Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Bond.
Amy, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I fell in love with mountain gorillas when I was twelve but the seed for Lucy & Jo was planted when I was in grad school working on primate behavioral ecology and conservation in East Africa. I was studying gorillas, and the biggest threat to their long-term survival is human population growth. It was then I started to see the direct connection between economic impoverishment and threats to wildlife.
People who are just trying to feed their families go into the forest (where gorillas live) looking for resources because they may have no other way to make a living. Gorillas can catch human diseases and they get caught in snares intended for small antelope. BUT, if you can create an opportunity for people, especially women, to earn a consistent, sustainable income, that isn’t dependent on the forest, both the people and the animals win! So in 2015, I traveled to East Africa, partnered with talented artists who needed access to a larger market and Lucy & Jo was born.
We sell ethically made jewelry and home goods and give 5% of every sale to the non-profit, Gorilla Doctors. We sell online and through pop-ups and just celebrated our third full year this past March. Since every single piece is handmade, we design very limited quantities and place small, consistent orders throughout the year. I travel to Uganda and Kenya at least once a year to meet with the artists directly. We pay the price they set (sometimes more if we think they are undervaluing their labor) and reinvest with tools and training (if needed).
Has it been a smooth road?
Definitely not! I’m always learning and adjusting. In the beginning, we had a lot of communication mistakes with the artists, thinking we both understood and then the product would arrive and be nothing like what we thought we ordered and totally unsellable. Some of the results were actually pretty funny but they were expensive learning experiences. We’ve gotten much better over time and WhatsApp is our greatest tool. We share pictures while the work is in progress so we can tweak designs and we’ve learned to slow down with our feedback. One thing at a time.
People here have been incredibly supportive of what we’re trying to do and want to shop ethically whenever and wherever they can. Every single product we buy has a maker when the consumer can see the actual person behind it, that is special. And it’s important. Sadly, so many people still have no idea or even worse don’t care because they want it now and they want it cheap. The ‘fast fashion’ mindset that is inherently exploitative is probably the single greatest collective challenge for any brand with a social or sustainable mission.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Lucy & Jo – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
We partner with artists in East Africa to co-create ethically handmade jewelry and home goods using traditional craftsmanship and modern design. These are very talented people and we simply provide access to a significantly larger market. One of the things I am most proud of is how we’ve been able to reinvest in the artists and communities we work with.
When we first started working with our jewelry maker in Kenya, they had no safety gear. We’ve provided safety glasses, ear plugs, gloves, tools and on our most recent visit bought them an electric drill. They were still using a hand crank drill – that’s CRAZY! Seeing the smile on Bernard’s face and knowing that will directly impact his business was awesome. Another fantastic story is from a group of women we work within Uganda. As a result of our orders and entirely on their own, they started a group savings account. It’s allowed them to start small businesses, add things like doors and windows to their homes and has allowed younger women in the group to grow into leadership roles. How amazing is that? They do the embroidery on our one-of-a-kind pillows and seriously, how many pillows do you know that can do that?! 🙂
I think what sets us apart is that we know every single artist personally and work together on design so the products stand alone in design and quality regardless of their great story. Ethically made only works on a larger scale if we are creating products that women love and want to wear.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
For me, Los Angeles has always been a city of possibility. Anything you can dream, you can do here. It may take a long time and it may kick your butt along the way but the pool of talent and creativity here is so inspiring. It can be intimidating sometimes but more than anything it pushes you to be better. Of course, the weather doesn’t hurt either. I’d say what I like least is the traffic, no surprise there (so many angry drivers!) and you really have to be wary of certain types of people who maybe aren’t operating from a place of integrity.
- Jewelry Prices Range from $35-$150
- Home Goods Prices Range from $15 – 75
- Website: www.lucyandjo.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @lucyandjoexploring
- Facebook: @lucyandjoexploring
Lucy & Jo