Steamboat Springs company helping Thai women escape sex-trafficking industry |

Steamboat Springs company helping Thai women escape sex-trafficking industry

Emily Schmidt, left, works on a design for her Awaken Fair Trade line while in Thailand.
Courtesy Photo

If you go:

What: Screening of "Tainted Love" film on sex trafficking and launch of Awaken Fair Trade

Where: Library Hall, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29

— Emily and Andrew Schmidt didn’t set out to help women who had overcome the sex trafficking industry, but that’s exactly where their new business venture led them.

The Steamboat Springs couple had traveled to Thailand in the past and had the country in mind while seeking out a fair trade manufacturer for a new line of jewelry, scarves and clothing designed by Emily.

“We wanted to create a product-based business that also helped the producers of the product, and we wanted to work with people from different economic conditions,” Andrew Schmidt said.

At a trade conference in Chicago, the couple discovered NightLight Design, a company employing Thai jewelry makers who have overcome human trafficking or other forms of sexual exploitation.

According to the United Nations, Thailand is both a country of origin and destination for both labor and sex trafficking, including for victims trafficked for sexual exploitation regionally and to a number of countries internationally. It’s estimated that tens of thousands of people in Thailand are part of the trafficking industry.

“We had no idea it was such a big problem,” Schmidt said.

On Saturday, the Schmidts will publicly launch Awaken Fair Trade, a line of clothing, scarves and jewelry designed by Emily Schmidt, a local hairstylist at Off 7th Studio, and manufactured by NightLight Design.

Awaken Fair Trade will host a screening of “Tainted Love,” a short film on those taking a stand against sex trafficking that features some of the NightLight Design employees. The screening begins at 6:30 p.m. at Library Hall. Some of the company’s products will be on display, and the event will have live music from Chamberlin Birch.

“Although we’ve been doing this for a couple of years, this is the official launch of our business full time,” Schmidt said.

Until now, the couple’s business has sold products at Off 7th Studio, Bucking Rainbow, Ohana and Urbane, as well as having a booth over the summer at the Steamboat Springs Farmers Market.

Schmidt said though he isn’t aware of sex trafficking being an issue in Steamboat Springs, the problem is widespread in the United States, as well as in Colorado.

“It’s a huge problem in the state of Colorado,” he said. “We are looking to connect with more organizations and help create solutions for the problems in the U.S. as well … We want to make people aware of the issues and show how business can be a solution.”

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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