The power of touch and texture, the power of color, the power of the object and the story of how it came to be; experiencing these things awakened my soul to something beautiful. My lifework has become a personal testament to how a handcrafted item can change a life.
It was a Mielie that started it for me. It put me on this path of curating the crossroads of those who create and those who cherish.
Mielie’s dedication to helping women in economically depressed areas of South Africa earn a proper living by creating beautiful items was an inspiration to me. Thus my journey to help make a positive di erence in people’s lives—not only the artisans who craft the pieces, but the future generations of those artisans, and the people who get joy from the beauty of the work—had begun.
The name “Love Travels. Imports” is derived from many things... my love of travel... exploration... the earth... and, most importantly, my love of others and the meaningful impact we can have on people’s lives.
The idea is to connect the Fair Trade, hand- crafted work of artisans with people around the world. Our mission is to bring Love of Handcrafted Art, Love of the sustainable Earth, and Love of Helping Our Neighbors; to others.
Some would say it was just a bag, but for me it was the beginning of an amazing journey.
What do I know?
When my grandmother, Elizabeth, was 10 years old she came to Michigan to escape an abusive father. She told me about standing on a chair at 10 years old to wash dishes and iron clothes to earn money. She got married at a young age and divorced a grandfather I never knew. She ended up raising five children as a single parent.
My mother, Elvia Mae, was her youngest child. She was a smart and pretty Cass Tech graduate and was only one of a handful of people of color there at the time. She also had five girls and I was her oldest. My mother was an active, caring mom who taught me how to sew, crochet and knit. She also shared her passion for books, libraries, culture and museums. Reading led me to dream about traveling all over the world and all the wonderful places I could visit.
When I was 12 years old my mother had a nervous breakdown. The mother I knew was forever gone.
I remember my grandmother taking me aside and telling me that I had to “be responsible.” I was the oldest and it was now my job to take care of my little sisters and the household but I was traumatized and frightened. However, my grandmother said, “I had to step up and that nothing beats a failure but a try, so try.” So, I tried.
At 17, I graduated from high school and took my first grown-up trip alone. Since then, I have traveled to over 20 countries and 33 states. In 1996, I took my first trip to Senegal a French-speaking country in Africa. On that first trip, I had several requests from people to bring them something back. Something that said “Africa.” I put a lot of effort in picking out just the “right thing” for each and every one of them.
On December 30, 2009, I was downsized from my 6-figure corporate job. I have held a job and worked since I was 16 years old. Nothing beats a failure but a try, so why not try by building my own business. What do I know? Travel.
I decided to help people help themselves through commerce and fair trade by being a conduit that connects people with beautiful handmade products that they love. I constantly listen and pay close attention to people’s needs and want to figure out that perfect something that will make them happy.
— Yvette Jenkins, Founder