The only thing better than beautiful jewelry is beautiful jewelry that contributes to a better future. And in the case of online accessories brand Bird + Stone, the future is definitely female.
Launched in 2013 by Elana Reinholtz, Bird + Stone is a New York City-based startup that raises funds and awareness for organizations aimed at building an equal world. It’s driven by the idea that every consumer can be a micro-philanthropist and create change by leveraging their purchasing power to fight for equality for all.
With a product assortment that includes bracelets, cuffs (many made from upcycled metals) and necklaces, Bird + Stone creates and sells “jewelry for changemakers,” by donating to organizations centered around women’s health, girls’ education, poverty alleviation, and climate change.
Although CEO/“chief dreamer” and founder Reinholtz, who studied Business and International Relations at Brandeis University and worked in the financial services industry in NYC, always felt the pull to support causes close to her heart, she officially launched Bird + Stone after spending time in Kenya on a volunteer mission.
“I was working in a corporate job after college when I was 24. After finding financial security, it took me about a year to feel as if I wasn’t contributing to anything positive in society. I was matched with a program in rural Kenya with 70 widowed women that were rebuilding their lives through entrepreneurship. I was on the ground going from village to village on foot or on a moped, teaching basic accounting and business skills — sometimes in a hut, sometimes outside with the content nailed to a tree. I checked up on the microloans the women were getting as part of this program: seeing how the loan changed their life, [helped them increase] their income by four times, and allowed them to expand their business and afford things like fresh water and healthcare for the first time.”
When Reinholtz returned to the United States, she launched Bird + Stone as a platform for donating a percentage of profits from the jewelry a customer would already be buying, to fund world-changing programs: so basically two birds, one stone.
As Reinholtz explains, “You can’t give $10,000 and I can’t give $10,000 — but together we can.”
The other causes Bird + Stone supports include Women’s Health with its bestselling The Future is Female cuff bracelet, which supports Planned Parenthood of NYC; Girls’ Education, helping Girl Up connect the 131 million girls out of school with education and opportunities; Poverty, each purchase helps a female entrepreneur in Kenya start a small business and lift her family out of poverty; and Climate, supporting environmental organizations to protect our planet.
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Bird + Stones’ Stepping Stones
While Reinholtz was on that Kenyan mission, she had a life-changing shift in mindset and knew she had to do something to help out as soon as she returned home.
“It was in one of those moments standing in the hot Kenya sun one day, that I realized the untapped potential of giving women opportunities and what could happen when everyone has the ability to pursue their dream. So, when I returned from Kenya, I vowed to continue to support programs that invest in the equal access for women and girls to pursue their dreams. I used the same model that had allowed me to fundraise for the trip — affordable jewelry as the funding vehicle — instead of starting a non-profit.”
Reinholtz had already launched a fundraising campaign to fund her trip to Kenya by developing an Etsy shop called “Beads for Kenya” (this turned out to be the first iteration of Bird + Stone).
“I clutched an order form with me and walked around the open workspace of my day job taking holiday orders from my coworkers. At that time, it was a fundraiser for my upcoming trip to Kenya, where I was going to use all of my annual vacation (four weeks) and volunteer in a rural community teaching business skills and accounting. I fundraised for the trip’s costs by making and selling jewelry designs that I learned from watching YouTube videos!”
When Reinholtz returned to the U.S., she launched the Bird + Stone brand as we know it today on Shopify.
Fashion Accessories That Help Shape The Future
Bird + Stone’s target demographic is women aged 22 to 65, who want to make a change in the world, whether that means supporting equitable education or women running for office.
According to Reinholtz, “Our priority is action-oriented and empowering designs. I think the biggest feedback we’ve received since launching our bestselling ‘The Future is Female’ bracelet is that it’s an everyday reminder alongside ourselves as we fight for issues like pay equity, equal access to healthcare, and a world free of sexual violence.”
Speaking of “The Future Is Female” cuff, you might have seen Téa Leoni from CBS’s Madam Secretary rocking and tweeting about it.
Today, one scroll through Instagram reveals popular hashtags like #TheFutureIsFemale, especially since the worldwide Women’s March of January 21, 2017.
(Speaking of the Women’s March, Amy, a customer from Alabama, wrote into Bird + Stone to share that she’s been inspired by the Women’s March movement and that she recently fought for equal pay at her job in manufacturing. She was getting paid less than her male peer and throughout her battle with HR, she looked at her bracelet for strength — and didn’t feel alone as a result.)
But Bird + Stone took on women’s causes before feminism became a “trending” part of the daily conversation. Yes, feminism and gender equality were important causes in 2013, but have reached peak popularity today. (An Instagram search for the hashtag #feminism brings up over 6 million results, while #thefutureisfemale reveals 395K posts).
Reinholtz explains: “Women’s empowerment and gender equality is central to the founding of our company. I started Bird + Stone as a way to use jewelry to fundraise for equal opportunity for women and girls around the world. While we’ve since expanded to other causes (including climate change), we’ve learned that gender issues also intersect with other issues like racial justice, economic justice, and climate justice. I am also the face of the company so when people interact on our Facebook ads, you’ll see me commenting and chiming in about stats on women in office, or asking people to share their stories with us. We’ve also been lucky to get some really high-level partnerships from working with Planned Parenthood of NYC.”
Our designs are meant to connect women with a greater good and with each other and if we’re doing that — then I think we’ve created an impactful product.
It also helps that as a woman in the corporate world, Reinholtz has firsthand experience in the gender disparity that exists, making her an authentic voice for Bird + Stone.
“These issues directly affect us as a female-founded small business. From challenges like raising capital to the representation of women in office and boardrooms, I’ve been in the direct path of the serious inequities in this country. My job and duty as a female CEO is inextricably linked to our duty as a socially-conscious company that should bring awareness to issues facing women without a voice, whether that’s sexual violence or access to reproductive healthcare,” Reinholtz continues.
Bird + Stone recently brought its movement from online to IRL by participating in POLITICO’s Women Rule Conference in December 2017, as well as several holiday pop-ups around NYC.
“Our community of changemakers keeps us inspired, so we’re always excited for opportunities to connect in person, especially at aligned events like POLITICO’s Women Rule Conference. We use our signage to communicate the impact of each purchase at pop-ups, and also love having this time to talk directly with people about our causes, partners and the kinds of impact we’ve been able to create so far. This is also a great time to get know our customers better: who they are, what they do, and how they are creating change. This enables us to continue building a better overall experience, online and offline, for our community.”
Social Media Helps Fuel The Social Movement
Bird + Stone leverages Instagram with these three objectives in mind: education, promotion, and community engagement.
“In terms of content, we try to balance sharing promotional content with inspiring content for changemakers, information about our partners, and more. We love the opportunity Instagram creates to connect with others; our next partnership (coming soon…) was actually started when the nonprofit reached out to us over Instagram, and we also have an upcoming Planned Parenthood fundraiser that we were connected to through the platform.”
The packaging of each bracelet or necklace is critical to the Bird + Stone philanthropic experience as well. “We want every customer — regardless if he/she was the purchaser or recipient of the product — to understand the impact of the product and aligned organizational partner. The packaging, along with a handwritten postcard, is integral to communicating to the customer that we are a small business and that we started this company as a way to leverage our purchasing power to make change. We also double donations for people posting a photo of themselves on Instagram, which helps to incentivize people to share organically with their friends!”
This tactic also motivates the community of “Bird + Stone Changemakers” to snap user-generated content, which Bird + Stone then posts on its own Instagram feed.
Another marketing strategy is creating campaigns around holidays that elevate conversations around equality, including International Women’s Day (on March 8), in addition to the typical retail holidays.
Social media has also served as a way to engage with Bird + Stone’s loyal community by choosing which causes to support.
Reinholtz explains: “In some cases, we identify a specific cause we want to expand to next and seek out partners, while other times we’ve had partners approach us first. As our community has grown, we’re also excited to start including members in deciding which causes we support next. We recently asked about “priority issues” on our Facebook page and got a great response from our community.”
The Future is Bird + Stone
With more than four years under its belt so far (and a team of five people), Bird + Stone is soaring and empowering others to spread their wings too.
Reinholtz continues: “We now have a large and growing community of changemakers that care about the gamut of issues I’ve been discussing. It’s a big undertaking, but we’re looking to use more of our marketing budget and capital to put a spotlight on issues that are complex and require more education to solve. For example, why isn’t paid leave guaranteed in the United States or why are only 20% of the U.S.’ highest political offices held by women? These issues are actually systemic and institutional and can’t just be solved with buying a bracelet or making a donation, but with raising the visibility of an issue and its undercurrents. We look forward to contributing to a higher consciousness around these societal issues and leveraging the purchase as just the first step in the process.”
So, what’s next for the mission-driven jewelry brand?
“Content-wise, we’re working on launching a blog to support the education part of our goals and highlighting our community members and non-profit partners on our social media channels. Product-wise, look out for some awesome partnerships in three new cause areas this year.”
While Bird + Stone is supporting others, what piece of advice does Reinholtz have for fellow aspiring founders?
“Harness the fire that keeps you up at night. The passion, I believe, is the easy part but let that guide you through the uncertainty in the beginning. Later on, the tough parts are building the structure, systems, and operational efficiencies as you grow. It’s a better time than ever for a direct-to-consumer brand to be able to compete with big companies. But, you can’t throw fuel on a fire until you have a fire.”