Entrepreneur works with Webster staff in business competition


Dawn Manske spent ten years in China, seeing firsthand the challenges girls and young women face in Asia. After watching a video from an undercover investigation of the sex trade in Cambodia, Manske decided to take action.

Dawn Menske / Contributed photo

Manske created Made for Freedom in 2011 to help victims of sex trafficking find dignified employment. Among the products produced by Made for Freedom include jewelry, clothes, and other fashion accessories.

“The whole thing started several years ago with a combination of my desire to help fight sex trafficking and understand sexual enterprise,” Manske said.

Manske is working with Webster University staff to help train her in the upcoming Catapult Competition, in which businesses owned by women can win a $10,000 package of technology services.  

Manske will compete with two other finalists in the competition organized by the St. Louis Business Journal and Mastercard. The winner will be decided at the twelfth annual Women’s Conference Jan. 27.

Assistant professor of management Eric Rhiney, associate vice president of diversity and inclusion Nicole Roach and assistant professor of advertising and marketing Terry Sullivan are part of the coaching staff from Webster University who will help prepare Manske for the Catapult Competition.

Sullivan said Made for Freedom does good work around the world and he is happy to be helping Manske out.

“Personally, I am honored to be coaching Dawn and Made for Freedom in the St. Louis Business Journal’s Catapult Competition,” Sullivan said. “The company’s mission is meaningful, and its products are made by victims through sustainable employment. Thus, ending their dependence on others who may take or have taken advantage of them.”

Starting a business takes more time and money than you expect, Manske said. She said she was encouraged on how excited the faculty at Webster University was.

“They came in with some great ideas on how to increase the sales of Made for Freedom,” Manske said. “The more we increase our sales, the more we are able to provide dignified employment for women.”

According to Made for Freedom’s website, prevention, restoration, and awareness are the three methods the company is using to stop human trafficking. The company is committed to empowering women to break the cycle of vulnerability and poverty.

Roach described Manske as a compassionate innovator. She said Rhiney, Sullivan and herself are working to improve the marketing strategies of Made for Freedom.

“With this knowledge, direction for next level marketing and communication has been shared along with framework for a community relations strategy,” Roach said. “We’re very excited about assisting Manske on enhancing her personal story and experiences that led to the launch of Made for Freedom.”

The jewelry made at Made for Freedom primarily comes from three locations, including the St. Louis location. The other two locations are in China, in Beijing and Kumning. Manske’s business operates out of 12 different locations worldwide.

The “speak up” necklace is Manske’s favorite, and she said it was a statement piece.

“You will often see me wearing my ‘speak up’ necklace,” Manske said. “Because it says ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.’”

Manske said Made for Freedom helps keep girls and women stay out of vulnerable situations. She said that refugees and immigrants need food and shelter, and it puts them at risk of exploitation.

“People are going to find out some way to survive or they die,” Manske said. “If they have no means to provide for themselves, then the alternatives are not pleasant.”

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