Makers Story: She Sells Sanctuary
Introducing Shelley of She Sells Sanctuary! Shelley started this business after falling in love with the people of Nepal, and working to improve their lives, supporting local artisans. Keep scrolling to learn more!
What was the inspiration behind She Sells Sanctuary?
In October of 2005 I set out solo for a 5 month backpacking trip across South East Asia. For the last month I travelled to Nepal and bang! - I was home. I knew it was a place that I wanted to return to again and again. For the first few years I volunteered and taught English at a couple of schools but I soon wanted to do something more, something to help to create jobs and improve the lives of women and families. I started to research local fair trade and socially ethical groups such as The Women's Foundation of Nepal and the Association of Craft Producers and Women's Skills Development Org - and in 2014 She Sells Sanctuary was born.
You work with fair trade Nepalese organizations to sell handicrafts. Why did you choose felt ornaments?
I always try to make purchases based on what items I think are among the highest quality in the world. Felt, along with hand loomed textiles, metal and silversmithing is such an old world artistry that is both tedious and challenging requiring great patience and deft skill. Nepalese felting craftsmanship is nothing less than extraordinary and based on feedback at my markets my customers agree!
What is your favourite outcome that came from starting your business?
I think the outcome has been two fold. First, I had no business background so in the beginning I had serious doubts that I had the smarts to figure out how to thrive enough to make it a full time job. Second, I travel to Nepal each year for 3 months so I have the opportunity to meet the artisans and learn about their lives and needs. Seeing first hand the difference that I can make by providing a steady income for artisans has been very fulfilling.
Why is supporting the welfare of women and girls important to you?
Nepal is very much a third world country with no labour laws and very little job opportunities in general. Most families have 1 or 2 young men away seeking work in India, Qatar or Saudi Arabia. Jobs for women are few and far between and those that do exist pay very little for long hours of toil. Supporting women directly impacts children as it allows for school fees to be paid and for the next generation to get an education. Want to support a local community in a meaningful way? Provide a girl or woman with a sustainable and fair income - and in one generation the cycle of poverty can be stopped.
What's next on the horizon for She Sells Sanctuary?
I am looking forward to my next trip to Nepal in January 2023! I quit my job as a nanny in late 2019 to focus on my business full time and recently I invested in renting a large part of a wonderful new store called Ethical Local Market at 1628 Queen Street East with a focus on echo, local handcrafted and fair trade sellers. I still sell at artisan markets but having a storefront brick and mortar base has allowed me to expand my reach for which I feel blessed and deeply grateful.