GAIA (Goddess of the Earth)
GAIA creates beautiful collections of accessories that are handmade by resettled refugee women in Dallas, TX. They use beautiful vintage, repurposed, and sustainable materials to create gorgeous, unique bags & accessories.
Empowering marginalized women through employment, encouragement, and dedication to their long -term success in their local communities. GAIA’s goal is to lead women to financial independence and self-sufficiency.
FOUNDER PAULA MINNIS & HER JOURNEY:
When you meet Paula, she radiates beauty, creativity, vision and a strong faith. After working over 10 years in the fashion industry, Paula saw a new chapter in her life journey unfold; she got married, became a stepmother to two beautiful children and quit her demanding, high pressure career. Paula was now able to focus her energy on other passions, helping women and being a conscientious consumer. The book Half the Sky and volunteering as a mentor at the IRC (International Rescue Committee) were the catalyst that accelerated her vision to help and empower women. Through the IRC, Paula mentored Catherin a Burmese refugee and mother of three. While Paula was teaching Catherin how to read and write English, she learned that Catherin was a talented seamstress. With Catherin’s talent and Paula’s love for textiles and being a conscientious consumer, the VISION of GAIA was born. Paula's family was completely supportive, and God gave her a strong peace over the project. She knew that this was exactly what she was called to do, so without hesitation or fear, she moved forward with her passion, to empower women.
CREATIVITY & VISION
Paula’s strongest desire was to help Catherin find employment and provide for her children. She truly felt, it was God’s intervention that brought Catherin and Paula together. They began the business by creating cloth napkins made from vintage fabrics. As the business grew, Paula created a sustainable, socially responsible business model. This model would allow refugee women to gain transferable skills by creating one of-a- kind -pieces for a living wage. Six years later, Catherin still works for GAIA. Paula has watched Catherin work diligently to become an independent, confident, and strong woman and mother. Catherin is now 8 months pregnant with her fourth child and positively glowing. Paula feels it is her great fortune to know Catherin, employ her, and continue to have her a part of her life. Their strong bond and friendship has impacted both their lives.
The main obstacle Paula faces, that is fascinating but frustrating, is addressing the different ethnic backgrounds of the refugees, she employs. She has women from Burma, Iraq, Iran, and Congo working for her at this time. Some of these women work in the GAIA studio and others work from home. It has been frustrating at times dealing with the different languages, cultural traditions, work ethics, and lack of equipment. She and her team have learned much from these obstacles and have come up with creative solutions when addressing them.
GOD'S PERFECT TIMING
In 2011, GAIA was steadily growing and employing more women. With tear filled eyes, Paula tells the story of Lauren coming into the GAIA family. Paula said, “I have no idea where GAIA would be today, if it weren’t for Lauren!” Lauren, a new college graduate from Southern California, was extremely interested in fashion and giving back. After reading an article about GAIA, Lauren contacted Paula and arranged a meeting, while she was visiting Dallas. Paula immediately knew God had introduced her to a great addition to her team, and someone, who would give her the resilience to keep GAIA moving forward. Lauren traded in her flip-flops for cowboy boots. A month later, Paula found out she was pregnant with twins. “God’s perfect timing!” The GAIA vision was able to carry on, with the help of Lauren’s strong background in business, fashion, and humanitarian work.
Paula wishes to continue the positive impact her team has made in the refugee women’s lives. She wishes to continue providing a working environment where the women feel confidence and dignity. She also wish to grow the product line, so she can employee more women.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Paula’s suggestion for getting involved and helping others:
- Find your passion and use that passion to connect with others. Steve Jobs said, “Only way to do great work is to love what you do!”
- Volunteer as a mentor. You only need to travel a few miles east of Dallas to make an impact in someone’s life. Volunteering at the IRC is a great place to meet people from all over the world.
Paula and Lauren truly believe, we are to take seriously God’s call to help others, and serve our neighbors. They stated, "The best way to do this is simply to use your passion and talents."