As the founder of a social enterprise supporting vulnerable women, Michelle Pride sees how enthusiastic American Christians have become about ending trafficking—and unfortunately, how that enthusiasm can unwittingly lead to harmful outcomes instead.

Last year, a customer boasted about her church’s $20,000 campaign to purchase women out of the sex trade. Pride was horrified. “If you buy a girl out of the sex trade, you now have given that trafficker more money to go and buy somebody probably younger,” the Hazel and Deene president said.

With an issue as complicated as sex trafficking, companies like hers set out to design business models that benefit survivors without exploiting them further—while still paying attention to the bottom line.

Since the sex trade is often driven by financial gain, she believes sustainable business is an effective tool at fighting back and giving women at risk of sexual exploitation a way to live.

Entrepreneurs seeking to help this population may have a noble cause, but the reality brings additional barriers. Employees may bring the aftermath of their trauma with them and often lack marketable skills. How do you catch them up in a way that is efficient for the company and helpful for the individual?

Beyond that: How does a business meet its bottom line if it is solely relying on the trendiness of anti-sex trafficking to sell its products? And worst of all, where will employed survivors go if the business fails?

Pride and other founders have wrestled with these questions alone before coming together to create the Freedom Business Alliance (FBA). Freedom businesses, which employ women who have been rescued out of trafficking, work to create sustainable strategies to benefit ...

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