Joy McBrien, the founder of Fair Anita, parlayed her pain from a violent attack into a passion for helping women around the world.
Fair Anita, located in the Thorp Building, 1620 Central Avenue NE, was one of the first public benefit corporations created in 2015. Seven years later, the company is set to earn more than $1 million in annual revenue. Since the pandemic began, they donated 100% of the proceeds from the sale of face masks (over $110,000) to the communities where their products are made.
McBrien’s story began in 2008 when she was a senior in high school; she was raped. To recover and heal from the trauma, she researched areas in the world where sexual assault and domestic violence were prevalent. That took her to the town of Chimbote, Peru. There, she had the good fortune to meet an inspirational social worker, Anita Caldas, who became a partner in a fight against violence toward women and after whom the company is named.
Working with Caldas and a group of local women, they built a battered women’s shelter. Learning that most women stayed in domestic violence situations because of financial insecurity, they created a partnership to build cooperatives that are a hand up and not a hand out for a better life.
McBrien wanted “to lift women out of poverty and to fight sexual and domestic violence.” Every artisan makes two to four times the living wage, plus health insurance and is eligible for educational scholarships. These artisans are “partners in an ethical and collaborative supply chain” and “everybody is working hard to create change in their own lives, McBrien said.
With that idea, Fair Anita now partners with more than 8,000 women in 19 cooperatives in nine countries. McBrien designs the earrings, necklaces, bags etc. and sends the designs to the cooperatives based on sustainable materials available in that area. Eighty percent of their items are made from recyclable or sustainable material. She found that “each community has different kinds of recyclable items that can be used.”
For example, in Ethiopia, shell casings from the Ethiopian-Eritrean war litter the countryside. These casing are picked up and melted down to make jewelry. McBrien stated, “They took something that was harmful and made it into something that is life giving.”
In Cambodia, fabric that is discarded by clothing manufacturers is turned into reusable snack bags. In some areas, products are made from discarded telephone wire and scrap metal. The goal is to make products that are equitable, sustainable and affordable.
Fair Anita strives to be environmentally friendly and sustainable in all aspects of their business. If you have bubble mailers/boxes from Amazon or other vendors, you can contact Fair Anita at email@example.com to bring them in – and they will reuse the material to ship out their products.
One of the best ways to reclaim your life and a sense of power after a traumatic event is to help others. Ensuring that women feel “safe, respected and valued” is the core value of Fair Anita’s company policy.
Fair Anita products are sold online at fairanita.com and in more than 900 stores in the U.S.
Below: Anita Caldas and Joy McBrien. Examples of jewelry made by women in South America and India. (Photos courtesy of Joy McBrien)