All Photos by Jon + Moch Photography
What if you could impact another’s life by the simple act of shopping? I think at the core we all have an empathy for others. Deep and untainted, we each have an indwelling desire to help those in need, those worse off than ourselves. Despite the pull toward generosity, toward loving deeply and cultivating change, we’re left wondering how to do this practically? On a regular, everyday basis, how do we cultivate a life of impact within the financial restrictions of our own life? Within a monthly budget?
I think this pondering can be satiated rather simply: shop intentionally. You see, despite budgets large and frugal, we all spend money. In some seasons of life, we’re living more abundantly and can spend more freely. In other seasons, we are strapped to pay rent, fix another worn-out whatcha-ma-call-it on our car or fill our fridge with groceries. Regardless of the season you’re in, impacting another’s life for good is still within reach.
Sela Designs is a small, online based jewelry shop owned and curated by Ashleigh Becker of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Her main medium of choice? Tagua nuts. Harvested from the palm trees of Educador, tagua nuts are sliced, dyed and designed into necklaces and earrings. I don’t know if you’re curious about the profits, but let me tell you something. It all goes to charity. Currently, Ashleigh supports Ebenezer Grace (a children’s home in Ethiopia), Life House of Manitowoc (a local organization that provides housing, life skills and financial training for individuals and families in need), and Mercy House Global (another amazing organization that specifically empowers women).
We all have a unique style and aesthetic. When I first perused Sela Designs online shop, I saw many pieces I liked, but couldn’t quite put my finger on a piece that felt like me. So, I reached out! I told Ashleigh the particular shape and shade I was hoping for in a pair of earrings and she generously made my idea a reality! My Geometric Red Earrings provide a subtle hint of color to any minimalist outfit I curate for daily life.
While we share a variety of ethical brands around this space, we always want to be mindful of sharing a vast array of price points as well. Directly after the holidays, I’m sure everyone is feeling the weight of Christmas gifting and may have #budgetlife at the top of their resolutions for 2018. My Sela Designs Geometric Red Earrings are only $20. Music to your ears!?
Rather than try to paraphrase Ashleigh’s heart behind Sela Designs, I’ll share her story and experiences firsthand.
What’s the story behind Sela Designs?
I originally started selling jewelry to friends and family to fund my husband’s mission trip to an orphanage in Mexico. I have always had a heart for orphans. I was raised in a home where everyone was welcome. My parents nearly adopted another child through foster care and took in other children periodically. To me that was normal and something every family should do.
I really enjoyed making jewelry as a creative outlet. After a couple years a friend asked if I’d do an art show with her and that’s when I got more serious about selling. I decided my profits would always go to charity and that has never changed. My work has really developed over the past few years, but because I have 4 kids under 8 at home, I’ve kept the business small and work during naptimes and at night if needed.
What inspires your designs?
I am never short on ideas! Inspiration is everywhere for me – in nature, fabrics, paintings, clothing… I love being versatile and offering something for everyone. Limiting my designs is the hardest challenge I have in this business. I love creating new pieces. Designing is my favorite part of this business.
I try very hard to source ethically made materials. Most of my work incorporates Tagua Nuts that are sustainably harvested in the Amazon Rainforest. Tagua nuts are a natural by-product of a palm tree and needs to be collected. Artisans in Ecuador gather, dry, slice and dye the tagua in various shapes, sizes, and colors. Each piece is uniquely beautiful because of this natural process. Tagua is very light weight, similar in consistency to animal ivory and is often referred to as vegetable ivory.
Who are the artisans you work with?
At this point I do not directly employ artisans. I buy from a tagua nut company in Ecuador that has strong labor policies in place and does not accept materials made from child labor. The company buys from different producers; mostly small, family run businesses. Eventually I’d love to be able to have our own facility and directly employ artisans in the tagua industry.
How is Sela Designs able to donate 100% of profits to charity?
Giving is paramount to my husband and I. We want to teach our children to live simply so that others can simply live. We have chosen to live on one income (my husband’s) so that we can give all of the profit from Sela Designs away. I have never taken a salary. The purpose of Sela Designs has always been to give.
We believe in giving locally and giving abroad. Because orphan and family care has always been so important to me, we’ve started there. We found a children’s home in Ethiopia, Ebenezer Grace, that we love how they care for the children and so we support them on a regular basis. A local organization, Life House of Manitowoc, WI, that provides housing, life skills, and financial training for individuals and families in need is also one that we support monthly. Mercy House Global is another amazing organization we’ve given to more in the last year.
Each Christmas we typically raise funds for a specific cause. One year we bought a small vehicle for the children’s home in Ethiopia. This last year we raised over $4,000 for Life House, which allowed them to pay off the current mortgage and allow for greater financial freedom to help more people.
As responsible, ethical style becomes mainstream, I’m drawn back to the Ashleigh Beckers of this world: those who inconspicuously stay true to the crux of the matter, the flourishing of people in need.
Note: Thank you, Sela Designs, for working with my design aesthetic as well as gifting me a pair of Geometric Red Earrings to review for this post. For the sake of transparency, we were not compensated for this post! As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own. Thanks for reading along!