The Big Why
A few years ago, I saw a young woman sitting on a curb. She was begging to survive. The cash I passed on to her was gratefully received, but we both knew it would not go far. She needed help that was long lasting. Compelled by that experience, I began to read the stories of people who had gone through homelessness. I felt shame at my ignorance — I never knew just how tough it was to get out of it, much less survive day to day. I learned that people who are homeless or jobless face real danger, experience terrible cold and hunger, always have to be on the defensive, and tolerate people looking down on them.
I used to think, “well, why don’t they just…” and there you have it, problem solved. Reality is, the “system” keeps them down. Even the first rung on the ladder upward is very difficult to reach, maybe impossible. Many people in tough straights tell stories of how they began to make some progress, only to have their hopes dashed, a door slammed in their face, and themselves back on the streets again. The hand-outs are…good; they keep the people going, yet soon it can become just a way to prolong the journey.
Looking in the Looking Glass
We have all heard the maxim, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Then it hits home for me, “who am I teaching to fish?” How can a small earring business such as Sensitively Yours make a difference? How could the business contribute meaningfully to those who are homeless, just getting out, or trying to start a new life? Can we do something practical and effective to help those rescued out of the human trafficking, or recently released from jail, or facing eviction?
I learned there are some people among those in the struggle who are remarkably talented in making things with their hands. Suppose they could learn to, or perhaps already do, make jewelry that is beautiful, unique, and very sellable. Imagine what they could produce if we supply them with instruction, guidance, basic tools, and parts, and let them create. There will be those who might learn and enjoy it just for the delight of making jewelry for the opportunity to create and use their hands. These people would be benefited by the activity and enriched by fellowship as they create with others interested in making jewelry. However, others could make jewelry for the purpose of selling the pieces they make.
Possibilities are Endless
If those who are interested in selling their handcrafted jewelry could produce and sell their wares at a fair price, the earnings from those sales might make a significant difference in the people’s lives. The income may be just a start, perhaps supplemental to something else the people are doing. Earning cash from selling jewelry can provide good changes such as helping to get the crafter off the street, ending the need for handouts, allowing him or her to live in safety, obtain better necessary things, provide for his or her family and others, and get a step up in life.
Sensitively Yours can be an integral part of the move toward that freedom and would like to offer to those men and women who make artfully well-crafted pieces an opportunity to market their jewelry. Sensitively Yours can provide the materials, organization, and cooperation with others who are also committed to giving a strong “hand up” to those who genuinely need it and who are committed to learning and putting forth the effort the transformation will take.
Growing in a Growing Market
Sensitively Yours has focused on a solid niche in the jewelry marketplace, hypoallergenic earrings. Over the years, research shows sensitivity to nickel in common jewelry metals is prevalent and on the rise. To address this niche, the business has been successfully selling hypoallergenic earrings to people with sensitivities for over 15 years through an online website as well as to retailers, both locally and in locations outside of Colorado. One of the unique features of Sensitively Yours is its consignment sales program for local jewelry artisans. Local artisans create beautiful, hypoallergenic earrings, often with materials purchased from the business, and then sell their creations, by consignment, online through Sensitively Yours’ website.
Sensitively Yours is offering to help the homeless, jobless, and others who are willing and eager to learn to make beautiful hypoallergenic earrings. Envision a volunteer instructor teaching jewelry making skills to people in a classroom setting, a place that is safe and stable for learning and working. Students could access tools and the business could supply for them hypoallergenic parts of all kinds for the students’ creations. Sensitively Yours can then display, credit, and sell the students’ creations to the world through the internet, provided the created pieces are salable works of beautiful, unique, artisan products. The students can choose whether to sell through a fair consignment system, or to sell their pieces outright to the business at a fair and just price.
All this is done above board with verifiable transparency. No one would ever be exploited. The participants would have the freedom to start, stop, and re-start as they choose. There would be no commitment on their part except the one to themselves. Sensitively Yours offers to partner with those who qualify to help sell what they create and who are willing to follow a few reasonable guidelines, with no minimum quantities required.
Sensitively Yours has created and will manage a special website as a home for the artists’ new creations. The qualifying artists who participate in the training classes will share the website with other local artisans who already sell their creations at the business. All artisans will be bringing to market unique nickel-free products and will be building a kind of brand awareness of his or her own creations.
The Few Guidelines
The jewelry made by the trained artisans needs to be of their own design, not a copy of other styles on the market or website. We do ask that the styles sold by Sensitively Yours be exclusive to Sensitively Yours’ website, but the artists can create other styles for other markets outside of the Sensitively Yours’ website.
Where to From Here?
What are the next steps in this outreach?
1. Find the volunteer instructor(s) in the northern Colorado region.
2. Gather and pool together the needed tools and supplies (already started, but more needed).
3. Arrange for facilities that already do this kind of classes and work.
4. Review and ensure we meet all local, state and federal regulations, laws, and requirements.
5. Conduct the classes.
6. Market the products that are qualified to sell.
7. Pay the artisans in full.
Opportunities to Join In
We need volunteer instructors in our area who love to teach jewelry making. Additionally, they should have experience in teaching classes, a passion to help others, and a bottomless supply of enthusiasm.
We will need additional material and tool donations. If we can partner with someone who is willing to contribute, we are willing to tell the world of his/her generosity. We also could use someone who is qualified to review consignment contracts to ensure all parties are conducting business and being treated fairly.
What will Sensitively Yours do?
1. Provide hypoallergenic materials at no cost during the training classes.
2. Provide hypoallergenic materials at a low, fair cost for the artisan to use to produce jewelry for sale on the Sensitively Yours site.
3. Produce the photography of the approved jewelry marketed on the website.
4. Write website descriptions of each piece of marketed jewelry with artisan input.
5. Write a positive biography of each participating artisan.
6. Post qualifying jewelry items for sale.
7. Marketing for the artisan website and the website products.
8. Track and publish all earned revenues and expenses and make payments to each artisan of his/her sales (if on a consignment basis).
If something written above strikes a chord with you in a positive way, please contact us and let me know your thoughts. We want/need to get this started.
June 15, 2019