Eleven26 Jewelry: Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship
Can you imagine being a single mother, homeless, and struggling to make ends meet?
This is the question that Lakeshia Williams, owner of Eleven26 Jewelry, asks of us all. Lakeshia, who has had personal experience with homelessness, has built a powerful platform where she promotes her idea of One of a kind jewelry for the one of a kind woman. All jewelry sold is personally designed by the Eleven26 team, and a portion of the proceeds goes towards funding her Economic Achievement Program, where she teaches women in shelters entrepreneurial skills such as how to build budgets, marketing and business plans. Lakeshia further explains that the purpose of her program is to show women a different way to gain economic freedom and to empower them. The bracelets themselves promote a similar message. Every piece of jewelry (called “affirmation jewelry”) carries a message such as “I am endurance”.
Starting a business from scratch is never easy, and when asked how she did it, Lakeshia stated that she learned how very important it is to set achievable and realistic goals. She started off with the mentality that she wanted to sell 100 different products and help 100 people in a very short time frame. But this goal was quickly extinguished, especially because of the financial limitations for a new business. Starting off small gave her time to get her footing and not overextend.
In terms of financials, Lakeshia says it can be very difficult for morale if you’re not making money in the beginning, especially if you’re more passionate about the social side. But she also passed on one key piece of advice: don’t be discouraged, this is very common, and you can find alternative and creative ways to make money. Working part time is commonplace and Lakeshia herself was an Uber driver for period of time to cover expenses.
Lakeshia also accredits her perseverance, in part, to her mission statement. Motivation also came from her social spirit. From the very beginning, she wanted to give back, so she had a feeling of accountability to Eleven26. For-profit businesses are typically concerned with covering their expenses and turning a profit; with social enterprise, you feel accountable for the vision that you created and the impact that you can make.
The most important lesson learned through her business process was how incredibly powerful it is to partner with other people and organizations. This became evident during her entrepreneurship training: Lakeshia learned to bring in lawyers, accountants, and other experts in their fields because she could not do it all. “Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in what you’re passionate about that you put on a cape and go save the day without knowing you have other tasks to do.” She has also come to see the value of partnership in business. To new entrepreneurs, she recommends that if you don’t have a partner, at least have a group of individuals that can be your board of advisors; people you know that can be both supportive and critical, and can guide you along the right path.
For more information on Eleven26 and Lakeshia Williams’ amazing journey into social enterprise, be sure to visit the Eleven26 website.
This article was contributed by Melissa Shang.