Andre Elliott

Keys Apparel

It’s no secret that human trafficking is a widespread problem in the Sacramento area. But when it comes to fighting back, many people don’t know where to begin. I spoke with Jared Flower, co-founder and creative director of Keys Apparel, about one of the unique ways Sacramento is fighting back. Keys Apparel describes itself as ‘a for-profit business with non-profit motives’ and is confronting human trafficking through a business model offering fashionable dog apparel in the form of collars, bandanas, leashes, and toys. First of all, for someone who may not know what human trafficking is, what would you tell them?

Jared: “Human trafficking is a very complex issue. Basically, it’s taking a human and putting a dollar amount on them. It’s modern-day slavery. What we battle most closely is sexual slavery where there are girls who are kidnapped from their families and then sold at a price. (Often) they’ll be shipped to another country. (For instance) a lot of times, in India, daughters are actually sold by their families. People don’t understand that human trafficking is a huge issue in the United States, especially on the I-5 corridor. You’re going from Mexico to Canada, Canada to Russia… so (Sacramento) is a pivotal place as far as the movement is involved.”

Keys Apparel started in Sacramento and has been in business since 2012. The idea to fight human trafficking through a dog apparel business came up as the result of a casual conversation between Jared and co-founder/business director Luke Cole.

Jared: “We were just having a conversation about dog products. We both have dogs, we both love them, and basically, it all started with knowing the market for dog stuff. Knowing how big of a market that is, (we saw) there was a large gap (there) for stylish dog collars. So we started out (focused on) the dogs for function and the owners for style. (Based on) the connections we both have and the way we’ve been brought up, we thought ‘what can we do to give back and have some sort of social mission tied in with our business?’ That’s where (fighting) human trafficking came alongside our business. Right from the start we wanted to make an impact.”

Are there ways you can measure a tangible impact?

Jared: “Yeah! Basically, we not only allow the customer to donate 5% of their purchase price to whatever charity they designate on checkout but all of our products are made by girls who have been rescued from human trafficking or are at risk of it. So right from the start, our manufacturers are giving back and supporting the cause through sustainability. The organizations we have partnered with overseas are really the ones on the front lines. We come along and partner with them. We’re filling work orders and we’re paying a decent wage, stuff that these organizations aren’t used to.”

Keys has just launched several new lines of collars and leashes and is slowly making its way into pet stores. Jared and Luke are planning to expand Keys and open up a work center in Mexico where local people can learn a trade and be paid a living wage.

Right now, there are three basic collections offered: The “Standard Collection” which includes basic solid color dog collars and leashes, the “Natural Burlap” collar collection, and the “Sari Collection” which offers brightly colored and multi-patterned collar designs. You can also find cotton or hemp rope toys at Keys, and if you’re feeling particularly fashion conscious, you can even select from two “person” bandana options to accessorize with your dog! Partners that Keys works with to make a difference in the lives of those at risk, and who have been victims of human trafficking, include Jubilee Market and Dusty Feet. In addition to these organizations, Keys also allows patrons to make donations to Charity: water and the Placer SPCA. If you are a dog owner, a dog lover, or you know someone who is and you want to do some good for others while you pamper your pets, Keys Apparel may be just the thing you’re looking for. As Jared says “Love hounds, help humans!


Photos | Andre Elliott