April 14, 2020
Recently, we announced five March Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re delighted to share the $4,000 recipient and the fourth qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.
Congratulations to Vanessa Bouche of Savhera. In our interview, you’ll learn about how Savhera is positively impacting the lives of other women — plus so much more.
VB: Savhera is a premium social impact brand selling organic essential oils to values-driven customers while forging a pathway to economic independence for survivors of human trafficking. In 2017, I sat on the floor of a medical clinic, in the red light district of Delhi when a woman said, “You’re no different than those exploiting us for our bodies. You’re exploiting our stories.” When I asked her what she needed she said, “I need dignified employment to get out of this dirty business.”
While most businesses start because of a market problem, Savhera started because of a social problem: barriers to employment and economic independence for women forced into prostitution.
VB: Savhera’s values are so central to its operations that our employees literally reflect on them daily with our book, Diffusing Dignity: A collection of meditations. Our three core values are dignity, integrity, and excellence. Dignity means “the state of being worthy.” We believe everyone is worthy of honor and respect by virtue of being equal in our humanity. Integrity literally means “wholeness” or “integration.” Integrity is what keeps us accountable to doing what we say and practicing what we preach. We don’t just talk the talk; we walk the walk. Excellence means “rising up.” Whether it’s our employees rising up from their past life, or our constant quest to improve and innovate, at Savhera we rise up.
Not only do we exercise these values in our business systems and processes, but also we live them out as we walk with our employees into this new life. Our employees have endured extreme trauma as survivors of sexual exploitation. Thus, we created a model of human development that addresses the holistic health and wellness of our employees to facilitate individual
empowerment, relational growth, and collective flourishing. Our model, P.I.E.S., is our theory of change by which we assess the impact of Savhera on our employees’ Physical, Intellectual, Economic, and Spiritual growth and development, and the results have been nothing short of remarkable!
VB: Savhera’s P.E.T.A.L.S. Promise is our quality assurance process that differentiates our products from all others on the market. All of our essential oils are USDA certified organic and are third-party tested by an independent lab with test results made publicly available on our website. Our bottles are cobalt blue with white caps, protecting the essential oils from photo damage and extending the shelf life while also symbolizing renewal and healing, which is what Savhera is all about!
Our supply chain supports female artisans. For example, our starter kit boxes are made with handmade paper by women in tribal regions of India, and our ceramic tea lamp diffuser is made by a female artisan who broke through the ceramics glass ceiling. Our line of diffusing jewelry and our starter kit boxes are made with love by our employees in India. Every product and
every bit of packaging is intentional, has meaning, and is carefully curated to maximize the benefits to female artisans, the earth, and our customers in a virtuous cycle of holistic wellness.
VB: We view scaling financially as a means to the end of scaling our social impact, which is more opportunities for economic independence for more survivors of sex trafficking. There are three ways that we plan to grow. The first is simply to grow our sales–both retail and wholesale–and we are actively pushing this strategy in the short term.
Second is to begin co-manufacturing boxes and jewelry with our production team in India. We plan to begin taking orders from other brands interested in employing survivors of human trafficking but who lack the access or ability to travel and train. Our employees are being trained in handmade, eco-friendly packaging and jewelry. We are able to train them in other
skills to grow the types of orders we can take and the number of women that we hire.
Third is to go vertical in our essential oil supply chain by training young women in rural regions of India on farming, harvesting, and distilling crops. This serves as an anti-trafficking prevention program and provides economic opportunities for rural women.
VB: Never, ever, ever give up. You have to believe in yourself and your idea. You will hear more “no’s” than “yes’s”. Not everyone is going to believe in your idea or think it will succeed, but don’t let that stop you or get you down. Stay positive!
Support other women. Our staff is 93% women and our Board of Directors is 80% women. For far too long, men have dominated the board room, c-suite offices, and investments. Women must support one another and raise each
Finally, always stay true to your values, always put people first, and always pay it forward.
VB: Savhera means “new beginning” in Hindi and it was named by our very first employees because it represents a new beginning to experience a dignified life. We currently employ 8 survivors whose lives have been transformed by this company. Every one of our employees in India has gone from living in the brothel to living independently, illiterate to literate, economically dislocated to economically integrated, and emotionally broken to experiencing inner healing and growing in self-knowledge. And the stories of transformation have only just begun! Savhera is creating a virtuous cycle of holistic wellness from the earth to our customers to our employees so that we can all experience new beginnings together!