By Cati King
Jenny Almquist sat in stunned horror.
She had no idea women and girls, some as young as her own daughter, were being ripped from their homes and families and sold as sex slaves.
“I became impassioned to do something,” Almquist said. “This is a big deal and I have to do something to help this cause.”
That something became a business whose profits are donated to organizations dedicated to ending human trafficking. Fierce beauty is a company run by a woman fighting against the practice of human trafficking and working to bring tangible suggestions to those who also want to make a difference.
It was 2009 and Almquist was part of a crowd of 28,000 gathered at Sydney, Australia’s Hillsong Church. The event was designed to alert the congregation to the fact that 27 million people in 161 countries are victims of human trafficking. Since that life-changing night, Almquist and new business partner Tammy Berend have dedicated their company, Fierce Beauty, to giving a portion of profits (approximately 10 percent) to various organizations working to rescue and rehabilitate human trafficking victims. Trafficking is an illegal industry, which makes finding the specific number of victims annually difficult, but several organizations have been able to gather estimates from victims who have spoken up.
Someone who supports both Fierce Beauty and the woman who started it, is Pat Trotter. She said Almquist’s eyes and heart are open to the tragedy of human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and forced exploitation of others. Trotter also said Almquist has stepped out in boldness and courage by doing what she can to help put a stop to trafficking.
“Jenny is one of the most compassionate, caring women I have ever known,” Trotter said. “I would call her a gentle spirit but with the fierceness of a mother lion. She loves people and she hurts when they hurt.”
Trotter said she applauds Almquist for starting a business as a way to help trafficking victims and defend the 293,000 American children who are at risk of becoming domestic sex trafficking victims according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“It may seem like a drop in the bucket,” Trotter said. “But many drops will fill the bucket and will have an impact.”
Another person who is adding drops to the bucket is Jessie Podolak, a coordinator of the JustUs for Justice Run Walk. The annual Eau Claire race raises funds to end human trafficking and modern day slavery. Podolak knows Almquist and praises her efforts to end human trafficking.
“Jenny is using her passion, her time and talent, doing what she can do to bring an end to it,” Podolak said.
Almquist’s passion, time and talent are poured into her company Fierce Beauty. Almquist describes her business as an import business that primarily sells imported silk and cashmere scarves. She speaks at home parties of the horror that is afflicting young girls who are forced into years of sex slavery and beaten, tortured and threatened into submission. Almquist says people have a fierce person within them to stand for justice on the earth and that they can fight for change.
Fierce Beauty works to raise awareness and stand for justice by giving to three different organizations that use the donations to save and rehabilitate trafficking victims, A 21 Campaign, Gracehaven and International Justice Mission. Almquist says she gives to A 21 Campaign because they are who first made her aware of human trafficking. They also introduced Almquist to the meaning of ‘fierce beauty’. Almquist said people have described her as a gentle spirit her whole life, but as she was sitting at the conference hearing that the average age at which girls are first victimized is between 12 and 14, she became angry.
“It was the first time I touched that anger,” Almquist said. “I’ve never been angry in my whole life.”
Almquist said that the anger she felt fueled her desire to do something. She began selling scarves at trade shows and home parties, through her sales she presented clients with the information she herself had learned. When it came time to name her company, Almquist said she prayed about it and knew that Fierce Beauty was the answer. She said it was fierce justice she needed to step into as she started building her business.
In January, Almquist said she felt Fierce Beauty was supposed to take another step in delivering justice or that it was time to be done with the business venture. She and Berend decided to become co-owners and take the business from a single-owned, home business to an office, trademark Fierce Beauty and find a new product supplier.
The scarves are bought through wholesalers over the Internet and sold for between $10 and $30. Fierce Beauty recently found a buyer on the ground in Shanghai that they would like to purchase from in the future. Also, Fierce Beauty recently made a connection with a wholesaler in the Twin Cites; with a connection in India.
“We are very excited about that relationship because she knows the people in India making the scarves and her parents take care of business on that end,” Almquist said. ”We will have exclusive scarves through her in the future.”
Through the new steps Fierce Beauty is taking, the company provides more tangible suggestions for those looking to help victims of human trafficking. Fierce Beauty distributes a sheet of paper with each purchase that lists 24 ways to fight human trafficking. The list comes from the website of a ministry called Gracehaven, one of the organizations Fierce Beauty supports. They also share the opportunity for people to get involved through joining a prayer network at Gracehaven House, hosting a Fierce Beauty in-home showing and by giving funds to help rescue and restore lives affected by human trafficking.
Trotter said she supports Fierce Beauty by hosting a scarf party in her home at least once a year and inviting different people to come each time. Trotter said she also supports the business through prayer.
“I believe we need to step up our prayer support as well as our monetary and emotional support to help bring this issue to a stop in our world, in our time.” Trotter said.
Podolak said the whole idea of human trafficking is horrific and unacceptable, and that if everyone did a little, this generation could see the end of human trafficking.
“Everyone can do something,” Podolak said. “It’s unacceptable that we would know that it’s happening and not do something.”