI matched her up with at the start of the program. The two met for dinner, naturally connected, went to jewelry-making classes and attended bead shows. “Joanne is very helpful to me both in my business and personally,” Amanda says. “She helps me to uncover and develop the “diamonds” within me. She thinks that my jewelry designs are challenging her to become more creative.”
Amanda graduated from ETS in 2012. A few months later, she served as Keynote Speaker at the ETS Spring 2013 Graduation. She is now enrolled in EWI’s new program, Grow My Business (GMB), and in art education workshops.
When she looks in the mirror every morning, Amanda says she still sees her scars, remnants from her past, but “as a young black woman who has survived many challenges,” she professes, “I am particularly determined to accomplish my life goals.”
Amanda has transformed herself from feeling helpless to being empowered.
Amanda is an EWI Member Entrepreneur, a Survivor Advocate and Mentor at FAIR Girls; she plans to officially launch her business Amanda’s Jewelry Corner. And you can currently find and purchase her jewelry here.