“Do one thing everyday that scares you” – Eleanor Roosevelt (Elana’s favorite quote)
I am amazed by the number of millennials who are not satisfied with the ordinary 9 to 5 job and instead have taken a chance to make a difference in the world. One such woman is Elana Reinholtz, the young social entrepreneur behind Bird + Stone. Elana left an aspiring career in finance in the heart of Manhattan to help single women in Kenya through her company, Bird + Stone.
Bird + Stone is a socially conscious jewelry company with mission aligned products designed to inspire, educate, and most importantly help shape the dreams of deserving women who aspire to be independent and financially stable. As a social enterprise, Bird + Stone uses jewelry as a funding vehicle for micro-loans and financial training, and invests in single mothers in Kenya to start farming businesses to help lift themselves out of poverty. It is a beautiful concept and has shown much success in changing lives.
Today October 11th, in honor of International Day of the Girl, Bird + Stone is partnering with Girl Up, a campaign of the UN Foundation, to help fund access to and education for the 62 million girls out of school around the globe. Each bracelet will give $3 to Girl Up programs for girls to become leaders in their communities and get access to school.
To see the new Girl Up and Bird + Stone Bracelets launched today, click here.
I had the opportunity to chat with Elana and meet her in person in NYC to learn more about the inspiration behind Bird + Stone and why she views micro-loans as a way of changing lives in Kenya. Here is what she had to say.
What inspired you to go to Kenya?
In 2013, I was working in the financial services industry at Bloomberg in the heart of Midtown in NYC. I was successful in my career but and I felt like something was missing in my life. I started to grow more and more disillusioned and decided it was time to do something about it. There had to be a way I could put my business skills and knowledge to better use. I decided to look into volunteer options that would enable me to use my financial skills. I found the perfect volunteer position in Kenya but would need to save up money and vacation time in able to go.
For the next several months, I saved up all my money for the plane ticket but needed a little extra funding to do the trip. Instead of doing a crowdfunding campaign or asking my family or friends for help, I had to think out of the box. I came up with the idea to fundraise my trip by learning how to make my own jewelry and sell it.
Despite having no background in jewelry-making, I taught myself how to make hand-crafted bracelets and confess to pouring over countless “do-it-yourself” YouTube videos to help me perfect my skill. I walked around the open floorpan at Bloomberg selling bracelets to friends and colleagues. By December, I had raised over $1,500 through my bracelet sales and was on my way to Kenya. Little did I know this would also be the concept behind Bird + Stone.
What did you do in Kenya?
I traveled to rural Kenya to volunteer with a group of 70 widowed women who are part of a business collaborative called the Sisi Fund. The Sisi Fund helps women start businesses and provide each other with support. It was through working with these amazing women that I realized how important and life-changing it was for them to learn business skills, and how it acted as a catalyst to lift women out of poverty and into prosperity. I also saw how small micro-loans could be used to help the women succeed and grow their businesses. At that moment, I decided to dedicate my career to investing in women in the developing world through selling affordable jewelry.
When did you found Bird + Stone?
After such a transformative experience in Kenya, I realized that there had to be a way for me to continue the work I’d begun. The pairing of capital and education provides enormous, life-changing results. Many of these women had not been in school for decades and it was amazing to see the impact that simple business training and small micro-loans made on their future. Also a high re-payment rate within the group – 99% of the women repaid the loans.
Bird + Stone was founded on the principle that jewelry can do good and in fact, improve the world. We empower each consumer to be a “micro-philanthropist” – making meaningful change through the simple act of purchasing jewelry. Our mission is to inspire, educate, and most importantly help shape the dreams of deserving women who are aspiring to be independent, financially stable, and educated. By giving women opportunities in the developing world, we help them pull themselves out of poverty.
The idea of Bird + Stone was a natural fit. I began making and selling jewelry while working full-time and quit my job at Bloomberg in December of 2014 to devote myself full-time to growing Bird + Stone. Today, we have four employees including myself and a full-time designer who makes all the jewelry here in NYC.
What does Bird + Stone mean?
You can think of it as “two birds with one stone”. Jewelry that also gives back — by buying our jewelry — you are investing in women to start businesses — and helping to eradicate poverty in the developing world. My motto for Bird + Stone: “Dreambuilder” helping women dream again, have faith and hope in the future. The Dreambuilder bracelet has been one of the biggest successes of our product line. Many American women are wearing it to remind them of the dreams they have while also helping women in Kenya fulfill their dreams as well. It is a beautiful thing.
About the Dreambuilder Cuff:
The “Dreambuilder cuff” gives $5 to an entrepreneur to start a business in Kenya through our partnership with the Sisi Fund. Wear the cuff as a symbol of the dreams you’re helping to build, and as a daily reminder of your own hopes and dreams.
How does Bird + Stone’s socially conscious jewelry give back?
Bird + Stone designs the jewelry and sends 15% of profits to the Sisi Fund – a microfinanace fund in Kitale, Kenya that helps women – in particular widows – get small loans and learn business skills to start up micro-entreprises.
Why do you focus on helping women in Kenya by granting micro-loans?
- Single women who are heads of households represent 6/10 people in extreme poverty [even in the U.S!]. They have less income and more responsibility
- We fund widowed women in Kenya that raise on average, 3 children, and don’t have many job opportunities in rural Kenya
- We work with a local organization that provides micro-loans together with education to help women start businesses and become entrepreneurs
- The impact is staggering. They experience 400% increase income, start savings accounts, and can afford school fees to educate their children
What kind of impact have you made since founding Bird + Stone?
We are helping to support the fund of over 70 women! And, this year, we’re moving into a new women’s issue for us: girls’ education. We hope to make a big impact by helping to fund the Girl Up chapters for high school girls to become leaders in their communities, in turn, raising their voices for the 62 million girls out of school around the world.
Are you doing anything special for International Day of the Girl?
Together with Girl Up, Girl Rising, GlobalGirl Media, and the Malala Fund, Bird + Stone has launched a partnership giveaway today in honor of International Day of the Girl. Three lucky winners who enter here will win an empowerment pack to help passionate and dedicated individuals raise awareness about the importance of girls’ health and education. Packed with information, an exclusive Bird + Stone for Girl Up bracelet, Girl Up tote bag, He Named Me Malala DVD, Global Girl’s Media Bill of Rights and Manifesto, and a Girl Rising T-Shirt, this swag bag will help you look and feel empowered.