Bullets to BraceletsNovember 05, 2012
I am excited to share a little bit about my journey in starting Raven + Lily with my dear friend Kirsten Dickerson. Raven + Lily is an accessories and gift brand that is dedicated to social justice by empowering women through design partnerships and micro-enterprise opportunities. When we first started Raven + Lily, we honestly weren’t really sure what we were getting ourselves into! We both have a passion for design, but an even bigger and more significant passion for social justice issues, especially among women. We decided to combine our love of art, with our connection to some amazing women in India and Kenya which led to the beginning of Raven + Lily.
In my experience of starting businesses, there are certain elements that are always the same- developing a unique voice, having great marketing materials, gathering the right funding, etc. But the challenges are always different because you’re working with different people, materials, locations, etc. Raven + Lily presents unique challenges because we are not only dealing with cultural differences, but also exporting legalities, dearth of materials, and poor infrastructure in developing countries. “You couldn’t work on our order because you didn’t have electricity for a week???!!”
What has motivated us through all of the challenges is our core belief that women are created with dignity and value. We partner with groups that are dedicated to treating women holistically- emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Many of the women in our partnerships are HIV+ or have experienced extreme poverty. Because of their circumstances, they have been outcast by their family and society. By treating the women holistically and training them in tangible skills, they are able to provide for themselves and their children. Through financial independence, they have increased self-worth and self-confidence. This allows them to speak up about their own rights and demand more for themselves and their children. It’s been proven that women use their income to invest in their children’s healthcare and education. This creates a healthier society when all members within a community are able to actively participate.
There have been so many unique stories of redemption and transformation in the lives of the women we work with. Many things are not quantifiable like a woman smiling and looking you in the eyes for the first time because she feels worthy and dignified. But I’d like to share with your readers one story about a sweet lady named Hom Oun, in our Cambodia partnership. (You can read more artisan stories on our site at http://www.ravenandlily.com/our-artisans) She found out she had AIDS while she was pregnant. Her unfaithful husband infected her but thankfully her son was healthy when he was born. Before joining the partnership, she was a street vendor during the day, and a trash picker at night. “[Since the partnership], I stopped begging. With the money I make, I buy rice, and support 3 kids and my mom who is blind. “If I die I can close my eyes because my children are all in school. I have never been to school so I am happy that all my children can go to school.”
I hope this has given you a small glimpse of why female entrepreneurs are so important and crucial to the development of our society. You can read more about how we operate and see all of our beautiful fair trade, handmade, and eco-friendly jewelry and accessories at www.ravenandlily.com
Co-Founder and CCO, Raven + Lily