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Why #Blessed is Not Always Best

She wasn’t the first one to give me this feedback.

This buyer kindly shared with me that our pieces weren’t inspirational enough for her market. Christian shoppers want more crosses, inspirational sayings, more #blessed  please. I GET it.

I really do and at the end of the day we want to make our customers happy. If they want more meaningful pieces that tell the world about their faith, then we want to deliver! But I couldn’t walk out of that meeting without saying the following. “I believe that HUGG pieces are pretty inspirational. We are helping transform former street boys into craftsmen and because of this, they are changing their communities.” It may not have been quite that refined but I think I got my point across. 

I’ve been debating whether or not to post a couple of other thoughts that ran through my mind that day. They’re not ugly thoughts, just wanting us to rethink the whole Christian jewelry thing.

Not as Charming as You Think

Many of the charms, metal tags and inspirational crosses found in your typical gift shop are mass manufactured in uninspiring industrial buildings that may or may not be abiding by labor laws that respect the dignity of its workers. So even though the cute charms that dangle from our bracelets tell others about our faith—it may do so at the expense of another person across the world who is just trying to carve out an honest living.

The mission brand movement is exploding as more shoppers ask about sustainability practices, ethical sourcing and ecofriendly alternatives. It’s a really cool thing that people are wondering about whether the communities that make our products are impacted in a positive way. But here is the not-so-good news–we’ve spoken to many retailers over the years and surprisingly, it isn’t the Christian community that is as concerned for the hands that are making their merchandise. I know–it surprised me, too but it is the hard truth, my friend.

Perhaps there should be a little less emphasis on expressing our faith through cute dangly crosses and more on living out our faith through the way we spend our dollars….

Just saying.

What would Jesus Wear?

I know, I know….this sounds a little too Christian pop culturish for my palette, but really. If Jesus had chosen to humanize himself in this century, what would he have chosen to wear? Would he have accepted clothes given to him by friends or would he have purchased from a second-hand store? I think I can safely say that he would have been mindful of the hands that made his clothing. Think about it–If he could sense a hemmoraging lady touch a sliver of his cloak (Matthew 9:20)—I am certain he would have felt the wounds of the person who made the things he wore. And I believe it would have mattered to him.

I don’t know about you, but I picture him wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt–something super casual. As for shoes–a good pair of broken in Birkenstocks. So this sounds a little cheesy but I can also see him wearing HUGG simple macrames.  I’d give him one in each color and a few extra for him to give away. My point? What we choose to purchase matters in more ways than we think.

With so many ethical brands popping up, it shouldn’t be too hard to make small adjustments to your shopping. Check out @thefairleslie for ideas on how to get started. I’ve said this before—it’s not about perfection, it’s about direction. We shouldn’t leave our faith at home when it comes to shopping. In fact, we should keep our faith in our pocketbooks by thinking twice about some of the products we purchase. THIS is inspirational. THIS is living a life that is #blessed.

P.S—We DID listen to the feedback from our Christian retailer friends. Sign up for our HUGG Happenings and be the first to know when our new “Created to Inspire” Collection releases.

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Why the THREE P’s are Vital for Success

HandUp Global Goods was birthed in passion and desire.

It was all at once…

whimsy and whirlwind,

deeply spiritual and taxing

hectic but steady

From the time that the idea was conceived to the time of our production launch was NINE MONTHS.

I had delivered a baby social enterprise. But just like delivering baby humans, the pangs of childbirth came quickly and fiercely. But THIS was the easy part.

This, my friend, is the hairy nature of a social enterprise. Social enterprise you say? What is it?

social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being.

In other words, we function like a business but have the heart of a ministry. Managing both facets is tough and for this reason, I call HandUp my ever-hungry twin babies!!!

Have you ever thought about a more sustainable way of bringing relief to a need you’ve encountered? Maybe it’s a local social issue or perhaps you’ve gone on a mission trip and were left shaken over the poverty you saw.

I want to MOTIVATE you to DREAM & DO your part when it comes to promoting social change. But I also want you to know that there are THREE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS you must have in order to launch and maintain a social enterprise. Without these, your twin babies will be doomed from the start.

Passion

That’s right, Mama—the same passion that fueled the making of those babies will need to carry you through the initial hustle of getting this thing off the ground. HandUp was fueled by the novelty of the project and the dream that job creation and spiritual discipleship would change the lives of young orphaned men in Haiti.

I was obsessed. I read everything that I could and researched similar models working in Haiti. I was designing jewelry, fundraising, creating a website, sourcing raw materials, pricing, researching some more, traveling to Haiti AND managing my family of 7.

I wasn’t afraid to reach out to people out in the field and set up times to talk to them about their work. I was super nerdy about the approach, asking lots of questions, taking copious notes and giddily making my own plans based off the interviews. My initial passion for this project threw any semblance of balance out the window but it was sink or swim!

Prayer

I remember one all-nighter as I counted beads, typed up instructions and packed up supplies a couple of nights before heading out on my second trip to Haiti. I lacked the knowledge and experience to properly execute this grandiose idea that I had but because of this—I found myself praying A LOT. I didn’t have a clue how to successfully build a company whose backbone would consist of former street boys. So I prayed some more.

I had my first rude awakening when I learned that the boys weren’t used to the concept of measuring. They hadn’t been taught how to use measuring tools to calculate length. It took 3 days to figure out how to convey to them what measuring was and why it was critical to learn. I clung to my notes and tried to keep it together as the guys barraged me with questions

…in a language I didn’t understand

…as I pounded away at the brand new managers

…who were trying desperately to grasp my shallow knowledge of jewelry making.

I tried to stay strong on the production line, but in the evenings, I’d get on my knees begging God for intervention. To make matters worse, there were bouts of vomiting and diarrhea on those early trips. I’d visit the bathroom, lay down for five minutes to recover and then head back out and face the HandUp mayhem. It wasn’t pretty, but I prayed like a mother of HUNGRY BABY TWINS.

Persistence

Eventually, people with more experience and knowledge stepped in to help (hallelujah Jesus!), but I don’t believe that would have happened without the first two ingredients. People saw my stickwithitness and began believing the power of the story. They were inspired by this idea that a small social enterprise had the potential to radically change the lives of former street boys.

They believed that life was BIGGER than the daily grind and that GOD created them to change the world—in deep small ways and in MONSTER SIZE ways.

This is YOU reader! You are reading this because you know there is something MORE for you to do. Maybe you’re afraid of the ever hungry twins crying to be fed! Maybe the dreamer inside of you has drowned in a sea of to-do lists. The truth is God will use your hands and feet to bring hope to those who have no hope.

PASSION, PRAYER and PERSISTENCE are not just vital for social enterprises, they are required ingredients for transforming your dreams into DOs. 

I KNOW you are going to make it, sister. Know where you are going and don’t be afraid of the pylons and potholes. Before you know it, those babies will be walking and talking and you’ll have a deep gratitude in your heart that you got to be part of who they are. That’s how I feel about HandUp Global Goods–forever thankful that I get to be part of this amazing story.

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Fall Collection is Here!!!

Did you know that former street boys make up the backbone of our organization?

It’s all at once the most amazing thing about us and the most challenging. We work with orphaned young men who, in addition to figuring out their manhood, are redefining how they engage with the people in their communities. Through their roles at HandUp, they have an opportunity to live out a different, better story than the ones to which they were born.

We’ve carved out a sanctuary where these young men come together to use their hands for something beautiful and meaningful. They receive mentoring from Haitian leaders and are paid fair livable wages. In addition, they have opportunities to get health insurance and are offered scholarships to finish out their education. In other words, they are breaking free from a life of handouts every time someone purchases their work.

 

THEY are the reason we started this business.  So, when I opened up this season’s shipment, I wanted to shout to the whole world,

“Hey! Look at these amazing pieces made by thriving artisans who are eager to see you wearing their tokens of success!”

Here is the sassy Sonje with all its boho fringe.

 

Look at the Hello Heather in all her 62 inches of macramé glory.

Stack our clay bead bracelets…

Layer our necklaces…

I think shoppers are getting this concept and liking how they feel wearing fashion that fuels social transformation.

When you buy HandUp jewelry, you are getting more than handmade jewelry. You become a social justice collaborator, a perpetuator of good things and fellow storyteller. Now THIS is using your purchase power for good.

From all of us at HandUp– Happy Shopping (and changing the world while you’re at it)!

 

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Our Clothes Can Serrv The Community

Since January, I have been creating a fair-trade capsule wardrobe. It has been going well and it has made me really think before I buy. At times this has been challenging but also freeing at the same time. This concept has caught on in my HandUp Global Goods family. While not everyone is ready to dive in to the capsule wardrobe, for the month of June, each member of the HandUp Global Goods team has purchased a fair-trade item to wear.

Last week, I kicked us off with a cute top from Girl Set Free. This week, our fearless leader, Natul is sporting a cute top from Serrv (see what I did there in the title)! This bright, lightweight tunic is 100% cotton and is perfect for these very warm summer months. Serrv has a variety of tunics, dresses and breathable sweaters that is sure to match any style. Right now, you can take an extra 40% off your clothing purchases! Just typing the word sale makes me super happy!

Serrv is unique in that they are an online store that sells a little bit of everything and each of those items that they sell are fairly made by artisans around the world. Think of it like an online fair-trade utopia! It has everything from home décor, to food, to clothing and more.

Going all the way back to 1949, Serrv is one of the first companies to sell fair-trade products in the United States. They are a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization and the Fair Trade Federation. Their mission statement is simple and clear, Serrv is a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.

With 55 partnerships worldwide with various artisans, farmers and co-ops, there is something for everyone. Don’t be sad you missed a sale! Give Serrv a try today and you can sport a pretty top like Natul.

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How One Shirt can Make a Difference

Over the last year and half of blogging for HandUp Global Goods, I have come across so many amazing companies. The fashion industry, while it still has a long way to go, has made significant strides to protect their artisans. What I really love, however, is a company that not only focuses on fair and ethical sourcing but also gives back.

Girl Set Free focuses on fighting against human trafficking by working alongside many reputable human trafficking advocates. Human trafficking is just a new name for slavery, an issue that is still very much alive within all societies. With an estimated 27 million individuals in slavery today, human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes. Each purchase you make with Girl Set Free goes to stop human trafficking.

I bought this cute shirt to add to my fair-trade capsule wardrobe (read more about that here) from Girl Set Free. This super cute and soft shirt has been perfect this summer. I love the wider cap on the shoulder and the simple but beautifully stated “By Grace” on the front. The Grace Tee is perfect for a capsule wardrobe because you can easily add layers as the seasons change. It will be summer here until November, but I am looking forward to pairing it with some cute fall outfits once the weather starts to change. It is also a perfect backdrop for all my HandUp Global Goods jewelry!

Summer casual
Dress it up with a skirt and cute shoes
My favorite way is to pair it with my go-to jeans

Girl Set Free just launched a new website where they are offering all kinds of super cute and ethically made products. They have beautifully hand-woven cross-body bags, hand turned pens, and t-shirts with a message I can stand behind. I have fallen in love with the heart of this company.

Simply stated, I trusted and obeyed and have the most amazing tribe that believed in me but believed in God more and they never let me lose sight of that. Girl Set Free started with my personal redemption story. Little did I know, saying yes to hard and holy things would lead to so much freedom and healing for others. Not only for our artisan partners but for me personally. God called me to rest this year after a long season of healing and years of striving. You see, I felt my worth came from my work because I held onto lies from the enemy. It was time for me to lay that all down. I’m humbled and have cried many tears since we started this journey but the growth has been beautifully hard and I’m counting the fruit now. Ephesians 3:20 – “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to his power that is at work within us.”  -CEO Amy Kratzer

Check out their new website, purchase some amazing items and let me know what you think.

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How Marcial’s Hands Have Changed

“All my life, people have seen the palms of my hands, but now they get to see the back of them, too.” Marcial spoke these words to me as we were finishing up a satisfying dinner in the cool of the evening. It had rained that day in the capital city of Haiti and the showers had absorbed the heat released by the Caribbean sun. These powerful words seemed out of place coming from this meek, slender young man with a sheepish smile.

It’s hard for my first-world mind to grasp how a child survives life on the streets. For many of the orphaned children of Port-au-Prince, there are no families who can lend a hand. There are no government programs, shelters, soup kitchens or even friends whose houses they can crash for the evening.

There is hunger, violence, drugs and the daily struggle for survival. No one knows this better than Marcial.

As he spoke, I tried to imagine him as a child. I pictured him, small and timid, begging for food and money on the street corners like so many children do in Haiti. Hands out. Yet, he is one of the lucky ones. An American couple started a boys’ home in Port-au-Prince and Marcial was able to live out the last five years of his adolescence there. He relied on the kindness of strangers for his survival.

The problem is that no nation has ever climbed out of poverty with their hands out.

Job Creation

That is why HandUp Global Goods (HUGG) seeks to eliminate a life of handouts for teens aging out of orphanages. By giving them a HandUp, we allow them to lift themselves out of poverty.

Today, Marcial is an artisan at HandUp and for the first time in his life, he gets to show others the back of his hands. He earns a fair wage and can now take part in a transactional-based economy where more than two-thirds of adults lack formal jobs.

Carving out opportunities is critical in ailing economies and from my experience, charity doesn’t typically forecast long-lasting solutions. Commerce, on the other hand, is a powerful catalyst for positive social transformation.

Our hope is that the ripple effects of these artisanal jobs will open doors for more jobs, trades and innovation in impoverished communities. Imagine hands that have begged for so long transforming into Haiti’s workforce. This is our vision and the reason we give a HandUP.

Giving Back

It feels good to be in a place where you can give of your time, talents and resources, and Marcial is getting a taste of that through the community work he does through HandUp.  There is dignity, joy and gratitude when we give back and as he puts it, “people can now see the back of my hands.” Powerful words from this young man. But as experience has shown me, these former street boys need to consistently be reminded that they have the right to live out these new stories of givers and leaders. It’s so easy for them to sink back into what they thought they were for so long. It takes convincing, patience and unconditional love.

Fashion that Fuels Social Transformation

I think of all the Marcials of the world and wonder how something as simple as shifting my shopping habits could potentially allow people like him the freedom to give for the first time in their lives. To give food to their loved ones, to give them a roof over their heads, to give something to those with nothing. To SHOW the back of their hands.

That night, preparing for bed, those words repeated themselves in my head. “I now get to show the back of my hands. Back of my hands. Hands.” Every garment touched by my hands in a fancy department store was MADE by someone else’s hands. I know this. While I don’t know their story, I do feel a connection to those workers who make my beautiful things. Because of people like Marcial, I now feel compelled to ask “Was this person paid a fair wage?” “Were their human rights violated in any way?” “Is she able to give her loved ones what they need?” My hands have the potential to transform a life when I choose to use my purchasing power for good.

Buying fairly-traded apparel and accessories not only allows impoverished artisans to earn for themselves, it gives them the freedom to give. For Marcial, this one act has given him a deep satisfaction. For me, it’s done the opposite. I know it will take all of us to pursue fashion that transforms lives.

Ready to join the HandUp movement? Here is a great place to start!

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End of Year Teacher Gifts that Give Back!

I’m THAT mom-the last minute gift shopper.

I buy birthday gifts on the way to friends’ parties and wrap (if stuffing tissue qualifies as “wrapping”) them in the parking lot. There was a while that my car console was a cornucopia of ribbon and tissue paper. I got quite good at the whole “panic shop for party” thing. No need for plastic grocery bags, just ring up the gift bag—pop that baby open and fill ‘er up!!! Seriously—this is how I roll.

As much as I try to get ahead of the game, buying gifts never seems to scratch its way to the top of my daily lists!!! So for now, yes, it’s hurried and probably not very thoughtful—but by-George—we make it to the party.

With the end of year teacher gifts up ahead, I need to find something super-easy that I can throw together without hassle—but it HAS to be thoughtful, you know?

After all, this is the person who has lovingly guided my littles for the last nine months. One of my children’s teachers, in particular, deserves the Teacher of the Year award for never calling me to complain about my son. I KNOW him—there is no way his passionate convictions were laid to rest in the classroom. Yet—not one call or complaint. This lady is a saint! Blessed are the teachers who don’t take ALL matters to the parents.

So how do I genuinely show her my appreciation without having to scour stores and spend A LOT of time and money? If you are wondering the same thing and you, like me, pick out gifts sort of last minute—I do have some thoughtful ideas that are easy, inexpensive and packed with meaning.

Your teacher will be thankful for the goodies AND the benefits each one brings to impoverished communities. THIS is using your purchasing power for GOOD!

Package 1: $30 – Teacher Love Bundle

Our classic “wrap the world around your wrist” bracelet with a burlap bound journal and orange flavored Zambeezi lip balm!

Teacher Love Bundle – $30

Package 2: $45 – FOUR Handmade Bracelets

Buy 3 Akolads and Get the 4th one Free! Each waxed cord bracelet comes in a cute HUGG muslin bag and shares the story of the artisan who made it.

Buy 3, Get 4th Free – Akolad!

Package 3: $15 –THREE Handmade Macrame Bracelets

Need a little something extra to complete your perfect teacher’s gift? Add this beautiful gold-filled macramé bracelet for just $6.00/piece or  buy any combination of 3 for $15!

So, dear mama, make it easy for yourself and get these artisan-made beauties shipped to you today.

Teacher Special will run through May 24th.

 

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Adorn a Child with Hope and Love: Home Décor

It always amazes me how God works in all of us separately but at the same time can ignite the same passion and vision in us. Today’s organization is both fair-trade and missional-minded whose passion is for sharing the love of Christ with orphanages in Kenya. Similar to the vision of Hand Up, Pamba Toto came into existence because of the heart God gave them for orphans. Pamba Toto sells beautifully hand-crafted pieces to raise money for 2 orphanages in Kenya called Sanctuary of Hope #1 and #2 through Hope’s Promise Orphan Ministries.

When you go to Pamba Toto’s website, you can meet all the artisans that make each piece of their beautifully hand-crafted items. They range from scarves and other accessories to home décor and kitchen ware plus much more. They have so many items to choose from that it was hard to decide what to buy. If you are looking for a beautiful piece of home décor, you need to check them out.

I did fall in love with their beautifully hand-carved and hand-painted wooden bird mobile (Please forgive my amateur picture taking skills). My girls had a hand at helping me pick out this piece as well. They love birds and this mobile has several types of birds that are super colorful. They were as excited about it as I was. I also love their aprons and placemats. As we are nearing summer, it is fun to bring some color in to the house. I say play with some fun textiles and look at their home décor and kitchen ware.

Check out Pamba Toto and let me know what you think. What was one of your favorite pieces you found in their online store?

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Target: Taking a Stand Against Child Labor

I have a love/hate relationship with Target.

My journey towards buying more ethically-sourced apparel and accessories has led me to harbor a little bit of jealousy towards them. Ok? I admit it.

I’m the friend who has given up chocolate and coffee for Lent and suddenly I’m bitter of every woman out there eating chocolate and drinking their cup of Joe! I’m going to spoil your fun and tell you that the chocolate you’re eating is not “child-labor” free and that your cheap coffee grounds taste like dirt. Wah! Wah!

Okay—so maybe I’m not THAT much of a hater—my intentions really are GOOD. I just want people to be aware of the abuse that takes place in the garment industry today. I’m genuinely passionate about using our purchase power for the GOOD of all people involved in the process.

It feels GOOD to be connected, on some level, to the laborers who make the things we wear.

At least it should feel good. It would be nice if shoppers felt anything at all towards the people who produce the products we purchase.

Truth be told, I WANT to shop at Target.

I want to be able to casually look up their brands and see more transparency on where and how their beautiful things are sourced. Maybe if this big-box store was a little more “wal-martish” in their selections, I wouldn’t feel so determined to call them out on some of their sourcing decisions. But they are SO on trend, affordable and oh-so convenient that it makes NOT shopping there a sore subject for me.

But the other night, THIS happened….

Their Spring 2017 HomeStyle Catalog showcased a recent partnership with one of my favorite organizations.

Target has partnered with Good Weave, a non-profit that seeks to eliminate child labor in the carpet industry. This organization was one of my many inspirations when I first started researching the impact of social enterprises across the globe. Have you ever wondered if a child made your clothes? You should. According to the International Labor Organization, over 215 million children are engaged in work across the world.

This may not sound terrible to you, but IF a child is working, it means they aren’t going to school.

IF they aren’t going to school, the chances of that family ever freeing themselves from the chains of poverty is virtually eliminated.

Children are most vulnerable and are taken advantage of in the work place even to the extent of not getting paid at all. Find out more here.

THIS is why it excited me to see that Target was moving in this direction through their collaboration with Good Weave. Demanding that children around the world be spared from industrial abuse should be second nature to us. I’m glad to see Target taking this stand.

As I continued thumbing through their globally-inspired furniture and accents, I saw another golden nugget of sustainable goodness on page 41. Their Threshold Organic sheets are now GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard). This certification demands high ecological standards for the cotton produced but there is a component of social responsibility as well. Compliance with GOTS standards involves fair trade principles like fair wages, ethical employer practices and absolutely no child labor.

Choosing to buy GOTS certified cotton also ensures that you are not being exposed to the dangerous chemicals in traditional cotton. If you didn’t know this already, cotton is considered the dirtiest crop on the planet. Read here and dare to enter the rabbit hole….

Some of you may think that this maneuver is nothing more than a shallow gesture of corporate responsibility. These two collaborations very well could be ways to appease those of us who actually care where and how our stuff is made. Regardless of the intentions, I believe my relationship with Target may be on the mend.

In the words of one of the Good Weave reps when asked about their collaboration with Target… “Having a partner like Target sends a huge message to manufacturers, consumers, partners and other brands around the world.”

Way to go Target! Message heard.

I would love to hear how this might change your shopping!

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Our New Spring Line Will Have You Looking Sustainably Chic!

New clothes, new jewelry, new home décor—I love them. I love the excitement of wearing something new or having a new piece of furniture in the house. Who does not love that? We may be in a world where fashion and style varies from person to person, but I think we can all agree that we all feel some sense of excitement when that new item we worked hard for comes in.

Over this past year, my journey has shifted. I still enjoy new things, but at what cost? I want to know where my items are coming from. Are the items I am purchasing helping the artisan that developed it or are those items aiding to the ever-growing issue of forced labor?

The good news: I am not the only one asking these questions. There are so many wonderful and progressive companies and individuals out there that have also asked these tough questions. These companies and individuals are the trailblazers in a whole new world of how we should shop. This is one of the many reasons why I am so thankful to be a part of the HandUp team.

This past week we launched our new spring line! If you have not checked it out, you can here. An amazing innovator in the world of ethical and sustainable living, Natalie from Sustainably Chic, did a write-up about us and introduced our spring line launch! We are beyond thrilled that she has shared with her audience about HUGG.

Picture by @sustainablychic wearing our new Ombre Pendant, Katelyn and Akolad bracelet

If you do not know about Sustainably Chic, I highly recommend you check her out. With a background in fashion, Natalie decided she did not want to work in the industry unless she could see a change in the way business was done. She has since started a blog to build a community of fair trade and sustainable fashion. You can truly see her heart in all that she promotes and we are in love with the write-up she did about us. If you missed it, you can check that out here.

Picture via @sustainablychic. Did you know that each purchase comes with a picture of one of artisans?

If you are as passionate as we are about fair trade (and I know you are), check out Sustainably Chic. You can follow her on both Facebook and Instagram @sustainablychic. From all of us at HUGG, thank you so much Natalie!