When she was in college, Joan Hornig set a big goal: to earn enough money by age 50 to allow her to give
back to the world. In 2003 she met that goal, two years ahead of schedule.
Because Hornig, 54, came from a modest background, she learned to design her own jewelry, modeling
her pieces after the bold, fanciful antiques she admired in luxury boutiques and museums. Six years ago,
when a friend casually said, "I love your necklace," Hornig replied, "Thanks, I made it." That prompted the
friend to call another friend—who just happened to be a merchandise manager at Bergdorf
Goodman—and say: "I'm looking at something that should be in your store."
Hornig went back to her New York City apartment, gathered up all the necklaces, bracelets, and
earrings she'd made (stored in Tupperware containers in her china cabinet—"I didn't even know there
was such a thing as a jewelry roll"), and took them into the Fifth Avenue store. "The Bergdorf people said,
'We like these things, but are you a business?' I said, 'I believe I can be a business.'" They offered her a trial
run, and her first "collection" sold out in five days. The secret to her success? "I think jewelry should do for
women what a beauty parlor does," Hornig says. "Enhance them."
But Hornig, who worked in the lucrative field of private equity investing, didn't start designing jewelry
to make a profit, so she devised a novel business model: Each piece she sells comes with a card explaining
that she will give 100 percent of her profits to the charity of the buyer's choice. "To my children, Paul
Newman wasn't an actor—he was a philanthropist who made salad dressing," she says. "But he chose
the charities that would profit from Newman's Own. I wanted to go one step further and let people choose
their own cause."
Through sales of her jewelry, the Joan B. Hornig Foundation has donated close to $750,000 to more
than 600 causes, including hospitals, dance companies, schools, and the environment. "People ask,
'Why wouldn't you want to keep the money?'" she says. "They think success is measured by what you put in
your pocket. I get to create beautiful things that make a difference for people. There isn't anyone who's
been made richer by this experience than me." — Aimee Lee Ball
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