Handcrafting Solutions to Poverty

PROVO, Utah – Jan 05, 2022 – As a child in Arroyo Grande, California, Sydni Dunn crafted woven purses out of empty Capri Sun pouches to sell to her friends, a pet project of hers that was a preview of things to come in her career. While this BYU Marriott School of Business graduate had dreams of helping run a business, she did not know that she would grow up to empower artisans around the world to sell their own handcrafted products as a way to reduce poverty.  

Dunn’s first experience in business began while working at her family’s startup company: SLO Veg. Dunn participated in the ideation and development of the company, which delivers local produce to customers. This experience inspired Dunn to study entrepreneurship at BYU Marriott. “As I helped my family create SLO Veg and began learning about entrepreneurship, I discovered how much I loved working in business,” Dunn says. “However, I felt like there was more I could do to make a lasting difference in the world.”  

Before graduating from the entrepreneurship program in 2016, a friend invited Dunn to explore BYU Marriott’s Ballard Center for Social Impact and become involved with the center’s efforts. “The Ballard Center was my saving grace,” Dunn says. “I learned that I could have a fulfilling career in business while also working to change the world.” 

Shortly after learning of the Ballard Center’s mission to Do Good. Better, Dunn was selected as the copresident of the Ballard Center’s social innovation leadership council. As copresident, she mentored student teams through initiatives to spread awareness about social impact. One of these initiatives was the Ballard Brief, an online journal of student-led research on social issues.  

After graduating from BYU Marriott, Dunn was selected as a corps member for Teach for America. Here, she was able to apply the knowledge she learned through the Ballard Center by teaching children in low-income families and schools for three years. “Working with kids in difficult circumstances changed my life,” says Dunn. “I saw children living in severe poverty with exposure to drugs and violence. My education enabled me to study the systemic issues in the local education systems and create solutions to reduce educational poverty.”  

Earlier this year, Dunn accepted a position with Ethik Collective as the head of sales and business development. Ethik Collective partners with artisans from Africa to Latin America to incorporate their handcrafted products into corporate supply chains for company gifting. “Ethik allows me to excel in business while making a difference in the world,” says Dunn. “I help artisans with families in poverty create long-term solutions to their situations.” Ethik Collective’s business model ensures that each artisan receives a consistent, fair-pay wage for their products.  

Dunn, who now resides in Provo, interacts frequently with businesses that purchase products from global artisans through Ethik’s gifting model. Each handcrafted item includes a card that shares the story of the artisan who created the product. “Employees are inspired after receiving a handmade gift from an artisan working to improve their life situation,” Dunn remarks. “Ethik’s model is changing the way corporate America thinks about company gifting by inspiring businesses to look deeper into supply-chain practices so that globally all of us can support the efforts of individuals in need.” 

Dunn’s role in Ethik’s business development has enabled her to successfully combine her passion for helping others with her love of business. Dunn admires how her goals of making a difference through business have come full circle from selling handmade Capri Sun purses as a child to advocating for  artisans around the globe. “My passion for business would be pointless without these artisans,” Dunn says. “The Ballard Center gave me the tools to merge my love for business with my desire to help others by working for a cause that makes a lasting difference.”   

BYU Marriott alum Sydni Dunn. Photo courtesy of Sydni Dunn.
BYU Marriott alum Sydni Dunn. Photo courtesy of Sydni Dunn.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kaylee Hepburn