Shop Local: Olive & Annie

Shop Local: Olive & Annie

By now you may have heard of this local business taking the accessories and jewelry world by storm, but Olive & Annie has a lot more to it than that! Owner and founder, Jacqueline Villeneuve, tells the inspiring story of how she launched her brand, and what you can do to continue supporting Olive & Annie, her local events, and the Zawadi la Tumaini Children’s Home.

Tell us your story; how did the idea for Olive & Annie begin?

Olive & Annie was primarily created to provide employment for single mothers and support the children of Zawadi la Tumaini – a children’s home I opened in Nairobi, Kenya. Personally I love purchasing from fair-trade and charitable brands and I found myself noticing a lot of companies which say they support charity with every purchase were only giving 5%-10% of their profit to organizations close to their hearts. I wanted to create a company that did more – not only with our charitable giving but also with our ethical employment practices and our connections to our customers. I wanted each customer to know the stories of the children and men and women they support. I am a firm believer in the power of storytelling.

Initially the idea for the company was sparked during a research study with single mothers in Nairobi, Kenya. I am a student via correspondence with Penn State University and I conducted a study involving the factors leading to unplanned pregnancies with young woman in Mathare slum between the ages of 16 years old to 25 years old. I was noticing the direct correlation between young single mothers and the orphan crisis and wanted to learn what factors were leading to the spike in unplanned pregnancies across Kenya. At the time I was pregnant and would soon become a single mother myself. I understood how challenging life was, and would be, for myself so I knew how truly difficult it must be for these mothers.

My idea began initially with the creation of baby products. I was a young mother who wanted to purchase moccasins for my child but the most popular baby moccasin companies were charging an arm and a leg for a pair and they designed them to only fit your child for 1-2 months’ maximum. I dreamed of creating a line of baby moccasins, and eventually more apparel and accessories products for mom and baby, that were ethically made and gave back to charity, but were built to last the customer much longer than 1-2 months of wear. At the time I was still in communication with my child’s father, in an abusive relationship, and I was made to feel this dream to create Olive & Annie was too big; unachievable and out of reach. I put the idea on the back burner. Flash forward two years and I had moved forward with my life, independently raising my daughter as I always had been but now free from that toxic relationship, and we had just moved to Nairobi together. I started to think of Olive & Annie more and more frequently again. Our plans came together quickly when I was connected with a US marine by the name of Lindsay Woodhouse. Lindsay is from Norfolk, Virginia. He was stationed in Nairobi on a specialized program for one year. Lindsay was raised by a single father. He grew up in a tough neighbourhood. He had been abandoned by his mother at the age of six. He understood the struggles my kids at Zawadi la Tumaini were facing, and he also understood how difficult life could be for a single parent. I shared with him my dreams for Olive & Annie. I showed him sketches of the moccasins I wanted to create, a vision board, and the mission for the company I wanted to create. He loved the idea and helped me turn those dreams into a reality by joining forces and investing into the company.

What inspires the creation and idea for each piece?

Each piece we create – with both our moccasins and jewelry pieces, are inspired by Africa and the children of Zawadi la Tumaini Children’s Home. All of our moccasins have a unique name, which shares the meaning behind the inspiration of the design. For our jewelry we used the same concept – drawing inspiration from our children’s stories and providing each piece with a beautiful Swahili or African name.

We teamed up with an incredibly ambitious and creative young woman, April McCambridge, in January and the two of us worked together to create our entire jewelry collection. April now serves as our Marketing Director / Lead Designer. She is a passionate woman’s rights advocate. April drew inspiration from women’s rights, compassion towards others, and ending sexual violence for the designs of our jewelry collection. The result is a beautiful line with 10+ pieces, which inspire social change and meaningful dialogue about women’s rights and ending sexual violence.
Can you tell our readers what each purchase supports, and how the proceeds benefit programs and individuals within Kenya?

30% of profit from each purchase directly supports Zawadi la Tumaini Children’s and (launching in 2018) the creation of programs to educate, mentor, and empower youth in an effort to end sexual violence.

In addition to our charitable giving we also provide ethical employment. We follow the labour laws within Kenya, we pay our artisans up to 10 times more than most companies provide for price per piece contracts, and we maintain a family relationship with our entire team in Kenya and our charity we support.

Where can we purchase your products? Is there one piece or design that stands out to you?
Currently Olive & Annie moccasins are being sold at Jump the Baby Store, Salute Coffee downtown, and Baby on the Hip in Toronto. Our jewelry is being sold at Salute Coffee downtown and KuppaJoe Espresso Bar (as of May 23rd). We also have sales online via www.oliveannie.com with customers from across North America. We welcome new retailers and look forward to the expansion of our product into more coffee shop retail partners and boutiques across the country.

Every 4-6 weeks we host The Modern Marketplace in Sudbury in partnership with Sprout Handmade. The concept for The Modern Marketplace came from the many markets I was seeing while I lived in Toronto (before moving to Kenya) and within Nairobi. It’s a new concept to the Sudbury area but so far the response from the community has been wonderful. We love to host the marketplace in the downtown area, showing support for local businesses. We sell our favourite fair-trade + Canadian made brands. When we began our products catered primarily to mothers but now we have expanded and are selling a wide variety of products from amazing local and Canadian brands for men, women, and children.

 Are there other ways for us to get involved with and learn more about Olive & Annie and the Zawadi la Tumaini Children’s Home?
To learn more about Olive & Annie we welcome people to visit our website at www.oliveannie.com or visit our Facebook page to get updates on our upcoming sales, events, and new retail spaces. We are always looking for volunteers for events and photoshoots for the company! On June 1st we hosted our official launch for the Olive & Annie and KuppaJoe Espresso Bar partnership. In connection with our launch we are hosting a photo exhibit called “TUMAINI”. The photo exhibit gives an intimate look into the topic of sexual violence – one of the primary causes we advocate for with Olive & Annie. In Kenya 1 in 4 women and girls will be raped in their lifetime. Sexual violence is a problem globally, not only within Kenya. We are encouraging the community to join us in celebrating women and sharing the importance of protecting and respecting women’s rights and the right to provide consent – while having the opportunity to shop Olive & Annie and provide the gift of hope to women and children in Kenya!

The community here in Sudbury has been a huge supporter of Zawadi la Tumaini Children’s Home since day one, when I was just a 17-year-old girl with a dream to help orphaned children in Kenya. Now, years later, over 90% of our donations come from the Sudbury area and we are incredibly proud of the fact that community of Sudbury has essentially adopted our community in Kenya. On May 25th we hosted our first Zawadi Night at SRO. The Zawadi Nights will be an ongoing partnership with SRO Nightclub throughout 2017. The evening provides proceeds from each cocktail and martini on the drinks menu directly to ZLT and celebrates assisting the children of Zawadi la Tumaini with music, drinks, and dance. The music throughout the evening will be the best of African and African inspired music (think Wizkid, Black Coffee, Drake, etc). We will be having an Olive & Annie pop-up and welcome community members 19+ to join us in celebrating and support the children of ZLT!

How can we stay in touch with you at Olive & Annie and learn more about the organization?

You can stay in touch with Olive & Annie via our website, www.oliveannie.com, on instagram at “oliveandannie”, on Facebook at “Olive & Annie”, or by emailing contact@oliveannie.com.

 

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Adriana Nicolucci is a Communications and Film Production graduate, fashion enthusiast, and patterned sock collector. She’s often spotted munching on the Eenie Meenie Grilled Zucchini Pizza at the Buddha. Danny Ocean is her spirit animal, except she’s planning a heist to steal your hearts (not a casino)

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