Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Emma Woodcock, I’m a mother of two – both boys – wife, justice advocate and lifetime learner! Born in NZ, I grew up in the Philippines before completing my high schooling in Australia. After that I travelled a bit, ending up in England where I met my husband. It was in England nearly 15 years ago that I first became aware of unfair working condition. I was working as an interior designer and became very interested in how we can connect the products we love and use to knowing where they came from and the people who made them.
What exactly is Grace & Able?
Grace & Able is a social enterprise that aims to end poverty one piece of handmade jewellery at a time. We are producers of handmade jewellery, accessories and soon homewares, working directly with artisans who are marginalized and oppressed. Every purchase not only creates a marketplace and thus dignified jobs for our artisans, but also provides opportunity for us to come alongside them and implement development training.
What inspired you to start Grace & Able?
Having grown up in the Philippines, I have always been acutely aware of the birth lottery – meaning the inequalities in how, when and where you are born. That and my desire to connect people to truly know their products and power as a consumer. There are so many lies we believe because of marketing! I think William Morris said it best when he wrote “ Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. “ I’m intrigued by how we define beauty, how true beauty has got lost.
This was best realised for me when I visited a little shop in England one day around Christmas time. There were these pine decorations being sold and the smell just brought me right back to my childhood in the Philippines. I could see the woman making them. I could remember their children who I had played with. So I asked the shop manager about them and she did not know her product line. I traced out the importer and found he had a supplier. And everytime there was a connection further removing the purchaser from the maker. I was devastated. And I also knew the makers were getting a pittance of what the people in the shop were paying. It seemed so unfair!
How did you come up with the name?
Grace & Able comes from philosophical outlook. I believe I’m hear by grace. By grace I mean undeserved favour. Its back to the birth lottery. I’m blessed and grateful so how do I live that gratefulness out?
And able because I desire to make the marginalised and opportunities able through job creation and development training. The development training is a big part of it all for me.
Its really all about empowerment and paying kindness forward.
Where are your products sold? Are they sold in stores?
At the moment we have jewellery, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and some accessories such as scarves and bags. We sell online and yes we wholesale to stores too! We have 9 shops througout Victoria and looking to expand. Along with our product line too – there are some great development projects in the works!
What is your favorite part about running Grace & Able?
While collaboratively designing the jewellery is so much fun, my favourite part is definitely working directly with the artisans. It’s a true partnership. It’s a honour to listen to their stories and ask them what they feel their needs are. And then being able to strategize and form plans on how we can not only meet those needs, but equip them to meet those needs themselves. It’s a bit like the old proverb ‘ give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime’
What is your least favorite part about running Grace & Able?
Yes there are definitely parts that are less favourite yet I recognize that they are all necessary. For me, its marketing and social media. Pivotal stuff! But not my strengths.
Is there a favorite product?
I have favourites with sentimental reasons of course! But our tassel collection seems to remain ever popular !
You help people rise above poverty, can you tell us about that?
Yes. Its starts with the brand values which are equip, enable, empower. That’s our core and I keep coming back to that. Does this equip someone? Does this enable someone? Does this empower? The answer has to be yes to all three before we begin implementing.
The first and most direct way we combat poverty is by the creation of dignified jobs. Simply put, the wages our Artisans receive are a fair wage. And we ask that their children be kept in school while they are in partnership with us. Because really, education is the biggest key in unlocking poverty.
Then we also have our development training. We have four key areas which we focus on. They are financial sustainability, community impact, health and wellbeing and personal empowerment. Through this we and our artisans are wholistically carving paths out of poverty.
How do you spread the word about your company?
In all ways possible! Social media, networking, collaborations, public speaking, workshops, etc.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Realistically it can be hard and lonely path…. So don’t forget to equip and be kind to yourself! I did and nearly ran myself into the ground. Always come back to your core. Know what it is and make every decision relating to this.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 🙂
Besides the few I’ve already shared?! Haha, yes! Quotes can be a quick motivational tool. One of my all time favourites though is from Desmond Tutu. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Thank you so much for this opportunity to share about Grace & Able!