Many brands including TOMS shoes, UncommonGoods, and Warby Parker give back to the community whenever a customer makes a purchase. As important as it is to donate or help out in different ways, one retailer is taking their give back initiative to a whole new level.
Getting their start ten years ago, JOYN offers handbags that are hand-crafted by local artisans in the foothills of the Himalayas. They choose people over machinery to breathe life into every piece and actively work to purchase remnant leathers and sustainable materials while also empowering people in local communities with fair work.
Giving Back with Jobs
“My husband and I grew up in the states but we always had a desire to go and live in vulnerable regions to help with job creations, so we moved to Northern India ten years ago and planted ourselves in a little community,” Melody Murray, Founder of JOYN, said. “I realized that traditional charity wasn’t the route. I really wanted to help people help themselves by earning their own money. Connecting individuals with opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise have them – hence JOYN, which stands for people finding joy in their jobs.”
Many times, businesses donate a specific amount of money to different charities. While this is still a great way to give back, that money ultimately runs out and the people in the communities go back to the money they were at before. JOYN is trying to prevent that by giving those people permanent jobs with proper healthcare, retirement plans, helping to pay for education and daycare centers, and giving each employee livable wages.
Finding a Niche in the Handbag Industry
JOYN started out offering many different textiles, fashion and home goods, but the company ended up finding their niche in the handbag industry because there weren’t a lot of truly traditional artists in the fair trade handbag space, according to Murray. Her and her husband created an artisan route in Northern India that develops everything there such as hand weaving, stitching, and cotton picking, among others. Everything is done by hand.
The company’s newest line is the Haveli Bag Collection, which was handcrafted from the ground up. Each thread was spun by hand, and woven by hand, by the ladies of KKM, a leper colony in Rajpur, Dehradun. “Haveli” means “partition, or private space” and it was popularised by the Mughal Empire and became a word used to describe a mansion or abode.
Murray says JOYN has been doing quite well despite the worldwide pandemic. “We were so impressed with our customer base in March, when India went into a lockdown. We transitioned most of our sales online, but we have done well and been able to maintain our online sales,” she said. “And when things started opening back up, our sales have been more than they ever have before. We haven’t had to lay anyone off.”
For direct-to-consumer business, JOYN only has a website and doesn’t have any plans for opening a storefront in the future. Murray says the company wholesale’s to many different women’s fashion boutiques and small businesses. “We love to support our local boutiques and just let them carry our goods.”
To view JOYN’s full line of handbags, visit www.joynbags.com.