Ember Arts is a jewellery brand committed to empowering individuals to pursue their dreams through the creative design and distribution of eco-friendly jewellery handmade by women in Uganda. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to hear more about their work thanks to the lovely Kimberley who kindly answered some of my questions about the family owned and operated company.
For those readers out there that are being introduced to your label for the first time would you kindly share the story of the conception of Ember Arts and the product you sell?
Ember Arts is a fair trade jewellery company based out of San Diego, California. But we do more than just produce and distribute jewellery. We empower dreamers.
The business began seven years ago with a trip to Kampala, Uganda where one of our founders, James encountered women who worked in rock quarries. Being employed by a rock quarry meant sitting in the hot sun with a makeshift hammer, pounding stones into gravel. Making less than $1 a day, the women were barely able to stay alive. But James could see that the women still dreamed. They were not content with just staying alive.
Ember Arts now partners with 28 of those women, giving them employment hand-making jewellery from recycled paper. We buy all of the jewellery directly from the women fair trade, and then we sell the jewellery to stores all across the U.S.
Is there a particular dream that one of your Ugandan partners has relayed that you would like to share with us?
With the money they earn from Ember Arts, our Ugandan partners are able to chase their dreams — dreams of educating their children, building homes, and starting businesses. With our support, the women are not only able to survive, but they are empowered to thrive.
One story we love telling is of one of our partners Esther. Esther lives in a neighborhood called Acholi Quarters, a slum outside of Uganda’s capital, in a little concrete building. She has been so successful in her work with Ember Arts, that she is now able to fund her children’s school costs, and her oldest son is now attending college – a huge accomplishment for a family in Uganda! Esther is so pleased to offer her family stability and prosperity but she still keeps dreaming. One day she wants to own her own home and to park her own car in the driveway. Dreams of owning a car and living in one’s own home are things we often take for granted, so Esther’s story, hard work, and ability to keep dreaming are truly inspiring.
Ember Arts goes above and beyond with the twice-yearly ‘Ember Arts Hero’s’ initiative where half of online sales for one month are donated to a young woman who is making the world a better place. Where did the inspiration for this initiative come from and how do you find these incredible young women?
At Ember, we’re all about empowering people to chase after their dreams. We’re also all about sharing stories and building lasting relationships with the people we meet. Many of the women we support and donate to are friends of ours, or friends of friends, or simply girls we met online through social media and started connecting with. If you have an incredible dream, one that will make a difference in the lives of others, we genuinely want to hear about it, swap stories with you, and support you in any way we can. We believe that it will take all of us to impact the world and that we all work best when supporting each other.
What is your favourite thing about the way that Ember Arts operates?
I absolutely love that Ember is a family owned and operated business. Our leaders are Jessica and Clayton, a married couple who make Ember their life and passion. Jessica’s dad Jim works as our sales manager. A friend from church was hired on as the office manager. We employ a few college girls who help with social media, marketing, and shipping the jewellery. And we always seem to have a few children running around the office! Business meetings often feel like “family time” and that’s what makes working at Ember Arts so special.
You recently posted an article about the measures that your brand takes to operate as sustainably as you can within your current means. If you had a limitless budget and resources (and a creative imagination) what improvements would you make to your current business practices to make the whole process as sustainable as possible?
Perhaps the hardest task in making our business sustainable is dealing with all of the movement and shipping of products. All of our jewellery is shipped from Uganda, which is a long ways away, and we then ship the jewellery from our office in San Diego to stores all across the U.S. So we do our very best to use packaging materials that are recyclable and cost effective, to minimise our paper use etc. This is something that we would like to continue to improve upon.
And if I could get really creative and use my imagination to solve that issue, I would hire a fleet of elephants and sea birds to carry all of our jewelry around the world! One can dream of owning an elephant right?!