70: Rebecca Smith | Better Life Bags

Rebecca Smith | Better Life Bags

Rebecca Smith is the founder of Better Life Bags, a custom handbag company whose workforce is made up of local women with barriers to employment.

She and her husband live in Hamtramck, MI and have four kids.

Rebecca loves to encourage and coach young entrepreneurs who desire to use their businesses for good.

She is passionate about reminding women that when it comes to pursuing dreams, waiting on God’s nudges always beats hustling hard. It’s okay being the turtle; life is better when it’s slow.

A Better Life: Slowing Down To Get Ahead by Rebecca Smith

The founder of Better Life Bags, Rebecca Smith, joins me to talk about growing Better Life Bags (BLB) from an Etsy shop to a large company that provides meaningful work for women in her community. We also chat about slowing down to get ahead, the mission of BLB and pursuing dreams in every season. 

4:40 Share a little of your faith journey with us.  When and how did you come to know Jesus?

9:34 Take us back to being a young married woman in Savannah, Georgia and how you ended up in Hamtramck, Michigan.

“I was giving micro loans with each bag purchase to a woman who lived in a third world country.”

“We moved to Michigan to this little city called Hamtramck. Our point in doing that was we were going to live here for two years immersing ourselves in a different culture. This city is very diverse… There’s 26 languages spoken here in two square miles.”

“I had never imagined myself going overseas for missions, but I knew God had this heart for the world and I was willing to follow if that was His plan for our life, but I was terrified.”

20:25 While walking and attempting to settle into your neighborhood, you are continuing to make custom bags in your home. What happened next?

“We went down to my basement where I had set up my little Etsy studio and we spent the next hour and a half sewing, which we didn’t need to talk for… It [sewing] was a universal language for us, so I taught her one of my bags not thinking anything of it. It just helped me get out of an awkward situation.”

“I was like,”Wait, you weren’t able to buy this before, but now you are because you’ve been making bags to help me?”  It clicked in that moment that her life was a lot better because of this income I was providing for her…. We started intentionally growing at that moment.”

26:15 What is Better Life Bags mission now?

“To create meaningful work for women in our community.”

“Language is a big barrier. They don’t need to be fluent in English to work it Better Life Bags.”

“Probably the biggest barrier that people don’t always think about, and that’s probably specific to our community, which is mostly first generation immigrants from Yemen, Bangladesh, Poland, Bosnia, Syria, Afghanistan, and they land in Hamtramck first….They’re nervous about America and their cultures, it is not accepted for a woman to work outside the home when other men that are not related to them are present…That’s hard  Americans to accept… but that’s their culture….So to have a place where it’s all women, their husbands feel like when they walk into the workshop they’re not going to be working with other men, it feels like a safe place for them to go to.”

30:25 You wrote a whole chapter on assigning a mission to everything we do.  How has assigning a mission to various aspects of your life and business impacted your life?

37:36 Sometimes we can’t go after our dreams right away. How do we go about keeping those dreams alive while we wait?

Chapter : Manage the Hustle

Chapter : Let It Simmer

“It was deciding and making a rubric for when I say yes to an opportunity and when will I say no And that changes often right now in my life. I say no to any opportunity, my husband is in the army, when he is that drill. If that opportunity lands on a weekend when he’s at drill, that’s an easy hard no, even if it’s something I really want to do.  I just feel like that’s my rubric right now.”

“I’m still fueling the fire a little bit. I’m letting it simmer until it’s time to turn it up to a boil. When things are simmering, it can get up to a boil much faster when the time is right, than if it’s cold water in a pot”

41:41 As we close out, will you share a few lessons you have learned from working with, employing and living among people who look, speak, and believe differently than you?

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