By Shawn Kirkpatrick
She started making jewelry when she was 10. At 16, she started her own company. Now, Emma Jane Hunt is the successful founder and creative director of Emma Jane Designs (ejd). Her jewelry can be seen in 50 boutiques across the country and has been showcased on “Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda.”
Hunt is using her passion for designing jewelry to help women in Rwanda have a better life.
“I have a good family friend, Scott Moody (Chirpwood owner), who goes to Rwanda twice a year (with Bridge2Riwanda, a nonprofit) who came back two or three years ago with a bag of paper bead necklaces, very chunky necklaces, very traditional, crafted style,” Hunt explained. “I said they’re really cool, but they’re not very wearable, so we thought on it for a year. ‘Can we make my style of jewelry with paper beads instead of my precious stones?’”
And they did. “Emma taught a student from Rwanda how to make her prototypes,” Moody said. “Then she went back to Rwanda and took the tools with her. I took 5,000 gold chains with me. She found the women to make the jewelry.”
When Moody returned to Rwanda last September, there were three suitcases full of jewelry waiting for him. The once clunky paper beads were now crafted into delicate jewelry by the women of Rwanda.
Last November, Hunt started selling the necklaces and bracelets in her store in Auburn. Moody began selling the items in his store, Chirpwood, in Opelika.
“The women in Rwanda have already been paid for their time. The proceeds from the sales will go toward funding the project,” Hunt said. “Our goal is to keep doing the project and to employee (some women) year after year, and then long term, open a training center.”
The project is in its infant stages, but the two are in it for the long haul. “The goal is to help women in Africa,” Moody said. “Our goal, if this jewelry sells, is to hire one to three women full time with a wage, give them a safe working environment, healthcare and a bank account. If that eventually turns into a training center, then that would be marvelous.”
Hunt hopes the jewelry sparks a larger conversation about feel-good fashion and jewelry with a purpose. “I’m really thankful for our community because this company has been built one sale at a time. I still get excited when every order comes through because without our customers, we don’t have a business. I’m just really grateful and thankful that I get to do this.”
To check out all the jewelry, visit Hunt’s ejd store at 337 E. Magnolia Ave. in Auburn or online at shopejd.com. You can also see the Rwanda jewelry at Moody’s Chirpwood store at 305 S. 10th St. in Opelika. Half of all Chirpwood profits go to Bridge2Rwanda.
To learn more about the nonprofit Bridge2Rwanda, visit bridge2rwanda.org.