When Passion and Purpose Collide: How Landmine Design is Leaving Their Mark on Global Exploitation of Women

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Landmine Design is pulling women and their families out of poverty, setting them on their feet, and giving them an education that no one can take from them. [These women] are in desperate need of a job, and even more desperately in need of education. These are the women LandMine Design exists to serve.
_-Landmine Design Blog_

Tell us a little about Landmine Designs…what’s the story?

Landmine Design is a job creation program employing and educating women living on a former minefield along one of the most trafficked borders on the globe between Cambodia and Thailand.

Women are rolling beads from paper, assembling them into modern designs for you. They’re working from the safety of their homes and being educated in the areas of health & hygiene, financial management, English, and Christian discipleship.

Landmine Design stems from its parent non-proft, LightBridge International. LightBridge International is a Colorado based non-profit serving the orphan and the poor throughout Southeast Asia through financial support, community development projects, sponsorship, education, and Christian discipleship. It was about three years ago, through this work, Landmine Design founders witnessed a need so large they were led to act.

Prior to Landmine Design, women had no options for income or access to education. Vulnerable and desperate, these women would oftentimes subject themselves to the dangers of the border, leaving their children alone for months at a time. This was not an answer and for founders Karla Tillapaugh, Amreitha Jeeva, and Sarah Addy – Landmine Design was.

What’s the mission of Landmine? 

We exist to empower women in poverty through job creation and education. Our goal is sustainability and holistic care for each woman, her family, and greater community.

Jewelry has always been a beautiful thing, perhaps because it’s not a necessity – we choose it. To see the US choosing this story is a dream come true for us at Landmine Design. 

Where did the name Landmine Designs originate from? 

The MineField Village of Cambodia where we work was one of the most highly concentrated regions of landmines on the globe. These landmines were laid by the Khmer Rouge, who came into power and killed millions of Cambodians from 1975-1979. The land is toxic and many of Cambodia’s people are scarred from explosions. We employ several survivors like Te, 43 years old and a mother of 4, who happily shows off her scars from gunshots and a landmine explosion she survived as a little girl. What the country endured is unfathomable; our name seeks to be a testament to Cambodia’s resilience, strength and collective beauty.

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How did you combine a great cause with great product-in other words, how did you make this work?

That’s such a great question! And I’ll be honest - it has not been easy. As a staff we have learned time and time again what perseverance and patience means…

To start, our founders recognized a dire need for jobs for these vulnerable women. This was the fuel that would carry Landmine Design to its fruition, and is still our fuel everyday. It is so vitally important to operate from the “why?” – it keeps you moving through the many trial and errors that will inevitably come.

This was the fuel that would carry Landmine Design to its fruition, and is still our fuel everyday. It is so vitally important to operate from the “why?” – it keeps you moving through the many trial and errors that will inevitably come. 

The need for employment was evident, but in order to pay the women, profits would need to be incurred. Sustainability is the heart of Landmine Design, for the business and each woman we employ, thus a self-sustaining job creation program was always the dream. Our founders got to dreaming about what could be made and like any good brainstorming session, many ideas were tossed around.  Landmine Design could be producing knitted hats today…! And let me just say I’m so happy we’re not, it is scorching in The MineField Village…

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Inga Swope, a friend traveling with our founders, knew how to make paper beads and had a heart for social enterprise.  She simply began training our 6 original women with this skill. We were also blessed to have Kallie Dovel of 31Bits accompany our founders on a trip to offer her expertise and advice. Today their beads are impeccable, I don’t know how they do it, but let’s just say this was not always the case… Like anything, it took tireless hours of practice to create even a single bead that would stand on its own in a US marketplace. The beads would need to be perfected before design was even considered, a standard that is difficult as a staff to hold these women to in moments, but is done with love for the sustainability of their job and access to education.

How does the saying go – sometimes we have to look back in order to move forward? Well, this is so incredibly true. Sometimes I pull out our original pieces and am almost moved to tears by the evolution, growth, and complete beauty that has birthed from these women’s hard and dedicated work – it is a labor of love. Jewelry has always been a beautiful thing, perhaps because it’s not a necessity – we choose it. To see the US choosing this story is a dream come true for us at Landmine Design.

How did you combine your love for good fashion and design with this specific cause of Landmine Design? 

I have always had my hand in some sort of creative realm. I grew up admiring my mother’s effortless touch styling and design and at a young age sought to emulate her until it transpired into realms of work that were distinctively me. In seasons of my life this looked like sneaking onto the city bus to get to thrift stores, which evolved into a vintage business I ran throughout college. I flipped clothing, styled it, photographed it and was eventually shipping product to customers all around the world – I stayed in touch with customers from England and Australia and this honestly played a large role in opening my eyes to a global business landscape that was available to anyone willing to put in the time.

With growing confidence, I moved to NYC where I worked under Oscar de la Renta for a short time until I was constantly led to the question – to what end? I questioned the industry, its effect on women’s perceptions of themselves, and really – what goal were we chasing? Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough for me. This was the catalyst that led to the founding of, the AMMO woman, a jewelry line my sister and I founded in an effort to provide women tangible reminders of their innate strength. We sought to pair refined design with purpose and built the business on this belief – we hired individuals facing obstacles to employment to produce our packaging elements and sought to spark conversations regarding a woman’s worth.

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One day, through this work, Landmine Design approached us. Requesting assistance in design, branding, and overall direction – with hearts aligned it was a resounding yes. We dove in, not solely motivated by fashion and design, but the dream of using it as a means of changing an entire landscape for vulnerable women in need. It was a dream come true and the answer to my constant question of – to what end? 

Following our initial collection designed for Landmine Design, my sister accepted a job in San Francisco and in too deep to part, I accepted my role as Creative Manager, however – her attention to detail remains at the heart of what we do still today.

For a young activist or entrepreneur, what’s one tangible piece of advice you would give them in their ventures of creating for good?

Start wherever you are with whatever you have.

I never knew seeking to change the world was something I was allowed to partake in and honestly, if someone would have told me it would have been too intimidating of a task to try.

There is something you love, something that gets you out of bed in the morning. Do not belittle that something, however small, it’s purposeful. For me, that used to be finding a $2 blouse I knew I could sell for $30 by creating and building value. This was purposeful; it educated and guided my personal development, it mobilized me.

What you love is purposeful, so start right where you are with whatever you have and mobilize yourself! The story that unfolds could be pretty incredible, it may even lead you to a minefield!

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Give us a plug! Anything else you want to leave our Yellow Co. blog readers with!?

Stay tuned, we’re preparing some exciting things in the fall and tangible opportunities for each of you to partake in helping us employ, educate, and protect additional women! One woman at a time, we’re about to run full speed ahead and we want you in on this.

To be in the loop, receive our monthly Landmine Letter, or just say hi - shoot me an email at Kristie@LandmineDesign.org - I would love to hear from you! You belong in our story and I want to hear yours.

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A special thanks from Yellow Co. to Kristie, of Landmine Designs (pictured above!) for sharing her insight and passion with us today. 

Sally Kim

Sally is a wife to one and momma bird to five-it’s a good story. Well crafted Vanilla Lattes and gram-worthy coffee shops are her love language. When not mommying, you can find her editing for her client friends or writing on her blog, Letters From A Mister.