Jewelry with Impact: A Spotlight on Bird + Stone
I’m always fascinated by small businesses and the inspiration behind their start-ups. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to build a strong and ethical foundation for any business or organization, but even more so if the sole mission is to give back to the community. This is why I am so deeply inspired by the work and mission behind Bird + Stone, a company that boasts jewelry with impact.
Bird + Stone is committed to ethically made products that support organizations building a more equal world. They believe in creating a community of change-makers and leveraging their collective purchasing power to fight for equality for all. Besides admiring their beautiful products and their achievements, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down and chat with Caitlin Kawaguchi, the Director of Marketing & Partnerships for Bird + Stone, and learn about all the amazing things they’ve done and continue to do to build a more equal world.
Bird + Stone, (“two birds with one stone”), was founded by Elana Reinholtz, CEO, in 2013 upon the idea that brands have the power to be vehicles for change. Wanting to use her skills in the financial services industry for more meaningful work, she founded a nonprofit, Village Volunteers, which supports community development abroad through capacity-building projects. Elana was then matched with a program in rural Kenya with 70 widowed women rebuilding their lives through entrepreneurship.
As Caitlin continued to share with me the history and background of Bird + Stone, she also shared some of Elana’s personal experiences volunteering in Kenya. In Elana’s own words: “The trip was a huge turning point for me in fully realizing my privilege of growing up in a country with a healthy and mature economy, schools that allowed upward mobility and job prospects. What struck me the most about the women I worked with was how passionate and driven they were - but how the system failed them - and now they are single mothers with children trying to scrape together money to send their children to school for a better life.” In that moment, Elana realized the untapped potential of creating opportunity for women and what could happen if everyone had the ability to pursue their dreams. Elana vowed to continue to support programs that invest in increasing opportunity and building a more equal world, using the same model that had allowed her to fundraise for the trip - affordable jewelry - as the funding vehicle to support these organizations.
This experience sparked the beginning of Bird + Stone, a jewelry company dedicated to supporting opportunities for female entrepreneurs in Kenya through microloans by combining individual buying power and using a percentage of profits from each purchase to fund world-changing programs. Fast forward to 2018, Bird + Stone has grown in size and number of partners, supporting multiple causes such as sexual violence prevention and justice, women’s health, girls’ education, poverty alleviation and environmental protection.
Like many organizations, Bird + Stone has come across their own challenges. One of the challenges Caitlin mentioned is the disconnection from the fast fashion world and getting their audience to better understand the concept behind the process. Not letting these challenges cause a setback, Caitlin and her team are growing their partnership and audience through education, using social media as a positive force to share content, and encouraging community engagement through outreach programs and pop-up events. Their future goals involve expanding their cause areas. A recent cause they are supporting, and one Caitlin is very inspired by, is Women in Politics. For every purchase made, a portion is donated to the She Should Run organization to support women running for office.
Bird + Stone jewelry is ethically manufactured in the United States. They are committed to using sustainable materials in their jewelry production whenever possible. Although keeping production in the U.S. means their production costs are higher, they recognize that these costs support the local economy and enable them to pay fair wages to the factory employees. It also ensures that the factory complies with high environmental standards. All of their cuffs are made with upcycled brass, as are their custom metal beads. They also have an upcycled line of necklaces made with recycled glass beads handmade in Ghana. “Maria is our Creative Lead and she inspires all the designs for Bird + Stone. Although we all partake in the design process, she’s the one with the creative touch,” said Caitlin, when I asked if she engages in any of the jewelry making process.
Bird + Stone was founded on the principle that jewelry can do good and improve the world. Through the years, their mission has always remained the same: “We believe in the power of community to make a difference and are excited to create opportunities for every consumer to be a micro-philanthropist, making meaningful change with each purchase.”
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About the Author
Gaochen Xiong recently graduated with her Master’s degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration. As a first generation born Hmong American, who is dedicated to paving the way for her children and future generations, she is excited to expand her knowledge and fight for justice through Dressember. She’s an avid reader, lover of all things arts and crafts, and enjoys experiencing new adventures and traveling with her family.