Beauty vs. Trafficking: A Mission Worth Fighting For. MISSIO is an affordable luxury hair product brand that is fighting against human trafficking using weapons of beauty and empowerment.
If you see something, say something. It’s a refrain we hear over and over. But if you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, what do you say?
Hair stylist Lorin Van Zandt had to consider that question when one of her clients began showing up with bruises all over her body. “Somebody else always called to make her appointments,” Lorin said. “There were these things that made me ask, ‘What’s really going on here?’” Lorin searched for an explanation online. She learned that she was picking up on the signs of human trafficking.
The next time her client showed up with bruises, Lorin seized the opportunity to offer support. While making conversation, she slipped in a question. “Was everything okay?” she asked. When her client made it clear that it wasn’t, Lorin listened without judgement, then shared resources she’d prepared ahead of time on how to get help.
This act of compassion was the first step Lorin took down the path to co-founding MISSIO Hair, a hair product company that mobilizes people in the fight against human trafficking while directly serving at-risk and victimized women.
Under U.S. law, human sex trafficking is defined as a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion. Globally, commercial sexual exploitation earns profits of roughly $99 billion per year, according to a 2014 report by the International Labor Organization. Most victims find themselves in coercive or abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous. Workers in the cosmetic and style industry have a unique opportunity to identify people who are being trafficked. Salons are one of the few places many sex-trafficked women regularly visit and might be left without a chaperone.
This is why everybody in the beauty industry needs to know how to spot the warning signs of human trafficking, says Kyle Van Zandt, Lorin’s husband and Co-Founder of MISSIO Hair. MISSIO’s first initiative is to educate hairstylists on how to spot the signs of human trafficking. “Sometimes, the safest place to talk is at the hair salon,” Kyle said.
The name of their company reflects the couple’s idea to have a product with a mission — to spread hope and restore freedom. In addition to education, MISSIO also serves women who are in recovery, by “providing supplies, whether that’s through empowerment tools, gift cards or opportunities to walk across the street and get their hair cut.”
Lorin began by volunteering her stylist skills at rehabilitation facilities, safe houses, and other locations that provide support to survivors of human trafficking. She immediately saw the benefit of her services to the women, how they opened up to her, and how her salon services made them feel better about themselves. “Low self-esteem is one of the factors that has the potential to make people feel vulnerable to trafficking,” Lorin said
Once people began hearing about Lorin and Kyle’s mission, doors opened for them. Beauty product manufacturers loved their idea. “Their reaction to hearing about our plans were almost always, ‘Hey, we love what you’re doing. We’ll work with you,’” Kyle said. They received seed money from investors who happened to overhear them discussing their vision for the business. With that, they created an LLC and began to work on an education program and product development.
Despite juggling a new company with parenting two small children, things began to take shape for Lorin and Kyle. Their first four products were a shampoo, two conditioners, and a dry shampoo. A little over a year after the initial product launch, MISSIO has moved out of the garage in which it started, and they now have a salon studio, office space, a sales floor, and a warehouse all under one roof in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Their biggest problem now? Keeping their products stocked. But for a new business owner, it’s not the worst problem to have.
Lorin and Kyle recently had the opportunity to appear as a vendor at “Spring at the Silos,” an event put on by Fixer Upper’s Chip & Joanna Gaines in Waco, Texas. The adored HGTV stars have steadily been transforming their hometown of Waco by beautifully renovating old houses. Spring at the Silos brings in 50-80 thousand visitors annually. During the event weekend this year, visitors crowded the MISSIO booth from open to close. Their full line of products has been on the market for 10 months now. They hope to share it, alongside their education model and empowerment tools, city by city. They believe that when people see their product line, they’ll recognize and support the hopeful story behind it.
“The national human trafficking resource center receives an average of 100 calls per day,” Lorin said. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, after internet searches, the most common way people find the hotline is through a referral. If you know or suspect someone is being trafficked, please share with them the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888.