The Hamptons is well known for having some of the chicest fashion accessories in the world. So it didn’t surprise me to walk into a fashionable store there to discover one of the most eye catching boho hip jewelry lines I had ever seen. And the pieces were so versatile, too! An added plus.
Anyone who knows me knows jewelry is my happy obsession, so in true Dr. Robi fashion, I couldn’t resist trying on some of these unique finds. Fortunately, the creator of this line, called Ubuntu, Joslyn Fecik, was there to advise me on the latest trends as well as to tell me more about her company. What impressed almost as much as her unique personal style and beautiful jewelry line was the charitable mission her company dedicated itself to.
This millennial superstar was not only cool and classy, but she was also committed. Committed to making sure 15% of her profits were donated to a Haitian orphanage after being inspired by a mission trip she took with her husband and a group of friends to Haiti.
Joslyn Fecik said she has always been inspired by people who give back and use their gifts to help others. This is why she is the perfect person to feature in Bella Mag for this holiday season. And if you’d like to get some of these gorgeous baubles right now, she is having a storewide sale. How timely is that?!
I had the opportunity to interview Joslyn to learn more what inspires her as an artist and as a person.
Dr. Robi: What inspired you to create your jewelry line Ubuntu?
JL: After returning home from a trip to Haiti in 2015, I wanted to support a group of children at an orphanage in Port Au Prince but my husband and I were 24, living in Brooklyn straight out of college, and financially strapped. We knew we didn’t’ have a lot of extra money but I had a bunch of beads from an old jewelry hobby, so I made a few bracelets to sell online and Ubuntu was born. At the time, I was working as a women’s wear designer for a well-known travel-inspired lifestyle brand and tassels were huge for us.
I started making tassel bracelets, adding elephant charms, using vibrant colors; the line was very inspired by my own aesthetic, but also the place I was in my life at that time. I was constantly surrounded by gorgeous embroidered pieces from Mexico, vintage beaded pieces from India; I had all these amazing cultures to be inspired by and it really translated into the first few seasons of Ubuntu. But above all, I’m inspired by the kids. We sponsor 5 children monthly at Gertrude’s Orphanage in Port Au Prince and they’re the real inspiration behind the line.
Dr. Robi: Millenials often get a bad rap for being self-involved and self-centered, but the company you created is all about giving back. How do you explain this cultural misconception about your contemporaries?
JL: My whole life I really connected with and was amazed by people who were giving liberally, or using their gifts to help others so I always wanted a job or to own a business that “gave back” in some sense. I just never thought I’d be doing that at 26 and I definitely was not focused on that when I graduated college, I just wanted a job!
When I first moved to NYC I wanted to design for a company that was working with artisans or was passionate about sustainable fashion, but after awhile I found myself really focusing on me and my career, that was it. I just wanted a job I liked at a cool company that had some sort of integrity, but it didn’t have to be a “world changer”. I just needed to get my check to pay my rent and that was it.
Then all of a sudden I just had a major heart change and going to Haiti really cemented that. I learned that it is infinitely better to give than to receive and that you’re not really living unless you’re serving others; Ubuntu has been proof of that in my life. I’ve never done anything so satisfying, it gives me such joy to support these children and to use my gifts and love of creating to support to them.
Dr. Robi: You talk about an inspiring trip to Haiti that you found life-changing, can you tell me more about this and how it has shaped your jewelry company.
JL: In 2015, I traveled to Haiti with my husband and a group of friends on a mission trip to help rebuild and volunteer, however, we could after the devastation of the earthquake in 2010. During the trip, we visited an orphanage, called Notre Maison (or Gertrude’s Orphanage by the locals), and I absolutely fell in love with the children. Gertrude started the orphanage after the earthquake, after which she was trapped under a building for 3 days.
When she was rescued she wanted to help in any way that she could and started taking in children who’d lost parents during the earthquake. Many of these children have special needs so it’s a huge undertaking for Gertrude. The orphanage has more than fifty children and for a long time, Gertrude was paying for everything out of her own pocket so the sponsorship program is really a huge blessing for her. Honestly, the company was born out of a need and that need was to help these kids. I never in a million years thought I would own a jewelry company or have these kids in Haiti who totally stole my heart but here I am!
I remember being in Haiti and then coming back from Haiti and the whole time feeling like “What am I doing in my job that is helping others, how am I positively impacting the world?” So I just kept praying and asking God to show me how I could use my gifts to bless others. A few months after coming back from Haiti I literally woke up at 5 am with this idea to make this bracelet and sell it to raise money for the kids and that’s how it all started.
Dr. Robi: You donate a large part of your proceeds to charity; can you tell us more about that.
JL: Originally, we were donating 50% of the proceeds to the orphanage and after about a year and a half we decided to make the change to donating 15%. When I first started, my goal was just to cover the kids each month, not make any sort of profit. But donating 50% ended up making Ubuntu more of an expensive hobby than a sustainable business.
My goal is to grow the business and eventually transition into Ubuntu as my full-time career so that I’m able to give it the full attention I feel it needs, so only donating 15% feels like the best way to make that a reality. Since changing the percentage, sales have actually increased and the kids are still covered each month so we are really thankful for that.
Dr. Robi: You also decided to start a scholarship program with your husband, what is the mission of this scholarship program and who does the program target?
JL: My husband and I volunteered for a leadership program for middle school children in Astoria, Queens for a few years and these kids have been such an inspiration for us. They are leaders in their community and are truly talented individuals. I loved supporting the kids in Haiti but really wanted to start supporting kids at home and what is better than supporting those you are personally connected to?
So throughout the year, we are raising money for these kids out of the percentage we collect for donations every month. At the end of the year, we split evenly what we’ve raised and give it to the young people in the leadership program at the end of the Summer. The money helps their parents buy school supplies, back to school clothes, whatever the kids need to get their school year off to a good start.
Dr. Robi: Where can people find your jewelry line?
JL: Ubuntu is sold online at www.shop-ubuntu.com. You can also keep up with us on social media to find out what’s going on with the kids, when I go back to Haiti to visit with them, or when a new product hits the site at @shopubuntu.
Dr. Robi: If others are inspired by your charity work, how can they reach out to you and get involved?
JL: Please feel free to email me at email@example.com for any inquiries or if you’re interested in getting involved. If you’re interested in sponsoring any of the children at Gertrude’s Orphanage in Haiti you can find more information at www.gertrudesorphanage.weebly.com.