Fashion, Faith and Freedom
"Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee."C.T. Studd
This could have been a story of defeat. It could have described a man who, after falling through a roof as a young firefighter, descended into anxiety and depression. This could have been a man who gave up, gave in, and surrendered to a life of defeat. But, that is not this story. This is a story of conquering fear, changing the world, creating fashion, and making a difference. It is Ken Petersen’s story.
“After my accident, I was faced with either retiring or taking a desk job for the rest of my firefighting career,” said Ken Petersen, founder and CEO of Apricot Lane Boutique, a national chain of specialized women’s clothing stores. “I decided I would rather work behind my own desk with my own staff and budget and see if I could create a successful business model that could be franchised,” he said in a recent interview.
“As a firefighter, I had gotten into retail in the early 80’s and was just beginning a retail gift concept in 1991, the year I left the fire department, with the opening of my store called Country Clutter. In 2007, I noticed that the entire fashion industry was made up of small, independent boutiques and national chains, but there were no franchise concepts offering boutique owners the infrastructure that the large nationals enjoyed. So, we decided to introduce our franchise and retail experience into the fashion market as Apricot Lane Boutique.” Today, Apricot Lane Boutique is 96 stores strong in 38 states and expects a growth rate of 30-40 stores per year.
Apricot Lane Boutique specializes in celebrity-inspired women’s fashions and designer labels that cater to women seeking individuality at an affordable price. But, Apricot Lane Boutique goes much deeper than simply being a presence within the fashion industry.“Our brand is known for connecting with and being involved in local communities,” said Ken. “If a prospective franchisee is only interested in ‘just selling clothes,’ we are not a good fit. God is the Chairman of our Board, and we run our business with this in mind. We don’t just bring the big issues to our Chairman; we involve Him in our day-to-day decisions, processes, and challenges—praising Him through it all. Proverbs 21:21 sets the direction for our values and principles. On a chain-wide, national level, we have embraced a difficult cause to join the fight to stop the evil of sex trafficking around the world.”
In January 2011, Ken approached the franchise system about giving back to the community. With a mindset of sacrifice, he detailed his plan to make a difference, not just to sell clothes. “I told our franchise system that we were blessed with growth and that we needed to come together as a brand to be about more than just opening stores and making money,” he said. With nothing more than a burden to be a blessing, Ken elicited ideas from his franchise owners. The answer came from an unexpected place.
“A week after I spoke with the franchisees my wife called me and asked if I would consider hosting a girl from Cambodia in our home, a victim of sex trafficking. Two weeks after that, my now 20-year old daughter moved into our home and changed our lives. God threw me into an evil that I had never been exposed to and my heart was broken.”
Shortly after the call from his wife, Ken began to explore the possibilities of Apricot Lane Boutique joining with Agape International Missions (AIM), a Cambodian ministry run by Don Brewster that prevents, rescues, restores, and reintegrates victims of sex trafficking into society. “I asked Don what he needed,” said Ken. “He told me that they needed jobs for these precious girls so that they can reintegrate back into their communities with dignity, honor, and a hope for the future. After prayerful consideration, I approached my franchisees and asked them if, as a brand, we could support the fight to end sex trafficking by working with AIM to create jobs for the rescued girls. They agreed, and 3Strands Global was born.”
"As Christian CEOs, we’re engaged in an epic battle to build high performing businesses. Convene is a trusted community of high performing Christian CEOs and business leaders that propel each other into an epic life of faith and business growth."Ken Peterson
Mending Lives With 3Strands
3Strands Global stands for Freedom, Love, and Empowerment. Based upon Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ken adds, “We believe every person and business can make a difference, and there is strength in numbers when we STRAND together.” 3Strands not only creates jobs for victims, but also builds a sustainable revenue source so that 100% of profits can be shared among many great organizations fighting the evil of sex trafficking. According to their website, the vision of 3Strands Global is, “to create a global brand that is recognized for unique, quality, handmade jewelry, accessories, and apparel; to employ victims of sex trafficking in an environment infused with love, compassion, education, and training; and to create a brand that consumers can enjoy and promote knowing that their purchases and involvement are helping to free, love, and empower girls rescued from sex trafficking.”
Displaying a visual representation of God’s grace, a seed from the Cambodian Sandalwood tree is woven into every piece of jewelry made by 3Strands Global. Over time, the Sandalwood seedpods dry up, fall off the tree, and are swept away as worthless pieces of trash, but “inside each of the dead seedpods is a beautiful, glossy red seed, created by God as a testament to new life,” said Ken.
"The seed is taken from the worthless shell and placed, in its natural beauty, within the tapestry of every 3Strands product. This red seed reminds us that the girls are not trash, but are beautiful and created by and in the image of God."Ken Peterson
More than just a representation of new life, the seed symbolizes each woman’s worth to Christ.
In Cambodian culture, sex-trafficked girls are viewed as useless pieces of humanity, of no use to society, but Apricot Lane Boutique and 3Strands Global are actively replacing this toxic cultural opinion with a biblical view of human life. Ken and his franchise partners were willing to be used by God and are being blessed because of it. More than just a fashion line, Apricot Lane Boutique is a testament to how one man’s vision can change the world.
The Source Of Significance
“In the beginning of my journey from firefighting to fashion, it was very difficult for me,” said Ken. “Every time I’d hear a siren, my heart would go back to the fire station. With our narrow and limited perspective, we can’t see the forest through the trees while we are going through a difficult time. We need to trust in God’s plan and His wide-angle perspective. Now, with the benefit of looking back, I have no regrets and see that God was working upstream all along. As I contemplate the second half of my life, I want to devote it to using my gifts and resources in doing good things that are profitable for humanity. Being a blessing to others is the source to significance. As CEO of both 3Strands and Apricot Lane Boutique, I still put on my fire helmet at times; I’m just putting out different kinds of fires!”
By: Jessica Burchfield
Jessica Burchfield is the contract Communications Coordinator for Clearwater Christian College, a freelance writer, and a professional photographer based out of Tampa, Florida.Read More Articles by Jessica Burchfield