In today's brand feature, you will discover an amazing company founded by a beautiful soul who designs and creates handmade jewelries that provides care for orphans and families. Meet Ashleigh Becker; founder and designer of Sela Designs, an ethical and eco-friendly jewelry brand. Her mission is to be able to change the world, one jewelry at a time by giving back 100% of the profits made to charities that works with orphans and families without hope. Read on to learn more about Sela Designs and Ashleigh Becker, the heart of the brand.
Tell us about yourself, your background and what led you to where you are today?
First off, I’m a wife and mother to 4 amazing kids. When my oldest son was born, 8 years ago, I quit my corporate job to be home with him. I quickly found myself very bored! I had enjoyed making earrings as a hobby, but never did it regularly. I started reading blogs and jewelry making magazines, watching tutorials and teaching myself how to make more jewelry. I simply wanted to create some pieces for myself and family members. My husband wanted to go do missions work at an orphanage and school in Mexico, but we didn’t have the extra money for the trip. I started to sell my jewelry to friends to pay for it and as they say, the rest is history.
Sela Designs stands for?
The original meaning of Sela is simply stone. I initially started working with traditional gemstones but over time developed a love for ethical, sustainable fashion. The name stuck.
The importance of color is shown throughout each and every jewelry pieces in your collection. How long does it usually take to create a Sela Designs piece? Talk us through the process of creating one of your designs?
I find inspiration from so many different things – nature, even once a Lego creation my son made, fashion, vintage fabrics – inspiration is everywhere if you are looking. Each piece I design is a different collection of colors. I usually start with a color palette I want to design in and make 3-4 mock designs. Over the years I’ve developed certain shapes that work well, but I’m always trying new things. From my mock designs I take pictures and study them, usually the best design just stands out. Many times I’ll send the photos to my Mom (who loves interior design) and see which piece she chooses. We pretty much always choose the same final piece. Some pieces are extremely unique and I only end up making a one or two of that pattern, while others stand the test of time and seasons and I’ll make several. Even though I’m recreating a design, each piece is unique because tagua nuts are a natural element that has variation. I love that about tagua. It’s difficult to say how long each piece takes to make. The initial design phase can take hours, especially for large, multi-color, statement pieces. Once the initial layout and design is made, I drill all of the holes in the tagua piece so the necklace can be put together.
Photo Credit: www.seladesigns.com
Photo Credit: www.seladesigns.com
All the profit from the sale of your jewelries are donated to various charities. How important it is for you to give back to your community and support other organizations? Where can we learn more about these charities?
Giving is extremely important to me. It’s the entire reason I started Sela Designs. I’ve never taken a salary and I don’t plan to. This business allows our family to give in a way that otherwise we could not. I’m so thankful for those who support Sela Designs.
I am very passionate about orphan care and family rehabilitation. I regularly support Ebenezer Grace Children’s Home in Ethiopia (ebenezergrace.org) and Life House in Manitowoc, WI (lifehouses.org). These organizations provide crucial education, life skills training, and care for children and families without other options.
Who harvests, dyes, designs, and manufactures the products of Sela Designs?
I primarily use tagua nuts in my jewelry. One of the biggest reasons is because it is a sustainable material and I can choose who I buy from. I work with a company in Ecuador who purchases tagua directly from artisans. They do not accept any product that is a result of child labor and they pay a fair wage.
How do you ensure ethical treatment of your workers, fair pay and a sustainable production process?
When I started working in tagua I searched extensively for a company that has a labor policy I agreed with. I was happy to find a wonderful company with high standards. As my business grows I would like to be able to directly employ artisans in South America who will create tagua pieces exclusively for Sela Designs.
Many of your designs include Tagua nuts from the Amazon Rainforest. What are Tagua nuts? How safe and sustainable is this practice for the environment?
Tagua nuts grow in the Amazon Rainforest. They are the fruit of the Phytelephas tree. The nuts grow in large pods, which naturally fall from the tree and need to be collected. Once the pods are gathered and opened, several tagua nuts can be found inside. The nuts are dried, sliced and dyed in various shapes, sizes and colors. This process is in no way harmful to the Rainforest and provides sustainable jobs for local artisans.
What are some of the obstacles you face in creating sustainable jewelry?
It can be quite difficult to ethically source certain components. The chains and clasps that I use are manufactured in Europe. I do my best to work only with companies that are based in countries that have fair labor practices. Unfortunately, I can’t always track their suppliers and sources throughout the entire supply chain. For example, where do the raw materials the chain manufacturer uses come from and is their origination ethical? I don’t always get to know that information, but I raise as many questions as I can and if I receive a product that I realize wasn’t manufactured well I no longer use that supplier.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I work very hard to set boundaries. I would be dishonest to say that I’ve got this down perfectly. During busy seasons I do work more and my family understands that it will only last for a few weeks. I try to prep as much as I can during slow times. My family is very important to me and I want to put them before my work.
What is the most significant barrier to women’s leadership in the business world? If any?
As much as many cultures are changing to allow women to obtain leadership roles in business, women are still see by many as weaker than men, in some cases not as well-educated and unable to handle the same about of stress as men. I think women have proven this is obviously not true. I have been very blessed to work in situations where I haven’t been held back, only encouraged to pursue any position I desired. As women around the world continue in entrepreneurial roles I believe we will continue to see women lead in very powerful ways.
What advice would you have for other upcoming ethical jewelry designers?
Work hard. Stay focused. Don’t give up. Search for good companies to partner with because they are out there. Put in the time to research who is making the materials you are using. So many traditional materials can be substituted for using an ethical, fair product. Go for it!
What are your goals for Sela Designs and where do you see it in 5 years?
My goal is to employ women with barriers to employment. I would love to have my jewelry manufactured as part of a job training program that would also provide education and life skills training. The profit of the business would continue to be invested in these same communities, providing a holistic and sustainable solution.
How would you describe Sela Designs in 3 words?
Love. Hope. Grace.
Do you ship worldwide? Where can customers find your products?
Hope you've enjoyed this interview and don't forget to subscribe to our Newsletter. If you have any questions, comments or would like to be featured in our #LadyBossInterview Series, please don't hesitate to contact us. Thank you!