Joy McBrien is the founder of Fair Anita. Fair Anita sells fair trade jewelry, accessories, and clothing that provides financial security to 8,000 women in 16 countries. Joy has previously worked for a variety of nonprofit organizations, but always ran entrepreneurial initiatives on the side. She started her first jewelry business when she was 15!
We at UpEffect love Fair Anita, because of the work they do with survivors of sexual/domestic violence to create their products. As financial insecurity is the number one reason why women stay with an abusive partner, and Fair Anita aims to give them the resources they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.
In this interview, Joy shares her secrets for success, strength and far-reaching impact.
What inspired you to start Fair Anita?
I started this organization because of my own history with rape and sexual violence, and I wanted to connect further with women who had similar histories. I wanted to learn what solutions were out there, see what violence against women looked like in different cultural contexts, and build connections that would allow me to start to heal
How did you onboard your first 5 customers?
Our first 5 customers were absolutely friends and family– I’m lucky to have such a supportive community. Our first 5 customers that I didn’t already know found us because we did a pop-up shop in a location where they already were shopping (our very first was at a farmer’s market).
Do you have any numbers on your impact?
I keep track of all of this in a large document of numbers, but in summary: 8000 women, 16 countries, $90k+ sent to women this year.
How did you find partners that believe in the same ethical standards as you?
My first full-time hire was one of my best friends. In business, they say all the time you’re not supposed to do this, but I strongly believed that Anna was the most qualified person for the job, and I knew her values aligned so well with what we were trying to achieve. Other hires have primarily come from people who have reached out to us because they believe in our mission (even customers!)
What is your proudest moment?
My proudest moment is being able to pay fair wages to a group of 10 women in Chimbote, Peru (one of the largest, poorest cities in the world). These women all have pretty severe physical disabilities, so in a city with 80% unemployment rate, they’ve always struggled to find work.
The leader of the group, Maritza, taught them all how to make jewelry, but they struggled to sell it in their local markets. It was an amazing moment to be able to partner with them and make jewelry that our markets love– and then to get to pay them for the first time was phenomenal. Everyone was crying, laughing, ecstatic– it was the first paychecks any of them had ever received. They shared a celebratory Coca-Cola!
Tell us a bit about your future plans and projects.
We hope to grow our supply chains and make them so slick that we’re able to really be disruptive in U.S. consumerism. I’d like to partner with big brands to improve their supply chains to make them more ethical.
What is the best advice you ever took?
I’ve learned to stay true to myself, no matter if that distances some customers or doesn’t please everyone. I’m not the most professional human, but I come to each meeting as myself, not pretending to be someone I’m not.
This has allowed me to create authentic relationships with business partners and customers, as they know what I’m really about. I’ve also turned down some business opportunities because of connections with Trump. This felt like a risky move at the time– to lose big opportunities, but I had to stay true to myself and our company values.
When I shared this information with our customers and community, I got nothing but incredible support, and I think it made our brand stronger.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs when facing adversity?
If you’re confident in what you’re doing, don’t let others who don’t see your vision knock you down. Keep pushing.
Who inspires you?
People who aren’t afraid to follow their dreams and stick up for their values. I am inspired by that kind of courage!
What is a book you always recommend and why?
Half the Sky by Nick Kristoff and Cheryl Wudunn was a turning point for me and really helped me understand women’s rights beyond what was happening in my own backyard. It helped launch my journey into women’s rights advocacy.
What are your top three tips for aspiring social entrepreneurs?
1. Really know your beneficiaries, especially if they’re not you. Don’t make assumptions.
2. Figure out how to make your solution self-sustaining. Earned revenue is game-changing.
3. Don’t forget to celebrate all of your little wins along the way, and express gratitude for those who got you there!
If you’re inspired by Joy’s journey and want to fund a venture that helps others in the new year, fill out our application and get started with UpEffect crowdfunding.