For senior Claire Roehri, career goal number one is to make a positive societal impact. So her internship this past summer was especially profound. The Fox Grove, Illinois native traveled to Kolkata, India to work for Sari Bari, a “freedom business” in which women who have been exploited by the sex trade or who are vulnerable to trafficking convert saris into home décor items and accessories to achieve economic independence.
As it was her first time out of the United States, Roehri admits to being “terrified” when she first landed in India. “But I would definitely go back,” Roehri states.
Despite the fact she does not speak Bengali, the official language of the Indian state of West Bengal, where Kolkata is located, she connected to the women who worked at Sari Bari.
“The relationships I made were the most rewarding and beautiful part of the entire experience.” Roehri says. “I made some great friendships this summer.”
A strong sense of love and community pervaded the climate at Sari Bari. Twice daily, the women, including Roehri, took a break from their respective labors to enjoy cups of tea. “I think we should implement ‘tea time’ into the work culture here in the United States,” she says, inspired by the communal spirit the collective break instilled.
Roehri put her double major in marketing and management and minor in design to work at Sari Bari as its design and marketing intern. She created the layout of the 2017 Sari Bari fall/winter look book and established an Instagram campaign to generate community support of education for the children of Sari Bari employees.
Roehri first learned about Sari Bari in management instructor Laura Kauzlarich-Mizaur’s, MBA, Creativity and Innovation class. Kauzlarich-Mizaur used Sari Bari’s business model as an example of how a company can blend social mission with profitability, which is the foundation of social entrepreneurship. While she found Sari Bari’s business model brilliant, she did not entertain the idea of interning with the company.
Then Roehri, who was working at the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, met Sari Bari founder Sarah Lance when she was on campus for Opus Prize week. Sari Bari was one of the finalists (and eventual winner) for the Opus Prize, and Lance so inspired Roehri that she attended every Opus Prize event and inquired about internship opportunities.
Her persistence paid off. “I think the reason I was accepted to intern at Sari Bari was because of my relentless determination and enthusiasm,” says Roehri.
She is happy to be back on campus and able to apply what she learned in India to her classes, in particular Global Marketing Finance for Entrepreneurial Ventures and History of Asia and the World. “I am constantly thinking about how the content I am learning in class pertains to Sari Bari and living in Kolkata,” says Roehri.
Four years ago, when Roehri was applying to Creighton, she was considering a career in education. But, “the more business classes I took, the more I realized how becoming a teacher wasn’t the only way I could make a positive impact on the world,” says Roehri. “I love the creativity and innovation of marketing, social entrepreneurship and design. Hopefully after a long career in business, I’ll have the opportunity to become a teacher and combine the best of both worlds.”
An open mind to internship options in unlikely places and the courage to venture beyond her comfort zone led Roehri to one of the most challenging but best experiences of her life. “Finding Sari Bari is the most serendipitous thing that has ever happened to me,” she says, gratefully.