Unlocked: Not your average jewelry company
ALEXIS COOK, CO-FOUNDER
We love when beautiful things are used for beautiful reasons. Like handmade jewelry that employs and supports Nashville’s homeless.
On this episode of She’s in the City, we sat down with Alexis Cook, Co-Founder of Unlocked Nashville, a social enterprise jewelry company that employs people transitioning out of homelessness. That’s right, not only do the company’s funds company go toward securing wages, housing, careers, community, and confidence for Nashville’s homeless, but the actual hands behind the product and names on the payroll have been hired off the streets and set in motion for hope of a better future.
A Nashville native with compassion for humanity and compulsion to initiate change, Alexis launched Unlocked last year, her senior year as an undergrad at Vanderbilt, at age 22. She’d studied human organization and economics, but getting out of the classroom and onto the streets (figuratively and literally) left Alexis with what she laughingly calls, “an MBA on the fly.”
The year prior, she had been forced to take a medical leave of absence from school due to a debilitating battle with Lyme disease. In her “free time,” as she puts it, she didn’t wallow in bed or binge on Netflix. She walked the streets of downtown Nashville talking with and getting to know real people experiencing homelessness. She’d always had a heart for those living without homes and decided this was her chance to let them truly be seen and be heard. “At our core,” she says, “everyone’s the same.”
From there the story only gets crazier. A company whose business plan was scratched out in 30 minutes, sitting on a sidewalk curb while Alexis was locked out of her car, and whose start-up financing was a duffle bag of cash left to her at the verbal will of a dying homeless man himself – Unlocked is a story, a mission, and a brand you don’t want to miss!
“We started the company because we care about our makers, “ Alexis told us. Neither her nor her business partner, Corbin, had any background in jewelry, fashion, or design. They started by having the homeless women they hired craft and sell necklaces, each of which comes with the maker’s personal signature and bio. They’ve since expanded to bracelets and earrings and are currently pursuing opportunities for an all-green line of product.
“We love the idea that anyone can add beauty to the world, and that beauty can be found in the midst of anyone’s life or circumstances.”
We couldn’t agree more! Check out Unlocked’s mission and beautiful handiwork, and never underestimate how little it takes to support those suffering homelessness in our city.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
To support Unlocked, you can:
-Read more and shop our website at unlockednashville.com
-Follow us on FB and IG @unlockednashville
-Join our newsletter at unlockednashville.com/pages/email-sign-up
-Host an Unlocked Party at your home or office to share our story and earn 10% commission on sales (for parties in Middle TN, one of our Makers can come and share her story and sell jewelry, and for those out of the area we will ship all of the necessary products and sales equipment)
-Apply to become an Unlocked Ambassador at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfUZlUCH8fowwJWVmPS61K9mqbPQAPuzzg7eZN5BPwEPse9nA/viewform
To support people experiencing homelessness you can:
-Look people in the eyes, smile, say a few kind words, and show them that you value them as a human
-Volunteer or donate to local nonprofits, focusing on organizations that emphasize dignity and sustainability in their approach
-Support local social enterprises
-Advocate for affordable housing by writing your local representatives, including your State Legislator and Council Member
-Support Housing First models
-Utilize the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to save your company money by hiring vulnerable people, including those transitioning out of homelessness