Companies that care about making a difference rank high on our list of favorites, whether they make a positive impact by producing sustainable goods, have a philanthropic aspect built into their business model, or simply donate to those in need. Our newest obsession, LA-based The Giving Keys, provides work for people transitioning out of homelessness. Employees produce jewelry with an inspirational message, paying the positivity forward. We caught up with The Giving Keys founder Caitlin Crosby to learn about where she got the idea for her company, along with what she loves most about the work they do.
Brit + Co: What inspired you to create The Giving Keys?
Caitlin Crosby: My love for helping others and a deep desire to end homelessness in Los Angeles inspired me to start The Giving Keys. Almost 10 years ago, I was passing through New York City on my music tour, and got the idea from my hotel room key. I turned the key, which was abnormally big and felt like a cool statement, into a necklace by sticking it on a chain I already had. Then I had the idea to start engraving other old, used keys with inspirational words. I encouraged everyone to “own” the word on their key and then keep their eyes open for someone who needed the message more than them. I met a young homeless couple on Hollywood Boulevard and took them to dinner, which resulted in an “aha” moment to employ them to engrave the words on the keys. Little by little, through the sales of the keys, they saved up enough money to get their own apartment — and that’s how The Giving Keys first began!
B+C: We’re inspired, choked up, and so impressed. Tell us how you see the connection between inspiration and social enterprise!
CC: My life has always been a balancing act between my love for music and acting — I was born and raised in Los Angeles and still perform — and my passion for helping the homeless. Somehow my inspiration to help people turned into The Giving Keys. As I started adding words on the keys, I realized the significance of the keys symbolically opening those intentions for people, and once I added the mission of employing people who are trying to transition out of homelessness, I realized even more so the symbolism of the keys opening literal doors for people to get their own apartments.
We might feel like these keys sometimes — flawed, used, etc. — but really, we’re all one of a kind, special and unique, just like them. The concept of our jewelry is more than just words on keys: It’s about encouraging people to embrace their flaws and love themselves. It’s been really amazing to see how, as a social enterprise, we’ve created an employment model to help end homelessness in Los Angeles.
B+C: Your company does amazing things for the community. Can you tell us more about the different ways The Giving Keys gives back?
CC: My favorite thing about the work we do is seeing how people’s lives change through the impact of The Giving Keys; from our employees to our customers, these keys make an actual difference in the world. We employ over 70 people who are transitioning out of homelessness to make inspirational jewelry out of repurposed keys. The first few years was me just going up to people on the streets, or partnering with a group of friends that used to meet up and do laundry for people living on the streets. It was trial and error for years, but it wasn’t sustainable.
Today, 100 percent of our production team comes through our four employment partners: Chrysalis, Union Rescue Mission, and First Place for Youth. Each employee has a two-year track to work with us, then hopefully moves on to a career of their dreams. Each key is engraved with a message like Believe, Create, or Inspire. When the person wearing the key encounters someone who needs the message more, they’re encouraged to pay it forward and pass it on.
B+C: What’s the best way for someone to support and/or get involved with The Giving Keys?
CC: The best way to support The Giving Keys is to wear our products and support our mission to help end homelessness, spreading our message of inspiration and hope to others, one key at a time. When people buy our keys, it provides a job as a sustainable solution for ending homelessness; that’s why we place people on career paths and hand them the keys to unlock their fullest potential. Through the purchase of our keys, we’ve generated 115,321 hours (and counting) of work for people transitioning out of homelessness.
In 2018, we’ll expand our product offerings with new collections every month — stay tuned for inspirational beads (traditionally used as a tool to count the number of times a mantra is recited), disc necklaces, stackable strand bracelets, and more.
Which are your favorite companies and organizations that give back? Spread the good word to us on Twitter @BritandCo.