Ian and Brittany Bentley, owners of Parker Clay, have a daughter they adopted from Ethiopia and she led them to an economic empowerment mission

By Anjalie Tandon (SB Independent) |

With the birth of their two sons, Parker and Clayton, Ian and Brittany Bentley simply couldn’t “imagine the thought of other kids without a mom and dad.” Explained Ian, “We looked at the statistic of potentially over four million kids in Ethiopia that were orphaned. But to us, it wasn’t just the number; it was, ‘What if it was Parker or Clayton?’”

So in 2011, they went to the East African country to adopt their then-5-month-old daughter, Selah, and found out about a group called Women at Risk, which helped women escape prostitution by teaching them job skills. With a background in business development, Ian explained, “That was really the catalyst for making us come home and decide, ‘Hey, let’s join them. Let’s stand alongside them and help them build this.’”

While searching for a venture to employ these former prostitutes, Ian stumbled across a leather bag while shopping for his wife’s birthday and quickly learned that Ethiopia was one of the largest leather producers in the world. “As we dug deeper, we actually found that places like Italy and other European countries were actually importing Ethiopian leather by the containers,” he said. “That really made us think that if a place like Italy, which is known for producing really high-end leather bags and accessories, is using Ethiopian leather, why not create these opportunities in Ethiopia instead?”

After three years in Ethiopia building the business — which also involved starting their Christian nonprofit, Steadfast Love — the family brought their mission to their hometown of Santa Barbara, opening the Parker Clay retail store on East Anapamu Street, across from the County Courthouse. Since September, they’ve been selling leather bags, wallets, and other goods, including hand-woven scarves crafted by their partners in Ethiopia. “To bring a country like Ethiopia into Santa Barbara has just been really fun,” said Ian. “So come in and smell the leather.”

Parker Clay, Address: 133 E. Anapamu St., (805) 699-5144, parkerclay.com

Source: Santa Barbara Independent
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