I am a millennial, social entrepreneur, ex-project manager, Brooklynite, and dreamer.
At age 24 and two years under my belt in the financial world at Bloomberg, I felt emboldened to take the skills I learned in the business world to do good in the developing world. Village Volunteers, a non-profit out of Seattle, matched my skills to a local organization and placed me with a microfinance women’s group called the Sisi Fund in rural Kenya. There, I harnessed my business acumen to teach accounting and implement micro-loans to a group of 70 widowed women.
To get to Kenya, I needed a thousand dollars: for gas to travel around the villages and printed booklets to teach accounting. So, before the trip, I sold jewelry to my colleagues. They were beaded bracelets (some that we still sell today!) that I taught myself how to make on Youtube. The response was greater than expected. People bought up to five bracelets and I hit my goal. Ultimately, I flew to Kenya in February that following year and spent three weeks teaching accounting to widowed women who were left to raise their families with a grade-school education and not much external support. They were confident, passionate, and desperate to educate their children and keep them in school. Ironically, it was I who ended up learning the most.
Many people have turning points in their lives. Working with these women who lacked the same opportunities I did growing up — was my moment of purpose. I saw with my own eyes the impact that $200 microloans and financial education had on these women’s confidence, livelihoods, and future for their families.
After returning to the states, I founded Bird + Stone — as a fashion jewelry company that could sustainably fund these economic empowerment initiatives and serve as a resource for more life-changing loans. We are now a team of four: designers, marketers, and creatives, working on creating a better world through jewelry.
Bird + Stone is a socially conscious jewelry company that uses 15% of its profits to fund aspiring female entrepreneurs in Kenya that start businesses, lift their families out of poverty, and follow their dreams.
We fund micro-loans coupled with financial and agri-business training – which is the key. Loans without education is only one part of poverty alleviation. As proven by the Girl Effect, the UN, and many others, investing in women helps eradicate global poverty. 90% of a woman’s income is reinvested in her community (versus 30-40% of a man’s). We see a 99% repayment rate with the Sisi Fund. Last year, we funded eight micro-loans and the results were transformational. The loan recipients increased their income 4x, could afford to send their 24 children to school, upgraded their homes with cement flooring and running water, and most importantly, inspired other women to dream big and believe in themselves. This year, we aim to fund 50 micro-loans.
Bird + Stone is sold online and in boutiques across the country. We also partner with universities across the country through a “purpose rep” program.
We are fundraising in time for the fourth quarter of 2015. The holiday season is where retail companies make up to 50% of their sales, so it’s an important time for us to capitalize on. This raise will help us build out our online marketing efforts and ramp up operations with the goal of reaching socially conscious consumers in new cities across the country.
$3000 | Holiday inventory + packaging (to cover influx of orders during holiday season)
$4,000 | Online marketing (Facebook and Google ads). People are already searching “socially conscious jewelry” and finding us, so we’d like to put some paid ads to reach more people. Customers are buying 5x the amount of bracelets during this time: we want to capitalize on the buying season.
$2,000 | PR help. Our biggest source of new leads came from articles in Mashable, Business Insider, etc. that we secured. We’d like some professional help in increasing these placements for Q4.
$1,000 | Craft market fairs fees for highly trafficked events in New York City and Brooklyn.
We expect to make 1-2.5x revenue return on the marketing investment.
*** Perks for Lenders: ***
Thanks for supporting our loan! For everyone who supports us, you will receive a 25% discount to use on our shop for the holidays. Please e-mail us after backing at: [email protected]