Taking Advantage

In the past several years, as I have had the opportunity to spend time with dozens of survivors of sex trafficking in a number of countries, I’ve heard story upon story of how these women were taken advantage of.

False promises. Underage girls. Deceitful relatives. Fake friends. Bad business dealings. It is tragic to hear the stories of someone in trust taking advantage of another. Yet it happens all the time.

But not all advantage is evil. Each of us takes advantages of opportunities as they come along. We use our advantages and mitigate our weaknesses. We press our advantage when in a competition. Advantage isn’t always a bad thing.

At Free The Girls, we try and give the women we work with as much advantage as possible. One of the opportunities that I have as Global Director of Free The Girls is to think through the competitive advantage we can give our beneficiaries in the marketplace. I closely monitor the market for second-hand bras in all of the locations where we work so we can do our best to respond to market conditions in the favor of the women with whom we work. In short, we do our best to give them an advantage. More specifically we sell bras to the women we work with at a little below the local wholesale price.

This allows our ladies to sell more, sell faster, and even offload bad inventory more quickly than others. Some of our ladies sell in bulk. Others have employees. All of them take advantage of their new advantage.

I’d like to encourage you to do the same. Take advantage of what you have been given. You know about trafficking. You can help do something about it. Raise funds. Raise awareness. Collect bras. Volunteer your time. Do something. Take advantage of what you know. You can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

Blog courtesy of Dave Terpstra, co-founder and Global Director of Free The Girls

3 Comments

  • lucietaylor | January 16, 2014

    You SELL the bras that we donate to the women? I’m shocked by that. I believed that my donation was going to be given to them for free. Why would you sell them to the women, be it for “little bellow market value”?

  • Melissa Watson | January 16, 2014

    Hi Lucie, thanks for your question. Our program mission seeks to provide job opportunities to women rescued from sex trafficking by helping them set up micro enterprises selling bras in the second hand clothing markets. Women receive the initial inventory of bras for free, including bras for their own use. By selling them additional inventory for their stores below market value, we give them a competitive advantage over other sellers and we allow the program to be self sustaining in terms of paying customs and import fees charged by the foreign countries to import the huge container loads of bras. Bras donated by generous supporters like you!

  • dave@freethegirls.org | January 16, 2014

    Hi Lucie, thanks for the question. It’s one that many people wonder about but begins to make more sense as you unpack the long-term consequences of giving away the bras for free. We sell the bras to the women we work with because we think our program would fail if we gave them away for free.

    First, we would destroy the local market for bras. If we gave away all of the bras for free, the women in our program would be inclined to sell the bras for very low prices so they could move them quickly. That would drive down the price of bras everywhere and make the bras that have been donated LESS valuable. The cycle would end with bras becoming nearly worthless. Because we charge for the bras, the women in the program are able to be competitive, but the market for second-hand bras is sustained.

    The second reason we charge for the bras is that we are training the women we work with to operate a business. We have witnessed a significant amount of dependency that is created by people who have given away products in the past. The beneficiaries of the free goods often times have difficulty transitioning to the marketplace because they are addicted to free handouts. We can’t help them learn to run a business or work for someone else one day when they are trained under conditions that are unnatural. Our job is to help them transition back to the marketplace.

    We really believe in the model we are using and have found a great amount of success so far. The ladies in our program are becoming great businesswomen!

    (p.s. I edited the post so it now says “a little below the local wholesale price” not “a little below market value”.)

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