Raven + Lily...Beauty Embodied

There is something to be said about brands which truly embody beauty.  They are magnetic. These brands compel others to enter in, treating them just like a guest in their home. By creating a culture which values comfort, familiarity and effortless whimsy these brands bring a sense of familiarity. In a world filled with straight lines, fluorescent lights, and three-piece suits, there is something inviting about a culture encompassed by warmth, empathy and genuine care.  One which engages creativity and showcases beautiful, hope-filled products centered around empowerment and giving to something greater than ourselves. This is why so many social business' are thriving and making great impact. 

I'd like to introduce you to an inspiring Austin based lifestyle brand defined by these very things. 

Meet Raven + Lily...

We feel that the value God sees in His creation, including ravens and lilies, reminds us how much more valuable we are as women.

I was first introduced to R+L while working with Hope International at Catalyst Conference last year. Being the lover of beautiful visual display that I am, I was automatically drawn to their lovely 'Free People' inspired space. Naturally, I had no choice but to enter in.  Just one look at the beautiful products displayed both on the table and featured inside their ‘look book’ had me completely enamored.  Lori Fox, lead R+L designer at the time, preceded to share the story and mission of the company with me.  I think she got about three sentences in and I was sold, I have been a fan ever since.  Everything Raven + Lily comes out with is not only a beautifully designed visual piece, but the artisans creating these products are where the true radiance of the company shines brightest. 

Their approach to social business is impacting lives all over the world.  They are empowering women.  Empowering women to create really beautiful products, which are in line with the current trends here in America. Through sales of these products these women are able to earn a sustainable income, provide for their families and in turn transform their entire community.

In addition to all this beauty, the purposes behind companies like R+L are powerful!  They are seeking to see the statistics fall and empowering women with the skills needed to beat the odds.  Just to name a few...

  • 70% of the world’s poorest people are women.
  • 2/3 of those who cannot read or write are women.
  • At least 2 million girls per year are at risk of under going Female Genital Mutilation.
  • AIDS is becoming a women’s disease with women increasingly bearing the brunt of the epidemic.
  • 80% of refugees & trafficking victims are women.
  • 100 million girls are expected to enter forced marriages in the next decade.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Cameron Crake, Director of Operations for Raven + Lily!  Cameron shares some of her background and brings to light the value  R+L has to bring to the world, as a socially conscious company.

Meet Cameron…

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Hi Cameron!  Will you start by briefly introducing yourself? Where are you from? What’s your background? 

I call Raleigh NC my hometown, made my way to Texas for college, and then came to Austin by way of Uganda- so I’ve been all over the place! Before coming to work with R+L, I was living in Kampala Uganda working for another socially conscious start-up company.  I’ve seen firsthand how sustainable jobs can transform impoverished communities, so it is such a joy to have a job that allows me to promote that.

Can you tell us a little bit about Raven + Lily?

R+L is a socially conscious lifestyle brand dedicated to empowering women through design. We specialize in coming alongside artisan groups to give them design input and access to a larger market. Right now we are working with over 1,000 women around the world to make our products!

What is your role and how long have you been with the company?

I’m the Director of Operations and I have been with R+L for about three years now. I was the first hire when we launched as a social business! I’ve seen the company grow from just myself and the founder to take on interns, more full time employees, and now open our own storefront. It’s been a pretty amazing journey.

How did you get initially get connected with R+L?

When I was moving back from Uganda, I was doing research on other socially conscious companies and I kept hearing about Raven + Lily. Once I decided to move to Austin, I got in touch with the founder to hear about R+L. Our coffee turned into an interview, and I started work a few days later!

Where did the idea for R+L initially come from?

Our founder, Kirsten Dickerson, started R+L as a way to combine her passions for social justice and fashion. In her humanitarian travels, she found that many NGOs were training women in design skills- how to sew, make jewelry, embroider, etc. Kirsten decided to use her design skills learned from working as a stylist in LA to help the women sell even more product by creating new designs that appealed to a larger market in the US. 

How does R+L choose where they employ artisans?

The first artisan groups we started working with came from Kirsten’s connections to various non-profits from her years working in that world. Now we try to look around in the areas we are already working to see what other skills and resources exist in the area.

Have you ever had the opportunity to meet any of the artisans? If so, how has that experience impacted you?

Yes! I went to Cambodia last year to meet with one of our partnerships. It was incredible to meet the women firsthand and to get to see the way their business operated. Even though I had lived overseas before and worked directly with artisans in my past job, it was a great experience to meet the specific women we help employ and also to learn the unique challenges that come with their situation. Returning from that trip, I felt better equipped to do my job to make things run even more smoothly between our US studio and our international partners.

 What makes R+L unique from other social businesses?

Our approach to social business is a rich one. We aim to produce stylish designs that are both fair trade and eco-friendly. Our designs are good for our customers, good for the artisans, and good to the earth. Also, our impact can be far reaching because of the way our business model works- we partner with existing groups to help them scale and grow to have a larger impact rather than starting our own artisan groups from scratch. It is rare to find a company like ours that can reach so many women and has a multi-level social purpose. 

R+L's core values include...

What is your favorite part about your job?

My job tends to be a lot of problem solving- when you’re working in developing countries, if something can go wrong it probably will! So I enjoy helping find solutions to make business better for our artisan partners. I love watching them making progress and grow!

Can you share with us your favorite product from R+L and why?

I wear the Telau Braided Wrap Bracelet almost every day. I’m kind of obsessed with braids, so it’s something I always want to wear. I also love the story behind it- the beads are all handcrafted and made from melted bullet casings and other recycled metals. It’s a great conversation piece!

Tell me a little more about the recent collaborations with companies like Kendra Scott and The Giving Keys, what is your hope for these partnerships?

We love collaborating with other companies. Doing special edition products with companies like Kendra Scott and The Giving Keys has been a fun way for us to share our story with a new audience and also to make something beautiful with another creative company!

If you could describe the overall style of R+L with one word, what would it be?

Modern-Bohemian (okay, I know that’s two words, but that’s the phrase we use all the time as we’re thinking through our designs!)

What does the word ‘empowerment’ mean to you?

Empowerment means providing help in a way that gives dignity. We want the women we work with to feel proud of their work and a sense of accomplishment when they are able to provide for their families themselves rather than accept handouts. The gift of opportunity is one we often take for granted, but it is such a beautiful thing to give. We want all of our artisan partnerships to feel supported and challenged to rise to the occasion as we grow and change as a company and invite them to grow and change with us.

What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning (Besides coffee :) ), and what is your dream for R+L?

I think it is the responsibility that is so motivating for me…..there are so many women around the world that my job impacts. I keep doing it and strive to do it well because I know that the way I work ultimately impacts them. I can’t wait to see how Raven + Lily grows! We are still such a young company, and it feels like the possibilities are limitless. Seeing the impact we have had with these women just from our early days makes me hopeful for the way we can change lives as we grow and reach even more artisans and customers. I want to see R+L as a well renowned band that is known not only for our social impact but also our style and brand relevance in the fashion world.

Thank you Cameron!  We are so thankful for the work of Raven + Lily!  Work which is empowering women all over the world, bringing hope, dignity and discovering beauty beneath.

To learn more about Raven + Lily and purchase their products visit their website.  To shop R+L you can also find a local retailer in your neighborhood! Lastly, if you are in the Austin area, be sure visit their storefront, I promise you'll be inspired! 

P.S. Be sure to check out their ethical gift collection.

Note: All photos property of Raven + Lily

Spotlight on...The Giving Keys

It’s in what we freely give, where we find what we truly possess..
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THE MISSION

"The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. Each key is unique and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send us the story of their key being paid forward." 

Keys...though similar in appearance, each one created unique, each key given the unique ability to unlock an individual door of its own.  You know the feeling...of inserting the wrong key into the front door of your house when it's just too dark to see which of the 25 keys on your key ring will fit into that tiny little hole.  You may not be able to see which key will unlock that door, but you know that key is your possession.  Every key designed to fit one mold, to unlock one door, to give the key holder the ability to open that door, walk through and enter in to what lies ahead.  A simple key is the determinate which allows you to start your car or walk into the haven of your home after a long day.  When you are given the keys to your new home, you are met with a feeling of pride, accomplishment and ownership.  That home is yours, you can come and go as you please, you hold the key in your possession.  This key signifies hope, an opportunity to enter in, to transition in to what lies behind the front door, into what lies ahead.  

The Giving Keys is making a way for individuals experiencing homelessness through the simple act of creating hope through a key...not a key which necessarily unlocks a specific physical door, but a key which unlocks the door to hope and freedom.  This key, which would have otherwise been discarded, thrown out, and deemed to be worthless, is unlocking stories of healing, redemption and transformation.  By engraving these old keys with inspirational words, The Giving Keys is making something new out of the old.  By giving purpose to an old key, founder Caitlin Crosby realized that, 'we are all like these keys-unique, flawed, scarred, and at risk of being discarded.'  Her hope is that these keys will find new purpose, with each new holder or wearer of these key necklaces.  The message engraved on the key is yours for a time, but once this message has served its purpose with you, you must pay it forward, you must with this key, inspire another.  We have been given hope to extend hope to another.

As the business has developed, The Giving Keys has since partnered with the United Way and PATH, a transitional home in Los Angeles.  Their partnerships with local transitional facilities have helped them build their team which has employed 13 individuals experiencing homelessness.  Through employment with The Giving Keys, these individuals have been given the opportunity to attain sustainable housing.    They also partner with Chrysalis which assists in referring employees. Chrysalis is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a pathway to self-sufficiency for homeless and low-income individuals by providing the resources and support needed to find and retain employment. 

"Fortunately, The Giving Keys needed someone to help engrave keys. I didn’t know what to expect, but was surprised when they welcomed me with open arms and did not judge me. They told me that I had already paid my debt to society. So I went through the training, and I got the job."

"Fortunately, The Giving Keys needed someone to help engrave keys. I didn’t know what to expect, but was surprised when they welcomed me with open arms and did not judge me. They told me that I had already paid my debt to society. So I went through the training, and I got the job."

The model of The Giving Keys is truly empowering individuals to make positive change in their lives.  Through the small act of a stamp and a key those who may have otherwise lost hope are being given hope through the opportunity to create beauty from nothing.  As the recipient of a Giving Key myself not too long ago, I held the message of 'love' close for a time, but have since then given that message away.  The message was not for me to keep, it was for me to hear, believe and give away.  Just like our possessions, it is what we hold with open hands which we truly possess.  It is that message which we feel little ownership of, which we have been given as a gift, which we are able to so freely give away to someone else in need.  

Each key sold is hand stamped by someone who has been there, who has experienced darkness and thought they would never see the other side.  This is a picture of the full circle.  Through your purchase of a Giving Key, you are not only making a way for those individuals to accomplish their dreams, but you are entering into their journey, making a way.  By wearing the key, you are a part of a story, which was never meant to be about you, a story which you were meant to contribute to.  The hope is that you might keep your eyes peeled to where you may enter in to the story of another.  Because you know the feeling, when it's just too dark to recognize which key will unlock the front door, it can be easy to want to give up.  The comfort in knowing that you hold in your possession that key which has the ability to unlock the door gives you the strength you need to never give up.  There is hope in knowing that you are capable and have the ability to unlock the door and walk through with confidence that you can accomplish your dreams.  

Order a Giving Key today, or find a local retailer!  Enter in, be a part of empowering someone to unlock their door to freedom, hope and a brighter tomorrow.  Don't get too attached to your purchase, you never know when someone else might need the message you are carrying more than you.  

Spotlight on...Hope International

THE MISSION

"At HOPE International, we invest in the dreams of the poor as we proclaim and live the Gospel in the world’s underserved communities."

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 It was 2010 at the Passion Conference where I was first exposed to the work of Hope International, I was volunteering with 'Do Something Now',  an area which existed to bring together worship and justice where 22,000 college students came together to over-fund 12 global causes.  There are those organizations who help, lend a hand and give...then there are those organizations who enter in, empower, equip and change the story for the poor.  I wasn't volunteering with HOPE at this event, but this organizations booth happened to be right beside ours.  This booth was like a magnet, each day I was pulled closer and closer towards the work they were doing. As I overheard conversation after conversation about the work of this organization, I could not stop the pull of my heart to go learn more.  It was this booth where students were rallying to fund a micro-finance loan to lift a family in Afghanistan out of poverty.  At the time, I had no idea what a micro-finance loan was.  I began talking with the HOPE representative and he shared with me the mission and vision of this organization.  Immediately a spark lit in my heart as he spoke words like capable, empowerment, and holistic, it all suddenly became clear to me.  It quickly began to click for the very first time...to simply give the poor a hand-out might be a temporary fix, but this kind of charity will not sustain and alleviate poverty long-term.  By stepping into the lives of the poor and providing assistance given to strategically empower them to make change in their own lives is lasting and making major impact.   We must be a part of breaking the cycle, we must end poverty for an individual, which ultimately has the power to end poverty for an entire family, community and carry over from generation to generation.  

HOPE International exists to do just this, operating in 17 countries around the world, HOPE is a network of micro-finance institutions and savings and credit associations literally providing hope to the hopeless by way of empowering them through the simple act of a small business loan.  Individuals are afforded the opportunity to start a business of their own through a loan as little as $100.  Let that sink in...$100 dollars can make ALL the difference in the world for an entire family.  Offering someone a chance to dream again, to engage their God-given gifts and abilities, to feel alive, this offer removes the blinders which have been placed over the eyes of the poor.  This offer brings life, breath and hope to the soul!   The difference is that HOPE is looking into the face of the poor and saying 'you can', telling them that they have what it takes to achieve their dreams, with a little help, and a lot of hard work, everyone is capable.  Read more about the work they are doing here.  Poverty is a cycle which entraps families and communities.  HOPE International exists to break the cycle of poverty both spiritually and physically and give dignity back to those whom it has been stripped from.  

I believe the world needs the dreams and creativity of the poor.  I believe some of the worlds most creativity lies within the hearts and minds of the poor.  Within their hearts lie hopes, dreams and gifts, these hearts and minds need to hear these simple words, 'you can'.  HOPE International is not only speaking these words, but making a way by providing jobs for individuals living in the midst of the tangled web of poverty...providing a way out, paving the road to freedom.  Not doing the work for them, but empowering them to work hard and through this hard work, accomplish the beauty of their dreams. 

To invest in HOPE International is to invest in the dreams of the poor.  I am so thankful for that day when that spark was lit in my heart and through a simple conversation, I realized that the poor truly don't need our hand-outs, they need a hand-up.  Get involved with HOPE International, invest in the dreams of tomorrow for those who are weak and in need of a helping hand to pull them up and out of the pit of poverty.  Offer someone a chance to gain strength, dignity and the ability to dream again. 

Reclaim || Threaded for good

Purpose is the reason you journey, Passion is the fire that lights your way.

Reclaim; Threaded for Good exists to bring light, encouragement and awareness of those  socially aware companies and organizations already contributing to the greater needs of accomplishing one common purpose...hope. Through empowerment, the second chance and the belief in capability, hope is being restored all around the world through various methods. There is power in people joining in to extend a hand.  Together we can be threaded for the common good, through countless individuals and groups of individuals who are working hard to bring hope to the hurting, light to the darkness and a second chance to those who have lost their way. Social change is possible, one person at a time.  

You play a part.  The hope is that Threaded for Good will help bring these stories, the ones being told day in and day out by incredible organizations and social enterprises to life, so that you might find a way to enter in!  You may never get on a plane and fly to Africa to be amongst the need first hand, but what you will most definitely do is consume, so why not consume consciously?  There are opportunities all around us to contribute to the needs of others., some of which are available to us in our favorite stores.  Awareness is key in bringing about change.  Let's shift our attention off the overwhelming idea of the 'problem' and bring to light those who are investing in a holistic solution to making dreams a reality for those who might not have ever had an opportunity otherwise.  May your heart be ignited for how you may 'enter in' as you become more aware of the good that is happening and exposed to the power within each story of hope, dignity and beauty being told!

Stay tuned for future spotlights on these beautiful threads!