For Lesa Sawyer, bracelets represent more than a piece of jewelry.
The personalized wrist accessories she has sold at Giving Braclets for nearly a decade represent friendship, love, thoughtfulness, care and hope.
Ten years ago, Sawyer was in an entirely different industry: handbags.
She had started a successful small handbag business and became alarmed by the amount of excess leather that was discarded in the industry.
“Over the years of producing these handbags, we had these bins of beautiful leather, but (the leather was) too small to make any handbags out of that,” Sawyer recalled.
“So, I started playing around with it and that’s how the idea of giving bracelets came about. I would take these little scraps, make them into bracelets and the goal was to donate the proceeds to charity.”
Around this time Sawyer found a cause she was passionate about by volunteering with Voices for CASA Children — a Scottsdale nonprofit that specializes in pairing Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers with children who have been removed from their homes through no fault of their own.
“Volunteering for CASA had really made me think, ‘What more could I do for this organization?’” Sawyer said. “I realized that every organization needs two things: time and money.”
Though her original idea was to create a nonprofit, once she saw the complex web of paperwork and upkeep it takes, Sawyer opted to create a new business that had a philanthropic reach.
The result was Giving Bracelets, which donates 10% of each purchase is donated to Voices for CASA Children.
Sawyer started small, selling handmade bracelets at markets along the Scottsdale Waterfront and eventually growing a brick-and-mortar location along Scottsdale Road off Fifth Avenue in Old Town in 2016.
“I would get orders that were 200 bracelets and I’d be making them out of my living room, bedroom and then the garage, and then put them in storage. It was just starting to get a little too crazy,” Sawyer said.
“So, we decided to look for a location to make the bracelets out of and that's when we kind of stumbled across the location on Fifth Avenue that had really good energy.”
She and her staff found they could capitalize on the business's potential as it began offering customized bracelets. Customers can pick the band, finish and stone for their bracelet and have a finished product in their hands in as little as 30 minutes.
Though it is located on a street flanked by restaurants, stores and a coffee shop, Giving Bracelets has become a fixture in Old Town.
“We fit in really well with our customer base because most of our customers are tourists and they're looking to bring something home either for themselves or for a loved one and they can customize what they're going to bring home,” said Scottsdale store manager Jen Pugh.
In addition to offering a variety of premade bracelets, endless combinations for customized products and other items like handbags, jewelry and home goods, Giving Bracelets has given more than just goods to customers and checks to nonprofit organizations.
“We work with several organizations in the Valley,” Sawyer said. “Every year we donate bracelets to the Humane Society for its annual fundraiser and we just started working with Duet to do some workshops.”
In addition to spreading its philanthropic reach, Giving Bracelets expanded its presence with a retail store in Waikoloa, Hawaii, in 2018 and is currently beefing up its online operation to capture the same level of service customers receive in-store.
“We've been working diligently on our online presence and trying to kind of replicate what has made us so successful in our retail location and that's to be able to go online and have that same creative experience of designing your bracelet,” Sawyer said.
But Sawyer still has her sights set on marching into new territories.
“We definitely want to open up more locations when that presents itself and we have an eye on Tempe, Gilbert or Sedona,” Sawyer said.
But in the interim her goal is to give joy through personalized jewelry.
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