Helping women across the world is at the heart of a new local business. soHza connects women in developing countries to local women in need through handmade jewelry. soHza founders Cassi Baker and sisters Vicki Miller, Debbie Lupariello and Melissa Henry, find fair-trade accessories crafted by women’s groups in other countries and purchase the pieces to be sold here, where local women can buy the items with 15 percent of the proceeds going to women’s organizations within the community.
“We are helping women here by helping women there,” Baker says.
Jewelry made by women in Columbia, India, Ecuador, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Kenya complete soHza’s offerings. After initially partnering with Made by Survivors, a group helping sex-trafficking survivors in India, they branched out to other organizations that supported women in developing countries. As for finding additional vendors, “It’s been an organic process,” Baker says. Many leads have come through word-of-mouth.
soHza looks for fair-trade organizations to ensure that the money is going back to the women who are producing the jewelry. They also look for statement pieces and describe the goods as culturally sensitive. Women utilize materials that are local and available to them, sometimes including innovative yet powerful objects like recycled bullets.
At the company’s core is a desire to help women in need, but the founders didn’t want to stop at helping women overseas, they wanted to bring in a local element as well.
“How can we bridge that gap?” Baker asks.
soHza began their local partnerships with the YWCA in April. In September they began working with DOMA International and the Stephanie Spielman fund. Expanding their reach to women across Columbus, they have also formed partnerships with the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio and Girls on the Run. soHza works with many women’s groups in Cincinnati helping survivors of domestic violence and breast cancer as well. With their variety of partnerships, they aim to help women of all ages at all socioeconomic statues.
soHza jewelry is only available online. The founders wanted to keep everything digital so the story of the women who created the jewelry was easily accessible and not lost on the consumer.
The founders created collections to pair jewelry with each cause. Consumers can browse by product, including necklaces, earrings and bracelets, or organization. The founders meet with each organization to hand-pick the jewelry that will benefit their cause.
“We want to send the right image that goes along with the organization,” Baker says. By creating collections, consumers not only know exactly what groups their money will benefit, but can pick pieces that directly support their favorite cause.
The idea for soHza started with a bracelet. Cassi read an article about Ugandan women making bracelets with the proceeds going directly back to the artisans. She bought the bracelets as Christmas presents for friends, knowing it might not fit all of their styles, but they would be moved by the story behind it. And moves they were. Friends kept talking about the concept. Baker’s friend, Miller was mulling over a similar idea, so together they decided to turn the concept in to a business.
“We want to help women all over, but we wanted to put women in the middle,” Baker says. To put women in the middle they chose a medium women could relate to – jewelry.
While the sisters had some background in entrepreneurship, starting with their own concept was new to all four. As with any new venture, Baker says its been a learning process of figuring out one thing and moving on to the next. But, the excitement of helping women keeps all of them going despite long nights or busy schedules.
For more information, visit sohza.com.