It’s been a busy month on Cup of Charisma! With a big move underway, I can finally share with you a new program kicking off with an incredible woman. The Inspire Saturday series will feature interviews with leading inspirational women around the country. The first in our series in none other than Ashley Howell, Founder and CEO of The Givve Collection. I’m a gigantic fan of social good, so when I came across Givve Collection last year I knew I needed to track down its founder and pick her brain for inspiration. Ashley started her project through a simple dream and watched it flourish. She worked tireless to curate a website making socially-conscious style attainable in one easy platform.
The Givve Collection takes a simple approach to create a global impact. The site, which I’ve fallen in love with time and time again, carries charitable fashion products all in one location. You can curate your own Givve List, browse trendy accessories and clothing — you can even shop by cause! Ashley’s journey to begin Givve is an intriguing one. Let the first Inspire Saturday begin!
When did you begin Givve?
I started The Givve Collection in the early summer of 2013 with the big, impossible idea to create the first online marketplace dedicated to featuring the latest charitable fashion products. At the time, I could barely work the privacy settings on my Facebook let alone start a web-based technology company.
What led you to create the site?
How has the site grown since your initial launch? Has the mission changed?
How do you determine what charitable brands to showcase?
If you could by one thing off the website right now, what would it be?
I love these Stella Valle earrings. They are strong, smart and sexy. Perfect for any #girlboss look.
Do you have a favorite charitable brand?
What do you hope people take away from visiting your site other than a stylish new product?
We hope they take away that anyone can make an impact everyday through making a choice to buy a product that Givves back. You don’t need to sacrifice style to support your favorite cause. We also hope they learn about a new cause or organization making a change in the world and feel inspired to Givve more and get involved.
Most millennials are finding that they need to find purpose in their work and feel like they’re making a positive impact. How do you recommend young people move forward in finding their personal purpose?
I would start with what makes them happy and discovering the cause that they are passionate about. Once they know their cause, I would recommend looking up their company’s (or a company they want to work for) corporate social responsibility work and see if they can get involved in it or add their cause to the company mission. I have found most companies want engaged employees and they want positive PR; therefore an employee sponsored CSR project would be welcomed if not encouraged. I would caution that CSR work is often under-funded so I would encourage people interested in doing CSR work at their company come with a business plan for creating and executing the event/ project. This would include how to pay for the effort.
The other great way to fulfill your need to givve back is by working with a non-profit working in that cause area. No matter what your skill set, non-profits can always use passionate supporters that can add value. Therefore, if you find an organization that is making an impact in your cause area, I would reach out to their executive director and offer your help. Be sure to share your background, what you think you can bring to the organization and why you are passionate about what their organization is doing. This is a great way to learn more about your cause and make in impact without quitting your job and diving all in. This will allow you to see if the cause is really something you want to do spend more time working on in your personal and professional life.
Do you have any advice for young people eager to make a difference in society?
Just do it. Like so many people, I am passionate about making an impact in the world. The difference for me, and my fellow social entrepreneurs, is we have turned our passion into action. Your product, website, organization will never be perfect but launch it and learn as you go. If an organization does not evolve as it learns more about its customers or its mission, it will not grow. I will advise future Givvers to balance your passion with the reality for making your business opportunity sustainable by creating a solid business plan, admitting what you don’t know and finding people who do to help you, and learning how to operate on less sleep and more stress. If social entrepreneurship was easy, everyone would do it. So if you want to follow your dream, go for it but make sure you keep strong on the follow through.
Do you have a favorite social cause?
This is a tough one. Part of the reason I structured Givve to feature an unlimited amount of causes was because like many people I know, I am passionate about so many important social causes. However there are a few those that are close to my heart because I feel they can have a ripple effect and make positive changes in so many other areas. Therefore some of my favorite social issues include: equality promotion, economic development (especially helping women gain economic freedom), ending human trafficking, providing educational opportunities and anti-smoking. First and foremost I feel that all people are created equal regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. I feel sad for people who don’t feel this way as there is nothing to gain from hating people for no reason. And unfortunately that hate has a ripple effect through generations and across borders.
Secondly, I feel providing economic development for people is an absolute game changer. Before starting Givve, I studied peace and conflict studies and had a career in working to make this nation and the world a safer place. Through my national security work I learned terrorist will always be here and people will commit violence where there lack of opportunity, but if you provide the ability to have a job and provide for their families they will be less likely to engage in violence because they want to preserve the life they built. Therefore organizations providing jobs and economic development for people, specifically for disenfranchised women around the world are making such an amazing impact because one job creates a many ripple effects of change for good and breaks the cycle
My next passion is ending human trafficking. I was initially introduced to this issue in college when I learned about the horrific phenomenon of child soldiers at a student meeting with the organization Invisible Children while at the University of Southern California. This organization was started by a group of passionate students at USC who started making films about the atrocities happening to children when they are forced into rebel armies and forced to do drugs, rape and kill against their will. I remember feeling physically ill as I dove deeper into the issue and did advocacy work for the issue on campus. This sickness stayed with me and the opportunity to make my impact manifested a few years later to help sex trafficking victims in California. As a member of the Junior League of San Jose I served on the State Public Affairs Committee, which is a collation of Junior League members across 16 Leagues in California to effect legislative change in the areas of family support, health, education and violence prevention. Through SPAC, I met, worked with and advocated for human trafficking victims and worked on a small team to write bills to help these victims and one actually became a law.
Like economic development, advancing educational opportunities for people has a ripple effect for effecting generations of change. Education gives people freedom from the evils that keep them in the same place and education is a gift, a skill, an experience that no one can take from someone once they have it.
Finally, I am obnoxiously an anti-smoking advocate. At 8 years old, tearful read a eulogy I wrote from the heart at my grandmother’s funeral after she lost her life to lung cancer developed from her addiction to cigarettes. This experience is as painful and vivid today as it was 20 years ago but I turned that pain into advocacy and began organizing anti-smoking movements at my middle and high school that still exist today. Experiencing this at a young age sparked my lifelong passion to fight for social justice. To honor her memory and influence in my life, she inspired the Givve bow.
Three months before she died I visited her every day after school and we watched the Sound Music almost every time. In this classic movie, there is a song called, Favorite Things. In this song the protagonist Maria signs about her favorite things to cheer up the children during a thunder storm. In the song she mentions one of her favorite things is a brown paper package tied up with string. Hence our bow. It’s a way to immortalize her memory and those precious moments with her.
What’s the future of Givve?
Bright, exciting and impactful! We want to keep growing, keep givving and keep expanding into new opportunities through creative partnerships. We are always looking for new ways to educate our current and future Givvers about our platform so we are focusing on strategic partnerships this year as well as new ways to educate our customer about our products.
If you loved hearing from Ashley, then good news: Cup of Charisma will be featuring Givve List regularly with curated products that you can rock to give back to a cause. We’re all about using fashion for good here.
Take a peek at Ashley’s Givve List:
HAVANA HALF MOON EARRINGS
by Stella Valle
LIKE A BOSS ‘IDENTITY’ NECKLACE
HANNAH NECKLACE BY HALF UNITED
by Half United
PAT EARRINGS IN IRIDESCENT AGATE
by Kendra Scott