On a Mission

Kaitlyn Hopfer, a recent marketing graduate from University of North Carolina Wilmington, is in the vanguard of a new locally based company that provides sustainable income to impoverished countries by seeking out artisans who employ community members as a way to keep them out of dangerous circumstances.

Mission Made Jewelry (missionmadejewelry.org) purchases the handmade pieces from each country, sells them in the United States market, and then reinvests the profits back into the jewelry’s origin country.

The company birthed from the founding team coming in contact with Emma Bird, an artisan in Accra, Ghana who employs local women to create jewelry.

“By employing these women, she’s helping to keep them out of sex trafficking, helping to keep the women’s children out of child labor, and trying to keep them out of all severe situations,” says Hopfer, project manager for Mission Made Jewelry.

At first, the team thought about simply creating a small online store to help Bird sell her products in the United States. They quickly realized, however, the grand scale of similar circumstances across the nation.

“We realized that there are a lot more Emma Birds all across the world,” Hopfer says. “There’s tons of artisans that are employing local people and really empowering them through the work.”

The company has expanded well beyond the borders of Ghana and now supports local artisans in ten countries including Nepal, Cambodia, Columbia, India, Guatemala, Kenya, Mongolia, and Haiti.

Depending on the specific circumstances of each country, Mission Made Jewelry will reinvest all of the profits from products into the areas of great need. In Ghana and Guatemala, the proceeds are sent to a number of different orphanages. In Nepal, the profits are used to help earthquake relief efforts to rebuild the damaged country.

“It’s a hand up, not a hand out,” Hopfer says. “Because rather than just handing them money and donations, which doesn’t give them a sustainable, long-term income, this does.”

Hopfer, a New York native, moved to North Carolina to pursue a marketing degree. During her time at the university, she completed an internship with Recon Event management, a company that she now works for full-time as a marketing manager.

“These are my dream jobs. I do event management, which is what I’ve always wanted,” Hopfer says. “Mix that work and helping people, and it’s really a dream come true.”

Hopfer said the long-term vision of the new company is changing every day as the team builds a social media presence, markets the current products for selling, and continues to network and meet artisans around the globe to further expand the Mission Made team. Beginning in October, the company will begin hosting events to showcase their products as well as being involved in a number of local festivals and farmers markets.

“I truly believe that the impact of this is monumental,” Hopfer says. “I think our generation has this social movement for justice and for helping people, so it’s an exciting to watch it – super exciting.”


To view more of photographer Chris Brehmer’s work, go to www.chrisbrehmerphotography.com