Episode 52: Making an Impact with the Right Business Model

Episode 52: Making an Impact with the Right Business Model

How Dawn Manske turned a cause she's passionate about into a business that helps survivors of human trafficking find and retain dignified employment.


Dawn Manske started Made for Freedom when she saw a way to provide survivors of human trafficking with a way to make a living wage in a safe environment. After piecing together examples from other businesses with a similar mission, she created a business model that optimizes Made for Freedom’s opportunity for impact. In this episode, learn how Dawn developed her model and how her use of personalized communication ties into it.
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Chris Davis: Welcome to another episode of the ActiveCampaign podcast. Today’s guest is Dawn [00:00:30] Manske of madeforfreedom.com where she specializes, her business revolves around a true impact. It’s not measured in dollars, it’s measured by the impact that she makes in the lives of those who are disenfranchised or victims of human trafficking in any capacity. I have Dawn on today to talk about her creative approach in establishing a business model [00:01:00] by piecemealing, kind of Frankensteining other things, other models that she had saw work and how she’s using ActiveCampaign as a connector. As a means of keeping everybody informed which bring to light another perspective on the effectiveness or how you can measure the effectiveness of email and communication and personal touch when using ActiveCampaign or in your business. Hope you enjoy the episode.
Dawn, welcome to the [00:01:30] podcast. I am so excited to have you on. Partly because well selfishly because Dawn you’re one of the rare people I get to meet in person. You came to the office. I got to see your face. We exchanged hugs. And when you left, Tia was telling me about your business and I was like, oh my goodness. This would be perfect for the podcast. Give people insight on different types of businesses that are using [00:02:00] ActiveCampaign in different capacities. So Dawn, how are you doing?
Dawn Manske: I am doing really well Chris. Thank you so much for having me.
Chris Davis: Yes.
Dawn Manske: It’s fun to see you even if it’s virtual.
Chris Davis: Always fun, right?
Dawn Manske: Always fun.
Chris Davis: Always. Give us a little bit of background about you before we jump into the business. What is the business?
Dawn Manske: The business is Made for Freedom.
Chris Davis: Made for Freedom.
Dawn Manske: What we do is we partner with centers around the world that provide dignified employment for survivors of sex [00:02:30] trafficking and marginalized situations.
Chris Davis: Okay, great. We’re going to jump into that. If you’ve never heard the term dignified employment, guess what? By the end of this podcast you’ll be well versed in not only the term but what it is, what involves. What’s involved with it. Tell us a little bit about your background Dawn.
Dawn Manske: You know, I grew up in the Midwest, I’m a St. Louis girl. I would like to say I’m a St. Louis girl but in reality I’ve spent about as much of my adult life [00:03:00] overseas as I have in St. Louis. I lived in China for 10 years and I think that was really kind of my introduction to what is happening in our world with trafficking and at the time it wasn’t called trafficking but it was these kids that I met that were brought in and they were basically deceived by people they knew to go from rural areas, rural villages into the big city to get a good job [00:03:30] and to get an education and they were coming from poor families that couldn’t afford to feed them anyway. It looked like a good deal. These kids were brought to the big city and then they really were basically used as slave labor and they went out on the streets and they begged all night and the bosses kept all the money and they slept 20 kids in a little apartment and the girls were usually taken advantage of and they just …
I knew kids [00:04:00] in this situation and a friend of mine started a school for them. I kind of saw that but then when I came back to the United States I actually saw a video, I was at seminary in St. Louis and they had a presentation and it was a video of an undercover reporter that went into Cambodia asking around for the youngest girls he could find. And they brought in an assortment of girls and they looked like they aged in range from seven [00:04:30] to 13. And it just ripped my heart out. And I thought, “What is it, how is it possible that in our world we have little girls growing up like this that we have men that want this and we have men and women that are forcing little girls to do this?” It kind of, it really just weighed on me for several years.
Fast forward a little bit. I [00:05:00] ended up at a dinner with this incredibly handsome young man and he remembered me and I said, “Hey, how you doing?” And we got married.
Chris Davis: There it is. Happily ever after. Just that easy.
Dawn Manske: He said, “Dawn, you’re back from China.” And I looked at him and I thought, “I have no idea who you are.” But anyway, he was really nice and we got married. At our wedding, he got me a pair of sandals that I hinted really [00:05:30] well that I wanted. Those really helped me understand social enterprise and how to use business in such a way that you help people because they were made by women in Uganda that desperately needed the income from making the shoes to further their education.
Chris Davis: Wow.
Dawn Manske: I got these shoes as a wedding gift from my sweet husband and I got another gift from a friend who was a bridesmaid but she came from Thailand [00:06:00] and I had visited Thailand and gotten a pair of pants that I loved and I couldn’t find them in the United States and when she was coming for the wedding I said, “Please bring me these pants.” So she brought some of the pants and I started getting compliments about these pants all over the place. It was kind of this, it was the compliments. Seriously Chris, a TSA agent commented on my pants. When was the last time a TSA agent like said, “Hey I like your pants.”
Chris Davis: Right, right.
Dawn Manske: [00:06:30] A flight attendant and a women chased me through a parking lot to ask me about these pants. I’m like this is crazy. The desire to do something, the understanding of social enterprise and just the craziness around these pants I thought, could these pants be the foundation of a business that could help people? That was kind of the beginning of Made for Freedom.
Chris Davis: That’s so good because I feel like most [00:07:00] people who are not in business just to make a dollar. There are some people who are born into business, some people who just are, they have a network to where they could just leverage their connections and make money, money, money. What we’re seeing more of now in society are these businesses that are built on passion. Built on something that really drives you because it works well. In the state of the internet now, people want to connect with you. No longer [00:07:30] are you, when I was growing up you had the Best Buys, the Targets. You weren’t talking to anybody ever unless it was a cashier or a manager in the store. And the emails that you got from them were very canned, very, hey this percent off today. Nothing was personalized and now it’s different. People go to social media to voice their issues, their rants, their raves. Everything is so easily available and [00:08:00] sharable that people now they want to know. Like hey, what’s your driver? Why are you doing this?
And this actually makes, I don’t want to jump ahead, but this is a good point to differentiate from you is how some people say, “Hey I’m going to support disenfranchised people by giving a certain percentage here or you get a t-shirt every time we get a new client in.” We’ll talk about that in a minute but I really like [00:08:30] the fact that it’s something that you introspectively were aware of. Like, hey, wait a minute. I think if a lot of us slow down at times, I think I see a lot of people try to force business. They want business to work a certain way. Or they want it be a certain thing and they neglect their entire previous experience and you have that experience for a reason. You may not be the CEO but you’re going to use it in some magnitude. If you could just [00:09:00] think a little creatively and understand different models. Which your business model is very different. Tell us a little bit about your model.
Dawn Manske: We are in some sense, we are apparel and accessories and we have an eCommerce store online but we’re not your typical eCommerce fashion store. We obviously have this incredible [00:09:30] mission and when I talk to my team about how we’re doing. When we had our year end meeting for 2017, it was, okay, here are our sales but what that means is we generated this many hours of dignified employment. Because we’re not, our goal is to increase hours of dignified employment. The way we doing that is by selling the products that these women make. [00:10:00] And I think one of the biggest things that makes us different as far as fashion and ’cause you’re seeing so many of these cause related businesses and there are some really incredible businesses that are giving back significant amount of money but you also have, so here’s an example.
I like pink. [00:10:30] I like scarves. I was given a catalog and the woman was a friend of mine, her daughter died from breast cancer. So of course I’ve got this connection with this woman and there’s a pink scarf. I’m like okay, it’s more than I would normally spend on a scarf but I like pink, I like scarves and all over this magazine it’s talking about how a portion of the funds gives back to research to fight cancer. [00:11:00] I’m thinking, oh my gosh this is great. Later, after I order it and before it arrives, I read the fine print and it says, “.05% of the sale goes to research.”
And I was livid. I was like, are you kidding me? The more I know about the apparel industry, the more I understand, they very easily could have, and probably did go [00:11:30] to some sweat shop in Bangladesh or in India and pay poverty wages, get a really, really inexpensive scarf and they tacked on this huge price tag. Above what you’d typically pay for a scarf and they said, “Oh we’re giving back.” So it was like this give back model is really, it can be very helpful to people. But these [00:12:00] attempts to use it as a marketing ploy is making consumers more intelligent. And consumers are asking better questions which is great.
Chris Davis: Yeah, so you saw a broken model in the give back model and said, “You know what? I could sit up here, complain about it, talk bad about it, write a blog post about it.” But instead you kind of flipped the model. Before we talk about how you flipped it, just for those listening who haven’t heard the term, what is dignified employment?
Dawn Manske: Dignified employment [00:12:30] is kind of a term that we coined. A lot of when I was putting together the business plan and competing for grants and things, a coach of mine kept talking about living wage. Living wages there’s all sorts of levels of wages and there’s minimum wage, there’s living wage, there’s fair wage, there’s prosperity wage. There’s all sorts of definitions that can go around that but living wage [00:13:00] means you can live on what you make. As most of us know, you work 40 hours a week on minimum wage, you’re still living in poverty. That’s just the way it is. Living wage is above minimum wage. But the more I thought about it I was like, it’s not just about a wage. I can go out and be a pimp and pimp girls out and get better than living wage. But there’s no dignity there. There is nothing [00:13:30] with integrity about that.
And so rather than focusing on the amount of money, I went with a larger term that talks about the amount of money plus the dignity that comes with supporting yourself and working in safe place. When I define dignified employment I say it’s a safe place, a good wage and the dignity that comes with supporting yourself.
Chris Davis: So you partner with centers that provide that.
Dawn Manske: [00:14:00] Yes.
Chris Davis: For disenfranchised, is it strictly women? What is your audience?
Dawn Manske: We actually have one center that really focuses on young men but it was interesting I went to a conference, a lecture, a study was done in Minneapolis St. Paul and it was the correlation between joblessness and the rates of pimps and prostitutes. [00:14:30] If you think about it, if there are no opportunities, if there are not jobs to be had, people still, people will use whatever they have to get what they need. Everyone needs to eat. Everyone needs to pay bills. When there are no jobs, people find other ways to do that. But shortly after hearing this lecture I came across a center that is very intentional about mentoring and developing young [00:15:00] men from the inner city from an area that is very high in joblessness. One of the most economically depressed areas that we have in St. Louis. Not only are they training these men to be leaders and to have integrity but they’re also teaching them how to screen print. Here’s providing dignified employment, and they’re providing jobs for them. They’re training them, they’re teaching them a skill and then they’re paying [00:15:30] them to actually screen print t-shirts.
Anyway, it was this beautiful blend of oh my gosh, that works with fashion. These young men from the inner city are doing the screen printing on t-shirts that I bring in from Calcutta India. There’s a red light district with 11,000 women being prostituted out. And this center works with ladies coming out of the red light district, teaches them how to read [00:16:00] and write. Teaches them how to sew and then gives them jobs.
Chris Davis: When you think of making an impact, I don’t often see it as creative as this. So you’re partnering with these centers that’s giving employment to disenfranchised individuals as well as victims of sex trafficking. Then they get hours to work and create products. [00:16:30] The center teaches them soft skills, professional skills. It really helps them get on their own feet. Stand as a whole individual. Because they’ve been broken for so long in their lives. Now that product you can now take and put in front of somebody and get payment for which essentially is a cycle to keep the centers ’cause the money just goes back to the centers. To keep the centers going so that they can continue to make [00:17:00] products. If they need a t-shirt or they need raw materials, you can then get the raw materials from another area that can benefit from people being employed by serving or supplying that. It’s like this ever going cyclical give back impact machine. And empower. Everybody benefits.
What I like about [00:17:30] your products are they’re very unique. When you buy a necklace or a yoga bag or anything from your eCommerce store, not only, like you mentioned, do you get compliments, like, “Hey what’s that? That looks neat.” But you can rest assured knowing that the money that you spent is truly without a shadow of a doubt, making an impact because someone like yourself thought creatively of this business model [00:18:00] taking bits and pieces of everything that you experienced in your life and that you’ve seen. In that respect what role does ActiveCampaign play? You seem to be the brain in connecting all of these causes for one greater cause, is ActiveCampaign serving as like the sub-brain to your brain in keeping everything connected and everybody engaged?
Dawn Manske: It’s interesting that you say connecting [00:18:30] because one of those personality things or skills, one of them, connector is a huge one. It’s just funny that you say that. But, it’s also interesting because ActiveCampaign one, I knew that I needed to develop some automation because I have some people working for me but I don’t have any full-time employees. I’m [00:19:00] doing a whole lot and I needed automation to step when I could have that step in. ActiveCampaign right now I’m just so excited about some programs we’re building out because as I, for the past few years I’ve been talking to people about this and every time I’m out talking to people I meet people that say, “Oh my gosh, I want to do something. I heard about what’s going on with sex trafficking in my city. I want to do [00:19:30] something.”
And I would not recommend that everyone start a business because it’s really hard. But wanting to connect them in such a way, one, I love to help people and connecting is just part of who I am but I want to provide these people that want to do more, I want to provide them with everything that they need to help in one way. If they want to help with Made [00:20:00] for Freedom I’m using the automations within ActiveCampaign. I do more of a personal touch at the beginning because people really want to, if people are volunteering their time, that’s a huge thing and I need to make sure that they get connected correctly. I have people that are signing up on a landing page and then I’m either, I’m automatically emailing them with some of the options but then I’m also following up with a [00:20:30] combined what is the saved messages?
Chris Davis: Yeah, saved responses.
Dawn Manske: Saved responses. So I have a saved response with all the options and I just delete the ones that they don’t. It is personalized and out of the five options, knowing what they’re interested in or I’m making a phone call but then I’m tracking that in one of the pipelines and so all of these deals are moving along the pipeline.
Chris Davis: To get the volunteers engaged and [00:21:00] connected.
Dawn Manske: And as soon as somebody say, “I would be willing to find retail partners in my city.” For example, yesterday, I talked to someone in Vegas. She saw our information online, she went through the whole process, we had a phone call and she said, “I would love to host a party at my house and take some of your product to work and sell it at my office. And I would love to research socially conscious boutiques in [00:21:30] Las Vegas Nevada.” So I can load that information into ActiveCampaign and automatically send those potential boutiques the information about Made for Freedom. Just all sorts of fingers but trying to lay out all these programs to help people as they want to get involved. Which helps grow what we’re doing with Made for Freedom by increasing dignified hours.
Chris Davis: [00:22:00] Yeah. The reason why I really wanted to have you on this podcast is because I wanted to broaden the scope of not only what ActiveCampaign can be used for but what is value in your business. So many people are focused on transactional emails and hey I made this much money from this email. This open rate got me this many more sales. But your currency is dignified hours. So what’s valuable [00:22:30] to you is connecting. How effective was that email to getting more volunteers? How effective was this newsletter that we sent out to getting more young ladies in this center? How effective was this email to this center with connecting me to another center? So now I have even more options to send people to. It’s a different metric but it’s just as powerful because it’s specific to your business. [00:23:00] You’re not measuring success by I’ve got this many dollars in the bank. You’re measuring success by these are how many people are being employed and re-acclimated as a whole individual into our society.
Dawn Manske: Yeah. And I mean, this is just I thought of this the other day a woman heard about us. I think she is friends with someone who gets our newsletter. And she said, “Okay my friend told [00:23:30] me about you and I found this thing online.” And she called me and Chris, it’s just, it’s one of those moments that most fashion CEO, fashion company CEOs don’t experience. But I don’t enjoy experiencing them but it has happened multiple times. I get a call because people know that we’re involved in the fight against human trafficking and this woman called and she said, “My friends have a daughter that was getting involved with some [00:24:00] guy online and she disappeared. And the last time we saw her was in Seattle. And her Facebook is gone.” And you know and I’m thinking, and my heart just kind of stops ’cause I’m like that’s a girl who has probably deceived and romanced into this horrible situation.
But, because of the connections and because of what we are talking about on a regular basis, someone told her [00:24:30] contact Made for Freedom. Someone bought a necklace and then told that friend, call Made for Freedom and I was able, I can’t go find this girl but I do know, here’s the hotline, here’s what you need to do next, here’s what you need to do next. And she started asking, “Well what do we do once we find her?” I said, “Find her. Don’t worry about what you do next. Find her now. These are steps that you can do to find her hopefully.” But that’s [00:25:00] another piece that I didn’t, I did not anticipate about this business.
I’ve been at some conferences a couple of years now and I have people come back all the time and it’s kind of the same as the pants. We’re very low on pants right now. Our center that was making them started getting amazing opportunities for their girls to further their education and start careers and they stopped sewing. Which is great but hard ’cause now we’re finding a new manufacturer. [00:25:30] But these other pieces, I have people that come back to me on a regular basis and say, “I love this scarf that I got from you. I get compliments on it all the time and every time someone compliments me, I get say let me tell you about my scarf. This was made by these women and it’s helping provide employment for them.” All of our customers also become advocates which is really [00:26:00] cool.
Chris Davis: That’s great. That’s great. I’m so glad that you are on to share that. I know that, I knew when I reached out to you this was going to be so unique as a podcast. My hope is that people can see it’s more, it can be more than just money. Money, I’m not trying to dismiss money at all and tell you all to go pursue your passion and don’t forget about money. But your driver, [00:26:30] your overall metric, what you say at the end of the day, I did a good job. Bye. Does not always have to be well look at my bank account. Added two more zeroes. For you it’s just, hey somebody new to reach out to me because this lost child. Somebody is now working and on their way to school. That was living in a brothel three, four months ago. To me that’s amazing [00:27:00] and I think it’s easy to lose sight of life in the pursuit of more business, bigger business, more revenue.
I’m excited to see what you’ll do with the app even further but how you’re using pipelines and your newsletter and email sends to keep everyone connected. You are the master connector and you’re just, ActiveCampaign is just emulating what you do naturally and if anything, anything that you listeners take away, [00:27:30] it’s take what you’re doing, if you’re ever overwhelmed at what can I be doing in ActiveCampaign? How can it help me? The question is, what are you doing? Essentially just try to clone yourself. Just try to clone yourself, say, “You know what? Today if I’ve got 10 tasks, if I didn’t have to do this one task.” Well give that one task to ActiveCampaign. And just slowly build out from there. That’s what you’ve been doing bit by bit. Adding more and more features and functionality to what you’re doing.
Dawn Manske: [00:28:00] Yeah, yeah. I never dreamed of being a business person. In fact I steered very, very far from business. I had seen the greed and I had seen the exploitation to benefit other people. I have two degrees in education and one in theology when God dropped this in my lap via pants [00:28:30] from Thailand.
Chris Davis: Literally in your lap.
Dawn Manske: I thought, are you kidding? Are you sure you know who you’re talking to because this is not my expertise. This is not what I dreamed of doing for my adult life. But it’s been really fun to learn. I’m still blown away by the options within ActiveCampaign.
Chris Davis: Yeah, yeah.
Dawn Manske: [00:29:00] Just all of the things that are possible to do, it’s kind of hard for my ADD side to hone in on. Focusing is hard for me anyway and when I see all of the options I’m like, oh I can do this.
Chris Davis: All the colors.
Dawn Manske: But it’s really been incredible to see how I can use the pieces to bring people along these different paths of communication so that they can be part of something [00:29:30] bigger even if they’re just volunteering a couple hours a week.
Chris Davis: Right, right. Great, great. Well Dawn, thanks again for being on. How can people find out more about your business, get involved with the cause? Where should they go?
Dawn Manske: Madeforfreedom.com if you’re looking to buy something we have all sorts of things and on our websites one of the tabs at the top is join the fight. If anyone is interested, we even have stuff for affiliates. If you’ve got [00:30:00] a huge online network and you want to make a difference by sharing some Made for Freedom stuff or retail space, we have all sorts of options for people who say, “I really want to be part of fighting human trafficking but I can’t do it full-time, what can I, how can I help in a small way?”
Chris Davis: Great, great. Well all of those will be linked. Made for Freedom, madeforfreedom.com.
Dawn Manske: Dot com.
Chris Davis: Will be in the show notes here [00:30:30] and you can go the website, purchase apparel, support the cause or join the fight in the navigation. Click that button and you will be presented a lovely ActiveCampaign form as well for you to fill out. Dawn, again, thank you so much. Look forward to seeing you soon hopefully in Chicago since you’re so close.
Dawn Manske: Yes, yes. Not exactly three and a half hours but.
Chris Davis: Right.
Dawn Manske: For some. For some it is.
Chris Davis: For some. Okay, all right.
Dawn Manske: Thank you so much [00:31:00] Chris.
Chris Davis: Yes, yes. Thanks for being on the podcast Dawn.
Dawn Manske: Definitely.
Chris Davis: Thank you for listening to this episode. I hope that under hearing how Dawn has model, the model that she chose for her business, how she’s operating it and how she’s measuring success is freeing to you in your business or your idea or whatever new thing you are trying to do or thinking of doing in your business. Oftentimes [00:31:30] we look to other people for too much permission to do things the way that they’re doing it. Sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity to identify the model that works for us and the tools that can best supplement exactly how we prefer to work. Dawn is a good case of both. A creative model as well as ActiveCampaign easily supplementing her natural connector mentality by being able to connect everybody [00:32:00] through communication and personal outreach.
If this is your first time listening to the ActiveCampaign podcast, I enjoy you to become an active, consistent listener. There’s a seat at the podcasting table here that I would love for you to sit at by subscribing to the podcast. We’re in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, SoundCloud, any mobile app that’s you can use to subscribe to a podcast. We are there. I would love to hear your voice in the reviews [00:32:30] or in the five star ratings on all of those platforms. Please do that, it helps us get the word out so more ears can listen and more businesses can benefit.
If you’re just getting started in ActiveCampaign or you’re a user and there’s certain things that you just need help with and you don’t want to struggle alone. One of the things we recommend is never struggle alone ’cause we have so many personal touch points that you can interact with. Go to [00:33:00] ActiveCampaign.com/training, sign up for a one on one talk to somebody on our success team about your business and your issue, your goals, your aspirations and they will help you through a real live human being, will help you through. They’re some of the best trained in the business. If you’re more of a self paced learner, ActiveCampaign.com/learn. That’s our education center and you can consume at your rate in whatever format you would like to.
I hope, I hope [00:33:30] these podcasts are really helping and enlightening. If there’s ever a topic, if there’s ever a business that you want me to have on the podcast, feel free to reach out. Feel free to reach out and let me know. This is the ActiveCampaign podcast. The small business podcast to help you scale and propel your business with automation. I’ll see you on the next episode.

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