During her time working in the airline industry, Brenda Hepler heard stories and read about the issues of sexual slavery and trafficking of women and children. She decided to take action; she designed and created TassaTag, a 4”x6” colorful, sturdy, hand-woven luggage tag that helps a traveler easily spot their luggage. Her goal has always been that a major portion of sales be donated and that these donations go through bona fide humanitarian contacts to ensure that the funds were properly used.
Brenda realized that she needed to know how to set up and operate a business; she needed to understand how to manage recordkeeping, marketing, and cash flow if she was to reach her goal. She contacted the Napa Valley College SBDC and began working on her business strategy with consultant, Jerry Jinnett. Brenda has worked hard, taken targeted SBDC workshops, and met with Jinnett and Financial Consultant, Ray Kimball.
TassaTag has become a project of ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes.) This non-profit children’s rights organization’s mission is to protect all children from commercial sexual exploitation. A portion of each sale goes to this organization to assist in their cause. This Thailand-based international organization has been working at the community, national, and international levels for 15 years.
TassaTags are produced at the Regina Self-Help Center in Nongkhai, Thailand, which provides education and income generating skills and opportunities for women. The women involved in the project are trained to take responsibility for management in all areas related to craft production, decision-making, accounting, invoicing, quality control, packing, and supervision. The center enables women to stay in their villages and keep their children in school, two major strategies in reducing sex trafficking. The Center is managed by HandCrafting Justice, a member of the Fair Trade Federation. This organization recently participated in a conference on the status of women that was held at the United Nations in NYC. The organization represents Ted and sold Tassatags; they reported a great response, sold out, and had to reorder.
According to Brenda, “I could not have done it without the SBDC. What a support system for the beginning entrepreneur. The counseling services were beyond my expectations, and because of them I have been given the education and skills to develop the TassaTag Project to EcPAT.”
Brenda continues to raise awareness and to expand her business network of cause-related organizations and associations which include Global Exchange, the Soroptomists, Polaris, and SAGE. She has developed her website: www.tassatag.org and is continuing to work with the SBDC consultants.