I Quit My Day Job To Start A Skincare Line Which Helps Human Trafficking Victims

In case you weren’t already aware, GirlTalkHQ exists as a platform for women to share their extraordinary stories of triumph, as well as the go-to place on the web for women to find messages of inspiration and empowerment through everyday media. Anytime we happen to come across stories that combine both focuses, we feel like we have hit the jackpot, but more importantly, we know we are creating something needed online.

Sharon Hackney-Robinson is one of those breed of ordinary women doing extraordinary things. When we were told about her story, it was a no-brainer: we wanted to get her story out to our readers and the world! Her journey of going from a 9-5 job where she wasn’t feeling fulfilled, to starting her own company, using her 9-5 experience and in turn creating something that is helping victims of human trafficking, is something worth sharing with every woman in your life. Not in a way to copy her, but to inspire you to grab life by the horns and don’t settle for mediocrity.

We chatted with Sharon about her alternative skincare line and the new vision for her life.

Sharon-hackney-robinson

Tell us about your company Me and the Girls and what the product is?

Me & The Girls Alternative Skin Care produces an amazing collection of organic facial and body moisturizers. Its premier ingredient is certified organic cupuacu seed butter; a natural exotic butter harvested sustainably from the Amazon in South America. The luxurious butter possesses a high capacity for water absorption giving it superior moisturizing properties and unparalleled emolliency.

Developing a completely waterless moisturizing system was bananas and totally disruptive in the conventional beauty world. The raw materials that we source globally are expensive, there are no fillers to add to the bottom line and we took a huge risk with consumers to embrace a truly natural way of moisturizing and beautifying their skin. I wanted to give women no less than what I used and trusted on my own skin. The risk was rewarded with the Best New Beauty Product Award at the HBA Global Beauty Expo in 2012 for our Moon Anti-Aging Night Moisturizer. My personal favorite is the quirky multi-use Bar Beleza in a radical twist-up tube. Women that use the products become addicted and develop radiant beautiful skin.

MATG’s commitment to tackle humanitarian issues is at the core of the brand. The Hope Bag Mission is supported by proceeds from product sales and volunteers who fill bags of emergency personal care items for women and girls who are rescued from human trafficking. Our goal this year is to fill 1,000 bags to support organizations that house and treat victims that have been grossly neglected and sexually abused in the worst ways imaginable.

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Your background is in nursing, very different to what you do now, what were the events in your personal like that made you change your career course?

I am one of so many women who find themselves bored and unfulfilled after raising families and maintaining long-term careers. I put myself first for the first time in my adult life and created a new life that would combine my experiences as a critical care nurse, my passion for developing healthy, luxurious beauty products, and my responsibility to become pro-active in the social needs of women and girls.  My determination to make those changes became the core values of the “Me & The Girls” brand; a for-profit social enterprise that evolved organically over time and a lot of hard work.

How do you combine your nursing experience with your natural oils company?

I have taken care of critically ill and drug addicted newborns for several years. Prior to modern technology, we bathed our tiniest premature babies in vitamin-rich vegetable oils to prevent dehydration and to promote healing.  We actually watched the development of healthy skin mature before our eyes.  When I started developing more nourishing organic products for my own skin, I realized that those same efforts and principles applied. The life cycle of skin comes full circle in that our skin becomes more fragile and vulnerable with age and exposure to toxic and harsh environments. We require more nourishing products similar to the vegetable oils that kept my mothers skin so beautiful and soft and prevented my tiny patients from dehydrating.

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Your brand isn’t just any skincare company, it exists to empower women, how so?

I lead by example following in the footsteps of many great women who struggled before me. We naturally follow a linear pattern in life adapting to all of the mores and rules of society.   We go to school, raise families, build careers and live for retirement. But I encourage women to create personal gaps in those plans and to never loose themselves in the chaos of everyday living. Paint. Dance. Launch a business. Find your happy place and visit often. And in the process of finding your authentic self reach back and help other woman and girls to find their way to better lives or to recover from the atrocities of life.

Being a successful businesswoman isn’t enough for you, you are giving back to your community in a big way with the Hope bags. Tell us about your involvement with organizations that look after former human trafficking victims and sexual abuse?

I began my education about human trafficking with The “Girls Are Not For Sale” campaign sponsored by the Girls Mentoring & Educational Service. GEMS is the only organization in New York State specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. GEMS was founded in 1998 by Rachel Lloyd, a young woman who had been commercially sexually exploited as a teenager.

Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing businesses in the world using human beings as tradeable saleable commodities. I will eventually train to help on the inside with the intake agencies that have initial contact and provide acute care for the rescued victims. But the work that Me & The Girls do know through the Hope Bag Mission helps alleviate some of the financial burden to keep agency care pantries stocked with very much needed emergency supplies.

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What you are doing is extremely noble, but do you ever have days you feel like giving up? And how do you push through that?

I feel exhausted and overwhelmed at times. There’s so much work to be done in so little time but I never want to give up. That’s just not in my DNA. I want my company to be the go to brand for women who want to experience the feeling of naturally softened beautiful skin when they wake up in the morning. I want young women to have clean skin care options that don’t deposit chemical residue in their breast tissue. I want the world to know that there are 12 year old girls strapped to filthy dirty beds suffering through one sick act of evil after another; up to 50 men a day. Sometimes more. I want mothers and fathers to know that human trafficking is not an urban legend; that the kidnappings and the enslavement of vulnerable human beings begin right in their own backyards.

Who inspires you the most?

Several heroes come to mind but I am the woman that I am because of my mother. I learned what I lived and I am still learning how to be the best person that I can be through her example. She will be 83 years old and she still writes, works for multiple charities, holds major responsibilities in her church and continues to travel the world with her 98-year-old beau. She is amazing.

Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, two of the most powerful women in the world inspire me to educate and support women in an ongoing campaign against forces that threaten the human rights and dignity of women and children. Ms. Albright made a most profound statement at a seminar that I attended last year. “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” That statement changed the course of my vision of how I wanted to build my company into a social enterprise that benefits women and girls (children).

And the last two guests at my ultimate imaginary tea party are Oprah Winfrey and Liz Lang. Most people are aware of the struggles and hardships that Oprah overcame to be one of the most successful entrepreneurs and powerful women in television. But not many women know that Liz Lange, famous for her hugely successful high-end maternity wear line battled cervical cancer while raising a toddler, an infant and embarking upon her biggest break in the fashion industry. When I find myself balled up into the fetal position in the corner of my closet I draw on the strength of my “power idles” and I get up and go to work.

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What makes you a powerful woman?

My brothers would have such a good time with that question! I have never considered myself to be a “powerful” woman. My goal is to inspire and lead with courage through action. But when a volunteer turns in a Hope Bag, I feel responsible for motivating a person to connect with another human being through a selfless act of kindness; taking the time and effort to carefully purchase supplies to fill a bag that will help to promote trust and restore dignity in a rescued victim. If that makes me a powerful woman then I accept the badge.

There seems to be a huge influx of women quitting their “day jobs” and creating their own unique businesses online, like yourself. Why do you think this is?  

On-line businesses give women the freedom to be their own bosses, to be home with families and raise their children. Many of us are just opting out of the mediocrity of a 9-5 job that brings us no joy, allows no creativity and hardly ever promotes autonomy.

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It sounds like MATG is your true passion in life, often we don’t have that “a-ha” moment until we have lived a little. How would you encourage other women to find their true passion, yet embrace the experiences they are currently going through?

You are so right. “A-ha” moments register after you have lived a lot of life. As you travel through life cycles and experiences there are ultimately things that make you happy or feel creative. But those are the very things that we usually put on the back burner until our children are out on their own and mortgages are paid off and you realistically have the time to explore our hearts’ desires and dreams. Fear plays a huge part in our willingness to move forward with those dreams and desires.   My advice to anybody that wants to be an artist is to buy a canvas and some paint and just paint!   If you’ve always wanted to be a fashion designer start with a needle and some thread and fabric and just sew something. Anything. Do something proactive in creating a fulfilled life.

You have said in an interview before that you felt inadequate at beauty and business summits you attended when you started MATG, what advice do you give to other women starting their business and who also feel overwhelmed or daunted?

Do your homework. Research your business as much as possible and find a mentor that can guide you through the process. It’s still not going to be an easy task and it takes money. The amount depends on the venture but be prepared to spend some of your savings or borrow from the bank or family members. Most importantly have a business plan.

How can readers get involved in your cause and mission?

Local volunteers in the Philadelphia area can contact us at Hope@meandthegirls.com. Readers outside of the Philadelphia area have the opportunity to contribute through http://hopebagmission.mydagsite.com/home The average Hope Bag costs $23 to fill which also includes $7 that is applied to help offset administrative, packaging and shipping costs to multiple organizations and safe houses.

 

See more of Sharon’s skincare line by checking out Me and The Girls.

 

Sharon-hackney-robinson

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