Welcome to The Fit List, Jessica Mindich, founder of the Caliber Collection. So many people talk about gun control, gun violence and illegal gun sales. Jessica Mindich is an amazing example of someone who is actually doing something. Caliber Collection transforms illegal weapons and shell casings from crime scenes into jewelry, and then, through the proceeds of its sales, funds gun buybacks and amnesty programs. As Caliber Collection shares on its website, “to date, the Caliber Collection has taken over 1,000 illegal guns off the streets and raised approximately $100,000 for police departments in Newark, Hartford, the San Francisco Bay Area and Detroit from the sales of our products to customers in over 82 countries.
The Caliber Collection has been featured in pages of O magazine, InStyle, The New York Times and People; online at Daily Candy, The Huffington Post, The Shriver Report and Perez Hilton; and also on ABC News, NBC, Fox News, Yahoo! and CNN.” Read on to learn how you too can get involved in making a difference.
1. What inspired you to found Caliber Collection?
I was raised by parents who ingrained in me a duty to do my part to repair the world. You could say it was our family motto. So when I stopped practicing law to start a family, I started a philanthropic jewelry company that created innovative fundraising pieces for a wide variety of not-for-profits. The Caliber Collection was one example of this. Funding buyback programs through the sale of jewelry…Oh, and a chance meeting with Cory Booker…
2. How did you get others to share your enthusiasm?
Before we launched the Caliber Collection, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to sell a bracelet because of the “issue.” But, really, the issue sells itself. It is an easy issue to support and impossible to oppose. I am not against guns. I am against the senseless loss of life due to illegal gun violence. Thrillingly, people share our enthusiasm, passionately. The Caliber Collection is a symbol of peace, hope and life. We count our customers from over 85 countries — countries with some of the lowest statistics of gun violence.
3. Were there ever times that you doubted yourself? How did you get the confidence to push forward?
Being an entrepreneur is hard work and not for the faint of heart. While I have received countless messages from victims, families and customers who recognize the meaning in our work and are grateful, there have been a few painful and, at times, scary communications from people who misunderstand our mission and incorrectly believe we are challenging their second amendment rights. My confidence to move forward at these times came from my background as a lawyer and ability to respond to each of these challenges respectfully and head on. I never heard from those people again.
4. How does Caliber Collection raise awareness about illegal gun violence?
The Caliber Collection raises awareness about illegal gun violence at every stage of the customer experience. Beginning with our marketing, then the careful symbolism built into design of the jewelry and the messaging in our packaging. We also continue to keep our customers informed on current events, our philanthropic work, and I write weekly series for the Huffington post called, “You Can Do Something About It.” Frank interviews with passionate men and women who are leaders, activists and influencers on the subject of gun violence in America.
5. Tell us about your collaboration with MTV.
Snoop Dogg, who was then called Snoop Lion, was dropping the song “No Guns Allowed” with MTV, and they really wanted to make it more than a song. MTV contacted me and asked me to make an Limited Edition piece that would appeal to their audience and would support my work funding gun buyback programs and would also be a symbol for the movement to end illegal gun violence. The MTV X Caliber bracelet continues to be incredibly popular and effective. It was a huge honor to be asked to work with both of these important voices.
6. What are your thoughts on giving back? Why does it matter?
I believe that giving back is a moral imperative, not an option. There are many ways to give back. There is not one right way. It is just important that you do.
7. You’ve taken something that is typically — whether true or not — thought of as more a male-dominant subject, and transformed it into something more feminine. Is there a message in that transformation?
Interesting — I don’t view guns and shell casing transformed into jewelry as male symbols transformed into female symbols. I see what I do as transforming a negative into a positive. That is an enormously powerful and empowering message.
8. What can we do to get involved? For example, can you tell us a little about the guys you interviewed who founded PWRdetroit? How can we bring that to our campuses?
Yes, join me! Become a Raise The Caliber® partner and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can have a car wash, a bake sale, sell T-shirts, create a product, sell the Caliber Collection, bring us to your campus to speak — anything. We will work with you to find out what will work for your community.
PWRdetroit is a company founded by three amazing 18-year-old Detroiters who hated seeing how gun violence was destroying the city that they loved. They collaborated with me to make a bracelet to fit within their collection that they could sell to their customers that would raise money for the Caliber Foundation. They have done incredibly well with this piece and raised a ton of money for our work.
9. What is your favorite inspirational quote or saying?
‘She’s got mad hustle and a dope soul.’
10. What does She’s Fit to Lead mean to you? How does someone show they are fit to lead?
Committment. You are fit to lead if you are willing and want to be in the trenches, work hard, do anything and everything to make your brand succeed. You need to be a warrior for your cause. You need to be in the best mental, emotional and physical shape of your life to lead.