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SoHza online jewelry sales links women across the globe

Special to the Legal News

Published: December 31, 2013

For a group of women in Ohio, the shiny, shimmering links of women’s jewelry are what is holding together women across the globe.

The owners of soHza jewelry had a big mission in mind when they launched their company in April — forging the bonds of women across the globe to help make a difference.

“When women are at the center of change, anything is possible,” said soHza co-owner Debbie Lepariello.

The company, whose motto is “helping people here, by helping people there,” was founded by four women, three of whom are sisters.

Through a web-based jewelry store, the women have been able to put local nonprofit organizations in contact with global organizations so that they can more easily help one another.

The global organizations work with women in places like South America and Africa, teaching them to make jewelry that tells the story of their community by using the resources available to them, such as seeds or grasses from their part of the world.

“Some of our products are made from recycled bullet casings from HIV women in Ethiopia, some of our products are made from survivors of sex trafficking from all over the world, from India and Nepal and Cambodia, and some of our stuff is made from South America from things found in the rain forest,” Lepariello said.

That jewelry then goes to soHza and local nonprofit organizations can pick specific pieces to add to a collection.

Lepariello said they try to get mostly statement pieces and 15 percent of each purchase goes to the nonprofit that organized the collection it came from.

Currently, soHza is working with five groups in Columbus and five groups in Cincinnati.

The groups serve women in a variety of ways and include a scholarship fund for continuing education, breast cancer awareness and support, domestic violence shelters and support, services for women with low-income and assistance for survivors of prostitution.

“We go into the market and look for five or six nonprofits that are in the trenches of economics, health, domestic violence and all the well-rounded causes that women need in each community,” Lepariello said.

The founders have focused on Cincinnati and Columbus first because two of them are living in each city.

At the start of next year, however, they hope to spread to Louisville and Indianapolis.

Lepariello said the idea for the business came about after her mother and her sister received meaningful Christmas gifts a couple years ago.

Lepariello and her sister, soHza co-owner Melissa Henry, purchased their mother a necklace from Guatemala.

When their mother opened the gift, the third sister, soHza co-owner Vicki Miller, revealed that her best friend, Cassi Baker, had gotten her a bracelet from Ghana.

The women then discussed the stories behind the jewelry and found that wearing jewelry with a story seemed to have a special meaning. The sisters, along with Baker, then started working on soHza.

“The women that buy it are really in the center of it,” Lepariello said. “When they wear the jewelry they’re feeling that connection and they have a reason to wear it everyday because they feel that connection to the women on the other side.”

Lepariello said after that Christmas she realized the United States was a small place and didn’t get a lot of through traffic.

So, she decided to use soHza as a way to use women’s stories in the jewelry to promote a global sense of unity.

She said each nonprofit organization featured on soHza’s website is on even playing ground and must give shoppers a reason to pick their collection, something she hopes will motivate them to best tell the story of the women who made the jewelry.

While local nonprofits benefit from the sales, Lepariello said it’s important to her that the women making the pieces are benefiting as well.

The organizations she works with ensure that the women earn fair wages and helps them maintain community and tribal traditions.

“Globally, what they found is when you teach women a trade the money actually goes to the family, goes to education, goes back into the economy in that community,” she said.

SoHza jewelry is only available online through soHza.com and all orders for Christmas gifts must be placed by Dec. 18 to ensure delivery in time for the holiday.

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