Women Who Create Gifts That Give Back
A Real Gem
Photo: Roland Bello
Joan Hornig's jewelry comes from the heart. And 100 percent of the profits go to a charity of your choice.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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