Mom Helps Build Marketplace For Artisans

Noonday partners with artisans in developing countries to bring authentic jewelry and accessories to consumers in the U.S. (Courtesy photos)
Noonday partners with artisans in developing countries to bring authentic jewelry and accessories to the U.S.

Tigiest, an Ethiopian mother of five, was expelled from her home upon her HIV-positive diagnosis. She sought refuge at Mount Entoto, a mountain just outside the capital city of Addis Ababa, taking only three of her children. She could no longer afford to care for them all.

Tigiest’s story struck a chord within Preston Hollow resident Claire Rathbun.

“Being a mother, I could not imagine not having both of my kids with me,” said Rathbun.

Rathbun came across a company that would provide the opportunity to do just that: Noonday Collection.

“One of the companies that I follow had a picture of the Noonday owner standing next to a girl that I went to college with,” said Rathbun, who attended the University of Texas for three years prior to receiving her degree from Eckerd College.

In December, Rathbun signed on as a Noonday ambassador. Noonday Collection is a business with a mission to provide economic opportunity for those in vulnerable positions. This movement was sparked when founder Jessica Honegger visited Rwanda in 2010 to adopt her third child. Little did she know that she’d walk away with a second special opportunity.

“She met this couple named Jalia and Daniel. They were a struggling couple,” Rathbun said. “She sold Jessica some jewelry and suggested that she take it back to the U.S., sell it, and use it to help raise money for the adoption.”

In summer 2011, Honegger launched the Noonday ambassador program to give women like Rathbun the chance to earn an income by creating opportunities for those like Jalia and Daniel in countries with limited resources. Artisans transform materials such as paper, artillery, and seeds into beautifully designed jewelry, scarves and handbags. The role of the ambassador is to create a marketplace for these goods through trunk shows.

Customers’ purchases help to create dignified jobs. Noonday offers no-interest loans, makes advance payment on orders, and offers scholarship programs and emergency assistance. To bring it full circle, Noonday donates a portion of its sales to place orphans in families.

To date, the company works with 28 artisan groups in countries such as Uganda, India, Vietnam, and Ethiopia, among others.

“The most rewarding part is hearing our artisans’ testimonies of how this has changed their lives and how they can now send their kids to school,” said Elizabeth Hildebrand, another Dallas-based Noonday ambassador. “It just gives them dignity to have a job and increases their hope and confidence that they can provide for their families.”

Hildebrand stepped in as a mentor, hosting a trunk show for Rathbun at her house and showing her the ropes. Both ambassadors have a heart for those less fortunate, and this is a way for them to continue this passion.

“I’ve never felt real hunger. My kids are healthy, and I know that not everyone has opportunity,” Rathbun said. “So, even though I’m not directly going there and feeding them, I feel like I can help bring awareness so others can do what they can also. This is just one way.”

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