EJD Mercantile

Scott Moody at Chirpwood has teamed up with Emma Hunt of Emma Jane Designs to produce a line of jewelry called EJD Mercantile!
EJD Mercantile jewelry is handcrafted and assembled by women in Rwanda working in teams at co-ops. Each piece combines Emma Jane’s highly successful minimalist design with traditional handcrafted African beads. The project’s goal is to employ and empower poor Rwandan women and to raise them beyond subsistence living with good wages, healthcare, a safe environment and individual bank accounts to provide needed independence and autonomy.  EJD Mercantile’s long-term goal includes a women’s training center dedicated to equipping Rwandan women for productive and healthy lives.
The EJD Mercantile project is halfway through a proof-of-concept year dedicated to answering two questions: The first was whether Scott could leverage his ties to Rwanda to produce a product that would meet the standards of Emma Jane Designs. The second question was to see if there is a sufficient market for the jewelry to warrant an ongoing enterprise.
After months of navigating the world of customs, tariffs and language barriers, the answer to the first question is a resounding “yes.” With this month's introduction of Emma Jane Mercantile into the marketplace, the answer to the second question will be coming soon.
“I travel to Kigali, Rwanda twice a year to teach SAT and ACT math prep to gap-year students who are a part of Bridge2Rwanda,”said Scott.
“A friend with whom I taught asked me if I could help the mother of one of my students sell her handmade beads in the U.S.  I was doubtful, but the beads were beautiful and I really wanted to help. I brought home several necklaces of beads, but my belief was that the style wasn’t right for the American consumer.
"Then I thought of my friend Emma Hunt,” he said. "I knew she ran a very successful handmade jewelry business in Auburn and that she had a heart for the developing world. I asked her if she could apply her beautiful design aesthetic to jewelry that used African pieces as integral components."
Emma was excited about the potential of the beads – both as parts of beautiful jewelry and as a way to impact the lives of the women who make them. She developed several prototypes that convinced Scott there was synergy between her design and the African materials.
“When I left my career with the UN World Food Programme I left with goals to join my two passions – making a real difference in the lives of people around the world and jewelry design,” Hunt said. “This project is a perfect fit."
Chirpwood then arranged for Pascaline Menezero, a recent Bridge2Rwanda scholar attending the University of Richmond, to travel to Auburn where she learned the basics of jewelry assembly at EJD under Emma’s tutelage. Pascaline then returned to her native Rwanda where she worked as a summer intern for Chirpwood supervising and coordinating jewelry production with women’s co-ops.
“There are immediate and future impacts from this partnership,” said Scott. “First, we employed a number of African women at wages higher than prevailing ones.” 
Second, if sales figures are strong enough, Chirpwood and Emma Jane Designs hope to produce more jewelry in the coming year. This would create more employment for women in Rwanda and provide good wages, healthcare and a safe environment.
“I do not believe in accidents” said Scott. "The fact that I was asked to help Rwandan women who craft beads  – something I know absolutely nothing about –and I just happened to be friends with a rock star in the handmade jewelry world is not a coincidence” 
Shop online at www.shopejd.com.