Passion: Owning a non-profit apparel shop to fight human trafficking
Background: Tonya was the first to say “yes” to a Spark the Pursuit feature. She paved the way for others, like herself, who were not accustomed to the spotlight but who do have valuable insight and experiences to share. Tonya is happy to do her work behind the scenes and allow others to be the center of attention. But, thankfully, in sharing her passion, she teaches us the value of stepping outside of your comfort zone to learn, grow, and do something that you’ve always felt called to do.
Tonya shared how she has had a heart for joining the fight against human trafficking, and she started a non-profit apparel business to fulfill this desire. Her non-profit, “Brick Town Apparel,” is also a creative outlet for her to design and market an original clothing line. Throughout the conversation, you will hear how Tonya has learned about her own personality and priorities, and how she has begun to open up and share these with the people around her. It is obvious that pursuing this passion has changed Tonya’s understanding of her own purpose and the relationships she has with family and friends.
Since interviewing Tonya last May, she has continued to invest even more time into Brick Town Apparel. Tonya is aware that this life is meant to be intentionally used, and not wasted. She also hopes to do what God has planned for her, and to uplift and serve others, especially those who are not able to stand on their own.
Throughout this interview, I hope you are able to consider the things in your own life that have prompted you to use your strengths and develop them in a way that not only enriches your own life but also those around you.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve always really wanted my life to mean something and I wanted to leave a legacy… to do something with my talents, instead of just being on the sidelines going through the day-to-day. With Brick Town Apparel, my true passion is to do something simple, like making t-shirts and selling them to raise money, to help be part of the fight against human trafficking.”
“I like to be challenged and have something to get my hands into, instead of just sitting around doing nothing. I truly feel like this is something that God has called me to do right now. Everything that I’ve done up until now has led me to this point. I went to college for business management, because I always wanted to own my own business. I never thought it would be a non-profit. But, while I was in college, I worked at 61 Surplus, which taught me a lot about non-profits. I was involved in a lot of things that gave me a variety of experiences, which culminated in what I am doing today.”
“In my current full-time job, I draw 3-D renderings for houses, so I have that creative side. Then, I come home and I have Brick Town, where I am doing marketing, and creating new apparel designs. Throughout a single day, I’m involved in a clothing industry and a construction industry. There’s a lot of crossover, yet there are a ton of differences too.”
“Since pursuing this passion, everything has changed for me. Every time I walk into a retail store that sells clothes, I pay attention to style, I pay attention to brands, color schemes. I’m way more aware of trends and the industry itself.
I’m also more aware of the people around me when I’m in public. I’m more educated now about signs of human trafficking and what it looks like.”
“With this passion, I have learned about my own empathy for people. While it is a clothing shop, it is also designed to fight human trafficking. So, I definitely felt the need to really get into learning about the topic and know what I was talking about. In doing so, I only became more broken through it, which I believe is what God intended for me.
Typically, I tend to come across as someone who doesn’t show their vulnerable side. But, in doing this, I feel like this is the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. It’s been really stretching for me. I really put my heart into this stuff, and I share it with people and I think ‘Well, I hope they like it, because I put it all out there.’”
“Through this, it’s been really cool to see people come out and show that they have also really wanted to do something about human trafficking… but they just didn’t know how or what to do.”
“There’s over 40 million people currently trapped in modern day slavery, whether that’s labor trafficking, sex trafficking, etc. And I think people forget that it happens in America, it happens even in small towns, it happens right where we’re at. If you aren’t aware of it, how are we ever going to change it?”
“There are people that are constantly interacting with me on social media, sharing our stuff. They are excited about it, and that gets me excited when I see strangers that aren’t just supporting me… they are supporting the cause. And that is fuel to the fire for me. They aren’t just supporting me as a local business. That actually doesn’t matter. I’m not actually making a profit from this. But, they are a part of the same fight that I am trying to fight. And that is what keeps me pursuing this passion.”
“With working full-time, and having Brick Town, I’ve had to make some sacrifices in what I do with my free time, but it is worth the investment into this passion. This business isn’t just about me. It’s about the cause. It’s about ending human trafficking.”