Student-run nonprofit sells handmade jewelry for Yemen

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By Abby Carella, Multimedia Editor Neatly wrapping up a pair of handmade earrings with fabric and placing them into a box embellished with hearts and drawings has become part of junior Ainsley Payne’s daily routine. She tops off the package with a personalized note, including a “P.S. PLEASE RECYCLE THIS” message in big letters, and...

By Abby Carella, Multimedia Editor

Neatly wrapping up a pair of handmade earrings with fabric and placing them into a box embellished with hearts and drawings has become part of junior Ainsley Payne’s daily routine. She tops off the package with a personalized note, including a “P.S. PLEASE RECYCLE THIS” message in big letters, and then heads to the closest USPS drop-off box to send the package to its new owner.

In June of this year, Payne and her friends founded their own nonprofit, Girls Inc. For Yemen in which they create jewelry to raise money for the humanitarian crisis going on in the country. Payne describes the crisis as a mix of many factors, including the Yemeni Civil War (which the country has been fighting since 2014), wildfires, poverty and COVID-19. When Payne began seeing efforts to help with the pandemic, she noticed not many were directly aiding Yemen, and was inspired to start the company.

“Yemen is having the worst humanitarian crisis in the past 100 years, and I had not seen anything about it anywhere. I was like, I have to do something, I feel kind of useless,” Payne said.  

Payne, along with fellow juniors Sydney Canedo, Ally Howell, Sammy Goldman and Bella Spinazzola, has worked non-stop for the last several months creating different types of jewelry to sell. Payne is often responsible for the brand’s signature hand-drawn polystyrene earrings while Howell works on mini paintings. Spinazzola makes necklaces using resin while Canedo works on some pieces using crystals and gems for a future release. 

“I have always liked art but have never had the time to do it,” Payne said. “So over quarantine, I finally had time to work on it, and it has been really chill and a way for me to just escape. I will just put on ‘Criminal Minds’ and work for hours now.” 

When making the earrings, Payne usually starts with her own drawing or uses a Google stock image that she will trace with Sharpie. She hole punches the top of the design, adds watercolor, Sharpies again, adds white highlights and then bakes the product. She finishes off the earrings with jump rings, fish eye hooks and a layer of Mod Podge, which acts as a protective sealant for the product.

Their customer base is made up primarily of what Canedo describes as hippie teenagers. To reach these teenagers, Girls Inc. utilizes platforms such as Instagram and TikTok where they hold giveaways and make new-product reveal videos. Junior Lilly Shui, Girls Inc.’s first bulk purchaser, loves the company’s mission.

“I really liked what they were doing by donating the proceeds to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and I just really like the earrings. So, you know, it was kind of a win-win situation for me,” Shui said. 

 The girls have raised almost $700 since starting a few months back. They decided to send the money directly to Direct Relief’s Yemen sector, a choice made after discovering that most charities only donate 60% of their funds whereas Direct Relief donates about 90%. Direct Relief then uses these funds for general humanitarian needs such as food and housing.

Girls Inc.’s goal is to attain $1,100 in sales by January and $2,500 by April. They plan to expand their inventory, release more products and grow their social media.

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