Sapahn is a luxury leather handbag collection that gives women in Thailand bigger and better opportunities. Brooke Mullen sheds light on how Sapahn came to be and the importance on bridging the gap between consumers in first world countries and producers from third world countries.
Photo Credit – Sapahn
Sapahn is much more than beautifully crafted, luxury handbags. These bags are helping change the world one bag at a time. On the outside, you see the bright, alluring, leather bags, but each bag is made with a special love all the way from Thailand.
Founder and creator, Brooke Mullen, is originally from Nebraska. Mullen graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a month later, moved to Thailand with her husband to study Human Rights. Mullen and her husband lived there for 10 years.
“I wasn’t really sure what this journey would look like for me. I have a very entrepreneurial at heart type mentality. And so I wasn’t really sure what that would look like,” Mullen said.
In her early days, she was working with the United Nations on human trafficking.
“I became very exposed and my whole reality changed on what it looks like for people in this part of the world. Not having opportunities in their own villages, communities that forced them to leave their families and everything behind in search of work,” Muellen said.
In Thailand, Mullen was intrigued and inspired by the women handcrafting beautiful scarves and blankets in these small, rural towns.
“So this was my idea, I’m going to buy all these amazing, beautiful things from these women, so helping them directly,” Mullen said.
Mullen went back to Lincoln, where her parents were living and had a trunk show where all of these items were sold. She created a business at home, and the rest is history.
While living in Thailand, Mullen was working in nine different villages, developing nine product lines as a solo entrepreneur. It took her about 2,500 miles to get to all of these communities. Mullen would help these women design and source their materials, really whatever needs they had, and she would facilitate it. Once a year, she would come back to the states and sell.
“At one point, we were empowering 500 artisans all throughout the country and really delivering hope from what they’ve told me. Hope and opportunities because they haven’t experienced this level of business before. Where they were trusted, where they were consulted, where they were paid 50% of the order upfront and that’s life changing for them,” Mullen said.
Mullen has a strong passion for human rights and wanted to find something that could advance these rights. She did not have a retail background, nor has ever been in fashion, but here she is a designer of a global handbag brand. For the past 13 years, Mullen and her company have been working hard throughout these years.
“Saphan is a bridge and it is a bridge to talk about human rights and to bring people connected,” Mullen said.
Sapahn is consistently working and producing new bags in which they launch new bags a couple times a year. They are also in the process of applying to become a Benefit Corporation, which is a type of for-profit corporation that aims to make a positive impact on society.
“It’s been almost a year in the process so it is a very long process to go through, but a worthwhile one,” Mullen said.
Mullen has really created an impactful brand that is not only beautiful on the outside, but also special on the inside. Each handbag is crafted with care by these amazing women in Thailand and a touch of Brooke Mullen. The handbag industry and the world would not be the same without Sapahn.