The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses and nonprofits, conducting groundbreaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Alexa Gagosz at email@example.com.
Forgo the school fundraisers that force you to go door-to-door with candy bars, host bake sales, rip raffle tickets, or participate in early morning walk-a-thons. Forget fundraising sites and Facebook invites. A Cranston, R.I., jewelry company has found a better way to fundraise.
Air & Anchor, a jewelry and lifestyle brand founded by Rachel Ajaj and her husband Omar Ajaj, recently launched their Give a Cuff program, where customers can purchase a box of bracelet cuffs to fundraise for a specific program that the company is supporting, or create and purchase a custom box of cuffs to fundraise for a cause that is important to them. Like with many of their other products, which have symbols and saying on them that represent daily reminders to “enjoy the life in between,” the cuffs will sport charms with anchors, rainbows, and cancer ribbons or the word “hope,” “hero,” or “create.”
Each cuff is handmade in their jewelry factory in Cranston which once belonged to Ajaj’s grandfather Ralph Rafaelian, who owned Cinerama Jewelry, and then was used by her aunt, Carolyn Rafaelian, who founded Alex and Ani.
Q: How did you come up with the idea?
R. Ajaj: My grandfather taught our family how important it was to do good for others and he fundraised often [he created American flag pins where the proceeds would go to veterans during the Vietnam War]. We have always wanted to carry on his legacy of charity work.
It was a priority for us that we make a difference by creating an initiative that is project based so customers always know exactly where the funds are going. We wanted something that could be wearable by everyone and shows your support for a specific cause. But we also wanted to be able to donate a large percentage — 68 percent — of proceeds.
Q: Customers can also purchase a single cuff off your website for a project Air & Anchor is supporting. What’s your first fundraiser?
R. Ajaj: We teamed up with the National Autism Association for our initial Give A Cuff launch. The specific project we chose to support is their Big Red Safety Box initiative. Roughly half of children with ASD are prone to wandering off from a safe environment, which presents unique safety risks and creates extraordinary worry and stress among caregivers. Drowning fatalities following wandering incidents remain a leading cause of death among those with ASD.
This Big Red Safety Box is a free-of-charge toolkit given to families affected by ASD as a means to educate, raise awareness and provide simple tools that may assist them in preventing and responding to, wandering related emergencies. Our customers are able to purchase a single ‘Hope’ cuff for $25 from our website and we will donate 68 percent towards this initiative.
In less than a month, we have sold enough cuffs to purchase 40 Big Red Safety Boxes.
Q: Why did you pick this cause?
R. Ajaj: After connecting with Wendy Fournier, president of the NAA, we learned some alarming ASD and wandering statistics. It was a no-brainer for us to support the NAA, and specifically this Big Red Safety Box initiative. Half of families with ASD/wanderers reported that they had never received advice or guidance about elopement. Having three small children ourselves, we realize how stressful and scary this can be for parents and caregivers and wanted to help.
Q: What are the cuffs made of?
R. Ajaj: All of our cuffs start with a metal base and are hand-braided with 12 different color combinations of thread. The charms are 100 percent brass. We are also offering 16 different charms to choose from.
Q: How could someone get involved, but for their own fundraiser?
R. Ajaj: There are three options when it comes to Giving a Cuff.
- Partnership: Establish a cause marketing partnership with Air & Anchor in the creation of a custom-designed cuff, retailed at $25.00. Air & Anchor will donate 68 percent of the purchase price to a mutually agreed upon project or initiative. We will also sell on our website. We have been very successful with our “Hope” cuff for the National Autism Association, and are recently partnered with Peace Love to support mental wellness. We are looking to adding a new charity partnership monthly.
- Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: Individuals can purchase a box of pre-made cuffs, in bulk and sell them individually at a price of their choosing. Boxes are sold in increments of 25 at $8 per cuff.
- Create Your Own Cuff: Design your own custom cuffs for any cause. Pick from 12 different thread color combinations, choose a charm that suits your reason, select your quantity and start fundraising.
Alexa Gagosz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.