While working in Ethiopia, Barrett and Rachel Ward saw firsthand how extreme poverty affects the lives of girls and women. Many endured the ravages of homelessness and addiction, often turning to prostitution to support themselves and their families. "It’s a pretty disturbing thing to see," Barrett says. Amid this poverty, the couple also saw beauty in the scarves and garments made by the local women. This inspired them to find a way to help women overcome adversity. "Charity and rehabilitation are critical for getting people on their feet, but there has to be opportunities for jobs after that," Barrett explains. FASHIONABLE was founded in 2010, partnering with manufacturing companies in Tennessee and around the world to help women earn a living wage and break the cycle of poverty.
FASHIONABLE’s e-commerce site sells clothing, handbags, jewelry, and shoes. It also serves as a resource to educate consumers about world poverty and the fashion industry. "We wanted to invest in the web as our primary source of growth," Barrett says. “About 75 percent of our marketing budget now goes to digital.” AdWords, Google's advertising program, brings fashion- and socially-conscious consumers to their website and flagship store. “We earn four dollars in revenue for every dollar we spend on AdWords,” he adds. Google Analytics equips the company with the customer insights to continually refine their marketing campaigns. G Suite tools Gmail, Docs, and Drive power their growing operation. "Everything from financial-data analysis to inventory management happens in G Suite." And YouTube enables them to bring their story to life. "We are fully invested in everything Google,” says Barrett. “It’s the driver of our online growth.”
Revenue for the company more than doubled in 2016. While impressive, how much they’ve sold is far less important to them than why they sell, “and that’s to create sustainable jobs for women who have overcome extraordinary circumstances,” says Barrett. Today, FASHIONABLE employs 39 women in Nashville and partners with manufacturers to employ over 300 women globally. With consumer interest in their mission and products on the rise, this figure will likely keep on growing. And through their program ACCOUNTABLE, the manufacturers they partner with will continue to be held to the highest standards of labor and environmental practices. “That’s what we’re fighting for,” Barrett says, “not just the number of women who work, but also the quality of jobs those women have.”