Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brand BUILD ~ Jewelry Making and Small Business Skills Inspire Urban Youth

I first learned about Brand BUILD through the Women's Jewelry Association when I moved to Chicago. I was inspired by the BUILD mission to support and inspire young women by presenting them with alternatives to the streets, options that allow them to understand that their futures are in no way limited by their current circumstances and surroundings. I donated beads and findings to the organization to support the young women using jewelry making and small business skills to BUILD a brighter future.


Brand BUILD is a model small business project that engages young women in producing and selling beaded jewelry with marketing and design input from staff and volunteers. Volunteers and staff mentor the young women in the program, and experienced program participants assist those who are new to the program. Each student receives 70% of her net sales in a paycheck, agrees to have deposited 20% of her earnings in an Educational Fund, and gives back 10% to the program to support the Enrichment Fund that offers activities for all Brand BUILD participants.

Brand BUILD offers the following opportunities:
  • Weekly work sessions where participants meet with staff and volunteers, learning to create custom beaded jewelry and the practical aspects of running a small business. Each piece is uniquely inspired by urban and seasonal trends and may reflect the personal style and emotions of the student. Each youth participant has at least 25 different pieces within their inventory consisting of necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
  • All participants are enrolled in BUILDing Futures, the agency's college and career prep program, enabling participation in college tours, financial aid presentations, college entrance exam workshops, etc. To date, 100% of Brand BUILD alumni have graduated high school and gone on to college or vocational training.
  • Periodic off-site sales are conducted, including BUILD's annual dinner event, corporate venues and private homes and businesses.

Brand BUILD helps teach young women that the streets are a dead end and that the "Mainstream Dream" of a good education and a meaningful career can be theirs. Through these activities, the girls also develop a peer support network that will help them to stop the cycle of abuse and violence by supporting each other's efforts to apply the new life skills and coping strategies they are learning which are necessary to function as healthy, self-sufficient and productive citizens.