Who are you? & can you tell us a little about yourself?
We are Baylee Eby and Jessica Gardner and co-founded Dreamer & Co together.
Baylee is an adventurous nomad. Born into a military family, she has moved over 10 times and traveled to more than 30 countries across the world. While she currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband and their Bernese Mountain Dog, Moose, she is firm believer in “home is where the heart is,” which is why her heart reaches to many places near and far.
Baylee graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014 with a B.A. in Russian Language and Eastern European Studies and in 2015 with a Master’s in Public Policy. Her Master’s thesis was on water provision for refugees in the Horn of Africa, which is what brought her to the area for the first time. She spends most of her free time rock-climbing with her husband, at the dog park with Moose, or reading an autobiography on someone’s faith journey while sipping Moroccan Mint Tea (also napping…).
Jessica, along with her husband, two year old son, (and one girl on the way) live in the Horn of Africa, but they also call Dallas, Texas home. They moved to the Horn in 2016 in order to work with low- income families and refugees.
Jessica graduated from Baylor University in 2007 with a BBA in business journalism and has her Master’s in Media & Communication from Dallas Theological Seminary. She has traveled to 27 countries and has spent the last 10 years working with non-profits to develop to help them better tell the stories of those affected by loss, crisis, and heartache. She is also a trained photographer and does weddings and portraits sessions in her spare time.
When not working or traveling, you can find her watching Netflix, drinking an almond lavender-vanilla latte, or exploring the city around her with a camera in hand.
What exactly is Dreamer & Co?
Dreamer & Co is a for-social impact company that empowers low-income artisans to flourish and inspires conscious consumption from our customers. Currently our artisans are based in the Horn of Africa and create handmade paper beads, which we purchase and then use to create high quality jewelry. Our goal is to provide these women with more work and access to a broader market, which will allow them to eventually earn a living wage.
What inspired you to start Dreamer & Co?
Dreamer & Co was co-founded by Baylee Eby and Jessica Gardner. Both Baylee and Jessica had the opportunity to visit and work with a local non-profit in the Horn of Africa; Jessica visited in 2014 and Baylee visited in 2015. One of the non-profit’s programs focuses on a women’s project house, where they teach low-income women different skills, such as making paper beads, sewing, and baking. In addition, they teach them how to do manage their finances and run a small business.
After both Baylee’s and Jessica’s visits, they saw how this program was a light in the darkness of poverty. There were smiles and laughter and faces of beautiful women who were proud of their work and had hope in their eyes.
Shortly after Baylee and Jessica began to ask themselves how they could do more. Baylee began to dream of a way to sell the women’s necklaces in the United States, and Jessica and her husband made the decision to move to the Horn of Africa to work with the non-profit full-time.
Upon learning of Jessica’s decision, Baylee shared her dream of creating a bigger market for their jewelry as a way to provide the women with more income. Jessica, excited for this idea, began working with Baylee to make Dreamer & Co a reality.
How did you come up with the name?
Dreamer & Co is based off our artisans original name, Riyo Rumoday, which means “Where Dreamers Come True” in Somali. The “& Co” is what we like to call of our supporters, customers, and anyone who has cheered us on along the way of pursuing this dream!
Every purchase makes a difference, can you tell us about that?
Yes! Right now we have been able to double the income of our artisans previous income. In fact, the women are so busy with orders that they will have to expand and hire new women. The idea is that with each purchase you are enabling us to purchase more of their handcrafted beads and jewelry, which in turns allows them provide more for their families. Many of our women are young mothers or single women living at home and their income contributes to more than just themselves, but an entire family. So having a job and skill is crucial not only for their family but for their dignity and ability to flourish. We are also in the beginning stages of offering them training classes in computers, foreign languages, and more, which is why more purchases means more opportunities for these girls!
Is there a favorite product?
Probably the Classic Necklace. This was the necklace that started it all and inspired Baylee with the idea to sell their work to a global market. While we are working on having all of our pieces made by our artisans, The Classic Necklace is actually made 100% by our artisans and remains our signature piece.
What is your favorite part about running Dreamer & Co?
Baylee: I love getting to share the artisan’s work and story with others. Part of our mission is to encourage consumers to be more conscious about their purchases. We want consumers to realize there is a name and a face behind every product and they can choose to purchase responsibly and sustainably made products in order to have a positive impact. I feel so fortunate to have met these women and to partner with them, and every time we sell a piece of jewelry we are sharing that relationship with others.
Jessica: For me, it’s getting the opportunity to work with these women and build relationships with them. They have taught me so much about culture and even tutor me in the local language. If it wasn’t for Dreamer & Co I wouldn’t have this opportunity to spend so much quality time with them. On a personal note, I also love getting to use my skills in web design and graphic design and photography. It’s nice knowing there’s always a project to be done for the business!
What is your least favorite part about running Dreamer & Co?
Baylee: Starting a small business is hard work. I think my least favorite part is the worry I allow to creep in—Are we growing? Are we successful? Will we be financially sustainable to continue. These questions bring worry and doubt that I think all small business owners feel. It is important to be surrounded by a tribe of people that are encouraging you daily in your work and are fighting along side of you— am so lucky to have that!
Jessica: Taxes and accounting for sure! Even though I was a business major in college, I much prefer to handle the creative side of things in business!
How do you spread the word about your company?
Mostly through social media and friends. Our friends and family have been crucial in helping us get the word out. Now we are starting to reach out to other companies and influencers to ask for help in spreading the word.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Don’t let a “no” discourage you. Send those emails, make those phone calls, and if you get a “no”, just move on to the next person, because eventually you get a yes and things happen! Also, make sure you are willing to put in the work and money required to make your business happen.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying?
“We rise by lifting others” – Robert Ingersoll
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Check out our products—your purchase empowers women!