Thursday, 17 May 2012

Gifts that Give Back

Back when Joan Hornig was a spring chicken in college (Harvard in case you were interested – yep, smart cookie she certainly is), she made it her ultimate goal to have enough money in her pocket by the time she hit 50 to allow her to spend the rest of her days fulfilling her heart’s desire: giving back to the world. 

Having always admired the fancy (but unattainable) antiques found in luxury boutiques, Joan learned to design her own jewellery inspired by these pieces. And as it turns out, she had a bit of a knack for this beautiful craft. As fate would have it, six years ago a friend casually said to Joan, ‘I love your necklace,’ to which she replied, Thanks, I made it.’ How great is it a) being given this lovely compliment, topped off by b) being able to reply that that greatness being admired was made entirely by your very own hands? Pretty sweet. Part of me just wants to start making my own clothes (I don’t know why I don’t already because as you know I can do this fairly well – it’s kind of my career currently...) in the hope of being able to roll out one-liners like that. ‘What? This old thing? Hell yeah sister, I can make these in my sleep.’ Boom. This summer, I will make it happen... Anyway – back to Joan – her friend mentioned the exquisiteness of that necklace to another friend, who – get this – just happened to be a merchandise manager at none other than Bergdorf Goodman, and said to her: ‘I’m looking at something that should be in your store.’ Don’t you just love it when things fall right into place? No fight or struggle or pain makes a refreshing change. It restores your faith in the world once more; at least it does mine, and reaffirms the fact that good things do happen to good people, and they happen a lot!

So back in 2003, Joan gathered up all of her pieces from her New York City apartment and took them into the Fifth Avenue store.  ‘The Bergdorf people said, 'We like these things, but are you a business?' I said, 'I believe I can be a business.' They offered her a trial run, and witnessed her first ‘collection’ sell out in just five days.

But Joan did not embark on her jewellery design business to make money. Oh no. Her business model beats to its own drum: each lovely piece sold comes with a card explaining that she will donate 100% of the profits to the charity of the buyer’s choice. And so, two years ahead of schedule, Joan reached her goal, and gained her philanthropic heart’s desire.

Joan’s artistic and exquisite jewellery (all of which are either one of a kind, or very limited edition) has been worn and adored by the likes of Jessica Alba, Eva Mendes and Cameron Diaz; and all of her pieces stand out in the crowd, all the while carrying the important message that giving away what you don’t need and giving it to someone who does is a beautiful and selfless act that is very worthy of promoting. 

(a few of my favourite pieces, all available online, where these images are also from)

To date, the Joan B Hornig Foundation has been able to donate over one million dollars to over 700 non-profit organisations worldwide. And just think – all of this came from one woman with a goal. She says, ‘People ask, 'Why wouldn't you want to keep the money?' They think success is measured by what you put in your pocket. I get to create beautiful things that make a difference for people. There isn't anyone who's been made richer by this experience than me.’ 

I can’t put it any better than that. 
Philanthropy is Beautiful

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