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Meet Michelle Chavez and Fay Grant of The Tote Project in Westwood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Chavez and Fay Grant.

Michelle and Fay, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The Tote Project started out as a shared dream between two best friends. We were both passionate about ending modern day slavery, but our careers didn’t leave much time for volunteering. Eventually, Fay took the leap and quit her job to pursue making an impact. She began sewing patchwork bags out of vintage fabric and donating the proceeds and from that, she got the idea to mass produce tote bags in order to raise donations at a faster pace. Rather than create another non-profit, the goal was to start a business that would support our cause. We got started with an Indiegogo campaign in 2014 and raised enough funding to launch the company. In the past four years, we’ve grown so much, and it’s been a blessing to see our company (that was once just a thrilling idea!) make a difference in the lives of women around the world.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting a business is never a smooth process, but we enjoy each step of the journey. Our biggest challenge so far is manufacturing with artisan groups outside of the U.S. Since we are on opposite time zones with different holiday schedules, we have to be very strategic about our communication with our artisan partners. So far, there hasn’t been any hurdle that we haven’t been able to overcome with a little teamwork and support from our encouraging network. Knowing that we are making a positive impact makes the extra effort worth it.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Tote Project – what should we know?
We sell ethically made accessories featuring original artwork that promotes hope for human trafficking survivors. Our tagline is “Hold On To Hope” because when you carry our bags, you carry a reminder that survivors of modern-day slavery can overcome their pasts and lead joyful lives. We are proud of our business model because we’ve found a way to fight modern-day slavery through each part of our company. We curb the demand for slave-made goods by building supply chains that are good for people and the planet, we donate 10% of our gross profits to help trafficking survivors in Los Angeles pursue their dream jobs, and we empower our customers to make a difference by teaching them how to get involved in the movement and respond to victims. Our products make a big impact while remaining affordable for the average US consumer, and that sets us apart from other companies.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
We measure our success by the size of our impact. We believe that a profitable company is only successful when you can see firsthand that lives are being changed. As two best friends, we support and inspire each other to maintain our hopeful perspective and we never lose sight of why we started The Tote Project. Our success lies in stories of freedom — in the changed lives and new beginnings.

Pricing:

  • Tote bags – $29.99
  • Pouches – $20.75

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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