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Bags to Butterflies: A Detroit Business that Reduces Recidivism in Style

There’s nothing like a black owned business thats supportive towards its community and offers second chances to those who’ve been incarcerated. Black own businesses like Bags to Butterfliers, L3C helps provide support, resources and a caring network to help citizens redefine their life’s purpose, with hopes to reduce recidivism.

Bags to Butterflies, L3C is a social enterprise located  in Detroit, Michigan. The goal of this black owned enterprise is to empower formerly incarcerated women with transitional employment immediately upon their return to the community from incarceration.

Bags to Butterflies helps create jobs using a very common accessory for women — a purse! While not only creating jobs, this business also handcrafts gorgeous handbags and clutches made from wood, leather, and high-quality textiles; allowing these returning citizens to showcase their creative abilities.

Bags to Butterflies was founded in 2015 by Detroit native, Michelle Smart. Smart’s founding purpose was to empower formerly incarcerated women with employment in an creative environment.

“The ladies are encouraged to be creative without boundaries,” said Smart.

In support of its mission, these ladies are provided with the materials to design and market a collection of handbags and clutches. “The handbag collections function as a reminder to the women to ‘let go’of their past, ‘live life’ with a sense of purpose, and ‘fly’ towards their dreams,” as mentioned in an issued statement.

Each bag holds symbolic purposes. The smaller handbags that are crafted are supposed to symbolize the downsizing of personal baggage and the focus on mental and emotional stability. The wood used to help create some of the items is repurposed, symbolizing that old materials can be given a new life, just like the designers.

The handcrafted bags each come with a message about the designer, creating an emotional connection between the creator and the buyer. Bags to Butterflies provides an opportunity for the previously incarcerated to become reinvigorated. With commitment, perseverance, and from the help of Bags to Butterflies, these women are creating new, successful lives for themselves through designing fashion accessories.


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