From handmade earrings made from recycled milk cartons to paper bead necklaces, Dreamer & Co jewelry is about creating opportunities for the local artists creating the necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
Jessica Lee Gardner and Baylee Eby created the jewelry brand to empower low-income artisans in the Horn of Africa to flourish through business.
“We don’t see ourselves as an outside influencer coming to give things away or try and dictate the artisan’s business,” says Baylee.
“We work alongside the artisans, helping them address any needs they may present us with, and figuring out how it can be done with dignity.”
DREAMER & CO JEWELRY
Dreamer & Co’s mission is to provide job skills and a fair, living wage to partner artisans. The company aims to help women realize their potential and feel empowered and dignified.
The brand strives to connect consumers with responsibly and ethically made products.
“We have been researching ways to reduce our waste and plastic consumption constantly. We ship our products from the Horn of Africa to the U.S. in paper bags (that we reuse as well) instead of clear plastic bags,” Baylee tells me.
Dreamer & Co buys all paper for the beads locally to contribute to the local economy. They are researching ways to create their own colored paper to make the jewelry.
“The artisans previously used spray paint to create some of the paper bead colors before working with Dreamer & Co we were unable to get any information on the quality of the spray paint. With so many of our artisans pregnant or nursing, we eliminated the use of spray paint for coloring paper. Currently, we only use colored paper bought locally, so the artisans do not have to use paint or dye,” says Baylee.
One of the challenges Dreamer & Co has faced (in African country where the company is based) is lack of supplies like beads, brass, jewelry clasps, and gold, etc. As a company policy, they work hard to source ethically made products from places around the world. Dreamer & Co’s founders research each vendor to make sure they are providing a fair working environment for all of their employees.
THE COMMITMENT TO THE ARTISANS
Based in Alexandria, Virginia, most of the work for Dreamer & Co takes place in the Horn of Africa. (Due to security concerns, they choose not to share the name of the country for the privacy of the artisans.)
“We work with the artisans to provide a fair and above minimum wage for their work,” says Baylee.
Jessica works with a local non-profit to ensure that the women artisans have a fun, relaxed, and family-friendly work environment. Women can also learn how to start their businesses.
“In January 2020, we are working alongside two other non-profits to train the women in a formal entrepreneurship business course. The women are yearning for more experience in how to run their own business,” says Baylee.
BUILDING A BUSINESS
The two women met in 2014 via email when they were working for the same non-profit. They eventually both traveled to the Horn of Africa, and in 2018, they launched the online shop.
When it comes to starting a business, you have to find the right partner.
“In addition to that, this work requires a lot of grace, says Baylee, “Being able to rely on each other in a deeper way than just business is not only what makes us friends, but also what makes us thrive.”
BAYLEE’S TAKEAWAYS FOR STARTING A BUSINESS
- Find a partner who is open to communication.
- Set high standards for the work.
- “We are always on WhatsApp and email. We don’t ignore questions asked.”
- Set healthy boundaries to unplug and spend time with your family.
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