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Recycled Jewelry Leads to Refurbished Lives in Detroit

Curators’ Corner

Recycled Jewelry Leads to Refurbished Lives in Detroit

Rebel Nell is not your ordinary jewelry line. Founded in the struggling city of Detroit, the “graffiti jewelry” was designed to empower local women to better themselves and the Motor City at large.

Co-Founder and CEO, Amy Peterson, lived next door to one of the city’s shelters and would often fall into conversations with the female residents. Fascinated and humbled by the stories that landed them there – often physical, emotional and even financial abuse – Peterson was determined to lend a hand. She brainstormed opportunities to help these women gain their independence. The idea fell across her path when she was out running one day and a flash of color caught her eye. Detroit is known for its once magnificent graffiti murals. As industrial jobs have left the city, more than the state of employment began to crumble.

“I found some graffiti-ed material that had fallen to the ground,” Peterson shared in an interview with Refinery29. “I noticed all the different layers that can make up a piece of graffiti as the walls are painted over and over again, and found a way to expose the layers.”

Peterson called her friend and now business partner, Diana Russell, and shared her idea of turning recycled jewelry into a craft that impoverished women could take up. The two then spent four months prototyping various pieces.

“Rebel Nell was started with the sole purpose of employing, educating and empowering disadvantaged women in Detroit,” the company’s website says. “We make jewelry from local materials, while providing a transitional opportunity for women.”

Not only is Rebel Nell providing employment opportunities; they are also focused on changing the life trajectory for the women they hire.

“We believe the key to independence is through financial management,” Peterson told Forbes. “We provide financial literacy and management classes to give our team members a better understanding of their current financial situations, and we present a course toward financial wellness.”

Rebel Nell provides its employees with access to financial advisors, micro-loan assistance, legal aid, housing assistance, yoga and wellness classes, and flexible working hours so team members can care for their families at home – a truly inspiring model for creative social good.

Images Courtesy of Rebel Nell