Carly Burson spent her early career figuring out how to display fashion—as a visual merchandiser, she oversaw the look ‘n feel of stores like J.Crew and Ann Taylor. It wasn’t until she and her husband traveled from their home in Fort Worth, Texas to Ethiopia while adopting their daughter Elie that she had the idea to actually sell pieces instead. While at an orphanage in Ethiopia, she realized how many birth parents would visit their children and came to understand that poverty was one of the main causes of child relinquishment. It changed how she thought about her daily work entirely. As she says, “I was having a really hard time contributing to an industry that is one of the leading causes of poverty in the world. I really wanted to do something that would help other people and honor my daughter’s birth mother.”
So, in 2014, Carly jumped in. As a side gig, she started working with artisans in Ethiopia and Honduras, paying fair wages for them to produce gorgeous bags, minimal-chic clothing, and minimal jewelry under the name Tribe Alive. But about six months in, she had a big decision to make. “We got a huge order we weren’t really ready for, and if I took it, I would have to quit my job and move to Honduras for a few months,” she recalls. As you can probably guess, she said yes. Now she employs over 150 people in six different countries—and changed her own life plenty along the way.
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