People matter. Human rights matter. Undeniably, we all want the same thing: happiness, dignity, equality, and to be treated with respect of our human rights. We are creating opportunities and freedoms that don’t already exist for artisans around the world. We want artisan communities to benefit from what we know to be true: that given a choice, people want their beautiful things to do beautiful things in the world.
Sapahn was born in rural Thailand, where founder Brooke Mullen discovered artisan communities who handcrafted incredibly beautiful, high-quality pieces but faced market challenges, and their livelihood depended on the sales. They had minimal bargaining power and a lack of adequate resources. We asked ourselves: What can we do?
Our journey continued in Burma, where we met Marie Tu, a gifted young woman who was held back from great opportunities because of her gender and underprivileged background. In order to break this mold, she explained the need for higher education. Again, we found ourselves asking: What can we do? Is it possible solve both problems?
We did. Our solution was Sapahn, which means 'bridge' in Thai. We provide a sustainable market for artisans to sell their goods and utilized a human rights-based approach to how we do business. Using the first three years’ profits, we were able to send Marie Tu to school in Thailand. Where is she today? Working on grassroots education through the United Nations Development Project in Burma.
This is how our story began in 2008, when Lincoln, Nebraska natives Matt and Brooke Mullen embarked on their journey to Thailand to pursue their graduate degrees in human rights. Matt completed his PhD in Human Rights & Peace & Conflict Studies. He is a lecturer at Mahidol University and conducts research. Brooke saw an opportunity to build a bridge and created Sapahn.
Sapahn was created in April 2010 and currently partners with nine artisan communities throughout Thailand, empowering nearly 500 artisans.
Mission: We boldly put human rights first, changing the way business is done. We bridge the gap by connecting artisans' high quality crafted collections with customers who want their beautiful things to do beautiful things.
People matter. Human rights matter. Undeniably, we all want the same thing: happiness, dignity, equality, and to be treated with respect of our human rights. We are creating opportunities and freedoms that don’t already exist for artisans around the world.
We want artisan communities to benefit from what we know to be true: that given a choice, people want their beautiful things to do beautiful things in the world.
People matter. Our actions make an impact. Each and every purchase we make directly impacts people's lives and livelihoods. We want those actions to have a greater positive impact on others around the world. The sapahn bridge allows this to happen through our model.
How we do this?
Thailand is home for Nebraskan founder Brooke Mullen since 2008. She travels to each artisan community several times a year. One round trip tallies up 3,500 miles by bus, song tows, motorbikes, and tuk tuks. We have learned that this hands-on approach is the most effective and transparent way to not only build strong, lasting relationships with each artisan community, but ensures integrity in your final product and impact.
We know start to finish who makes each piece, how this piece is crafted, and where our materials originate from. Some people say this level of transparency is impossible. We love taking on the ‘impossible.’ How can you empower anyone when you don’t know the goals, dreams, challenges and aspirations of the people you’re trying to help?
Our artisans are empowered to set their own price for their creations. They know best their cost and needs, and this is where the power should lie - in their hands. No bargaining allowed. Our customers also enjoy fair prices. Our markups are based on basic industry standards.
We pay artisans 50% of the total order when they begin creating our order and the remaining half when the order is delivered. We recognize the increased vulnerability artisans may face when having to pay for supplies, labor, and life expenses until a month or two later when the full order is completed.
We collaborate and design based on the talents and strengths of our artisan communities. Part of this engagement is learning and respecting their wants, goals, and desires for their empowerment.