Business continues to boom for Starfish Project, an international jewelry ministry co-founded by Bethel alumna Priscilla (Pasquale ‘99) Daeger.

Bethel Magazine first featured Starfish Project in 2009, and since then, the ministry, which is devoted to rescuing women once trapped in prostitution overseas, moved its US business from the basement of Daeger’s Elkhart home, to its storefront location in Elkhart at 409 S. Main St.

Starfish in Asia, which is currently run by Daeger’s former college roommate Jenny (Dyer ‘99) McGee and her husband, has re-registered as a larger corporation, enabling them to provide jobs with dignity to twice as many women as before. The project has moved its original shelter to a new location, doubling its capacity; and it’s opened two additional shelters where exploited women receive lodging, medical care, employment, Christian counseling, and vocational training.

The project has come a long way since Daeger, and McGee happened upon the idea following a semester abroad and several subsequent mission trips to Asia. But did Daeger ever think it would come this far?

“To tell the truth, I did imagine it would get this far,” she says, “but I didn’t imagine it would happen so quickly! We (my husband and I) knew that Starfish had amazing potential for sales in the western world, and in Asia Starfish has already had miraculous success in helping exploited women turn around their lives.”

Some of those successes include job opportunities and promotions to Starfish staff and former shelter residents.

“The woman who manages the shelter was once a shelter resident,” says Daeger, adding that the shelter’s production and stockroom managers are also former residents.

Currently in Asia, there are more than 30 full-time staff, more than half of whom are women who have come out of a life of exploitation.

The US office has two full-time employees and eight-10 volunteers who rotate throughout the week.

“Starfish Project has always had the goal of being a self-sustaining business, and as part of that goal we aimed at being able to pay all our employees a fair wage,” says Daeger. “Little by little we have been building employee compensation into our annual budgets.”

The business continues to do jewelry parties, which have been their biggest source of revenue over the years, and they have been heavily recruiting independent sales representatives.

“Starfish would like to be a model of a socially responsible business that other overseas workers can learn from and replicate in their cities to help exploited men, women and children all over the world,” says Daeger, who recently announced that she has stepped down as director of the Project to spend time with family. Longtime Starfish employee, Ashley Flora, has been promoted as the new director.