Derri Smith - Founder


If you could invent a holiday, it would definitely involve ______________?

“Make Someone’s Day” day. I love Toby Mac’s song “Speak Life” about words bringing life or death, healing or wounding. On this day everyone would consciously work to encourage, appreciate, and uplift. Who knows, maybe the day could ripple out into all of life! A close second would be “Humble Day” when everyone gave credit where credit was due.  Actively looked for what they could learn from each person they encountered.

What are your three favorite podcasts and/or books?

But I have so many favorites and the bookcases and Kindle lists to prove it! Two forever on the list are  To Kill a Mockingbird and Les Misérables. I also have lots of podcast favorites too. This American Life has been a favorite the longest.

What are you currently binge watching?

Season two of Stranger Things.

What can you be found doing in your free time?

Reading, with my 72lb dog sharing (hogging) the recliner with me.  Exploring new places with Bill, my husband of 46 years. Pondering.

What does your job look like day-to-day?

After over a decade spent creating and building the agency and acting as CEO, my role changed recently, and I’m still figuring out how not to be responsible for everything!  I work on special projects mainly. Like prepping for a presentation at a national conference, mapping out what an affiliate program might look like, working with a team to create a podcast or convening a focus group of pastors to plan materials for churches.

What’s the most inspiring part of your job?

Seeing survivors, especially early clients, thriving and supporting each other…there is nothing more inspiring than that!

Where did you go to college? What did you get your degree in?

Forever ago (1974), Abilene Christian  University (then College) with a BS in Education and minor in Psychology. Since then,  hundreds of hours in training about human trafficking and related topics (and teaching about the same- everywhere from the TEDx stage to the US Capitol) but they haven’t given me a degree for it yet!

What path led you to work at End Slavery Tennessee?

ESTN started with a prayer “God, give me something to do about this” upon learning about human trafficking. It was like a dot to dot picture, and my entire life prepared me for this work. From my childhood in gang-infested neighborhoods, as a child abuse victim, to careers walking beside refugees and inner-city youth.

God has opened doors, guided, brought along the right people, given favor, and changed lives ever since. I gained experience working internationally and nationally around this issue. But the vision from day one was creating an excellent system of care for Tennessee human trafficking survivors and changing the cultural mindset and systems that needed changing. God has done the heavy lifting and brought all that to pass.  

If you would like to learn more about Derri click here