Creativity + social good + jobs=lives saved and changed. This is the formula that a company out of Detroit is using to changes the lives of many local women in need. Rebel Nell employs disadvantaged women to craft jewelry out of graffiti. Yes, Rebel Nell designers make necklaces and earrings out of fallen graffiti and silver. The company also provides housing resources, legal aid, and financial literacy workshops.
Founded in 2013 by Detroit residents Amy Peterson and Diana Russell, Rebel Nell had interesting beginnings. While on a law school study break, Peterson went to the movies to see “Hotel Rwanda.” After watching the film, she felt inspired to help survivors and contacted a friend who worked with the International Fund For Rwanda (IFFR). Peterson had a small jewelry company on the side and the next thing she knew, her friend asked her to make 100 awareness pins for celebrities to wear at the Academy Awards. She grabbed a friend, skipped class and made pins the color of Rwanda’s green and blue flags for 24 hours. Peterson sold the pins for $20 and donated the profits to IFFR,” reported The Detroit News.
Although she was doing good Peterson wasn’t able to see the direct impact. She then came up with an idea to make jewelry and partnered with her friend Diana Russell, who majored in fashion merchandising at Wayne State University. The pair’s first attempt failed, but they finally landed on the graffiti art idea and Rebel Nell was born. With Rebel Nell, Peterson sees firsthand the life changes the women she and Russell employ have experienced. (The name Rebel Nell is a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt who was nicknamed Little Nell and is widely regarded for her work toward women’s empowerment.)
Rebel Nell sells over 2,000 pieces a year at more than 35 stores in 11 states. Profits “from the $75 rings, $65-$135 earrings and $60-$200 necklaces go back into the business to fund salaries, programs and materials. The graffiti itself is free, as the team ventures out a few times a year to collect it. They take donations, too,” reported The Detroit news.
You can purchase your own pieces here.