Woman tackling unemployment rate in Hamtramck with custom bag business

Rebecca Smith's business, Better Life Bags, is broadening horizons for local women.
Rebecca Smith's business, Better Life Bags, is broadening horizons for local women. 

It all started five years ago when Smith made her son a diaper bag and proudly posted it online. People began asking her to make bags for them. They quickly became so popular she couldn't keep up. 

But, instead of outsourcing production, she turned to her neighborhood for help. 

"The unemployment rate in Hamtramck is high. The women here know how to sew and needed jobs. This gives them a way to provide for their families", says business owner Rebecca Smith.  

The 32-year-old now focuses on hiring women who cannot work outside of the home due to cultural beliefs. She also employs women like Cassandra Grimes, who was once afraid to let her children play outside of their Detroit home. 

Grimes, a single mother of four, was struggling to feed her kids when she by chance ran into Smith on the street. They became friends and Smith taught her how to sew and make Better Life Bag key fobs. 

Eventually, Grimes was able to move her family from Detroit to Hamtramck and completely leave the welfare system. 

"My life's changed a lot. Before, I was going through a lot of struggles; couldn't get diapers; couldn't get a home of my own. But, since I came here, I got a place of my own and I can provide for my kids", says Grimes. 

Along with with making lives better, business is blossoming. Smith has gone from making just making diaper bags to making school bags, laptops cases, totes, purses, wallets, key fobs and much more.

Customers can go online to www.BetterLifeBags.com, select basic bag styles, and then customize them by choosing from a variety of fabrics and materials. 

Smith says she would love to see the unemployment rate go down one percent in Hamtramck because of Better Life Bags. Right now, she employs 12 women and estimates she would have to hire 45 to make that happen.

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