We recently came across The Brave Collection, gorgeous bracelets and necklaces handmade by artisans in Cambodia, and were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Jessica Hendricks, the Collection’s founder and designer. Jessica shared with us her motivations for starting the company and the special place that Cambodia holds in her heart. As a thank you to our readers, Jessica will donate two months of school supplies to the Somaly Mam Foundation for each purchase that uses the code “InspiringCapital” at checkout!
I was teaching English in Thailand for a summer while I was in school, and I took a trip to Cambodia as a tourist. I visited Angkor Wat and fell in love with the culture and spirituality of the place. Angkor Wat is magical, with beautiful etchings on the walls of ancient stone temples, and I just fell in love with the creativity of the Khmer culture. I learned that 90% of the country's artists were killed in the genocide in the 1970s, and I noticed that there were very few opportunities for sourced fine art and handmade work. I wanted to do something to support true artisan work, while using the products as a vehicle to raise awareness to combat human trafficking.
I went back to Cambodia and worked with a team of artists to create the first Brave Bracelet. The piece is completely handmade and spells “Brave” in Khmer, the language of Cambodia.
Over a year later, we just launched the Limitless Collection of necklaces. We’re workshopping a bunch of designs for the fall and experimenting with some higher price points and new materials. It’s exciting to see where we can take the collection!
When I came back from Southeast Asia, I was still a student, and it didn’t occur to me right away to create a business. I initially thought of the collection as a way to give back, but it took a few years to create the concept in my mind. My mom is an entrepreneur and owns a jewelry business, so it was all very natural to become a designer and start my own brand. Social business felt like the best way to make the deepest impact in Cambodia.
Reading Nicholas Kristof’s Half the Sky and Somaly Mam’s The Road of Lost Innocence was the tipping point. I went from thinking, “This is a problem that’s really sad,” to deciding, “This is something that I need to do something about.”
Did you always think about earned income as a revenue model?
I was always more interested in business on a personal level, and I was equally excited about fashion. It proved to be a better fit because the Collection really is a product-based business, not a charitable service.
In Cambodia specifically, there are so many nonprofits and so much giving, but there is a whole population of people fully capable of work that need and want decent jobs instead of handouts. By employing artisans, the Brave Collection is also supporting business and the economy in Cambodia.
First of all, by going on the website and buying a bracelet!
When you see a problem in the world, it’s important to figure out what you personally can do with your talents and your passions to make a difference. For me, this was the most natural thing to do. It’s less about the one right answer than it is about finding what you can uniquely do to make a difference. It’s all about doing what you do anyway and what you love anyway, but being conscious about it and seeing if there’s a way to give back within what you love.