The Brave Collection is a line of jewelry handmade in Cambodia to support local artisans and fight human trafficking. The Collection creates talismans of strength and spirit with the belief that true Bravery comes from a reverence for the past, connectedness with the present, and commitment to the future. Each piece is handcrafted in Cambodia in a Collection that fuses contemporary design with ancient inspiration to spark dialog. The Signature Bracelet spells “Brave” in Khmer, the Cambodian alphabet. 10% of profits are donated to empower girls against human trafficking. Founder Jessica Hendricks made the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 List in the Retail & Ecommerce category, and was invited to the White House to witness President Obama’s speech celebrating “Emerging Global Entrepreneurs”. #CourageIsContagious How did the Brave Collection start? I traveled to Cambodia while teaching English in Thailand the summer after my sophomore year at NYU Tisch. I was fascinated by the idea of Angkor Wat – a city of ancient Buddhist and Hindu Temples. I fell in love with this magical, spiritualcountry and was so deeply saddened to learn that in the genocide in the 1970s, 90% of the artisan community was killed. This sparked the idea for Brave – a line of jewelry handmade in Cambodia to support local artisans and celebrate Brave women globally.
Can you tell us a little about your pieces? Our signature Bracelet spells “Brave” in Khmer, the Cambodian alphabet and was carved and woven by hand in Cambodia. We also have a charm that says “Limitless” in Khmer, as well as a motif inspired by the lines of the Buddhist Flag, which represents wisdom and compassion. Our necklace charms are in the shape of a water buffalo tooth, a silhouette you often see in the architecture of the Buddhist temples in Cambodia. The shape represents a small piece of a greater whole.
What influenced you? I was so moved by my time in South East Asia and wanted desperately to find a way to share the incredible strength of the women I met. I thought about it for a long time but wasn’t quite sure how to activate this passion. I remember being on vacation with my family – relaxed enough to allow for deeper ideas to formulate –and I was thinking about my mother’s jewelry store, and the connection that her clients had to their jewelry. I realized jewelry could become a catalyst for the conversation I wanted to ignite.
Can you tell us about the community that produces the jewelry? We work with an amazing team of fair trade artisans in Cambodia. Mostly mothers, our team works in a free, fair and dignified work environment and receives far above average wages in addition to benefits like health insurance, stipends for their children’s education and paid maternity leave. The team has an incredible level of skill and craftsmanship, but when I met them, they had little access to a global customer, or design influences outside the sea of souvenirs in their own country. I love working with them because through this partnership we are helping to break the cycle of poverty, working with women who did not receive an education, but making sure their daughters are.
Why Cambodia? Cambodia is a country filled with such an incredible history of art and craftsmanship, and yet in modern day Cambodia, it can be tough to find even a gift for a friend back home that was actually handmade in Cambodia. There is so much potential in the emerging art and fashion space in Cambodia, but it is still very much developing and can greatly benefit from partners on the outside to help this new generation flourish.
What’s your favorite piece and why? My favorite place is our first piece, the True Red Brave Bracelet because it feels like an extension of the red strings the monks tie on your wrists to bless you when you are traveling through Cambodia. I love the idea of gaining strength and groundedness by something as simple as cotton on the wrist.
We heard you’re on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, congrats! Do you have any advice for women out there trying to start their own company? Perseverance is key. It takes a lot longer than I realized to create a brand, a story, a product, and a following from scratch. Recognizing the value of each small step you make and remaining patient is so important!