Credit: Pearls with Purpose
Credit: Pearls with Purpose

Love is the force on which Pearls with Purpose runs. So it was only fitting that, when the 13-year-old social enterprise chose a marketing theme for the 2015, it chose love. Now, as the year winds down, it’s hoping that an injection of love into its sales effort will provide a new stage of growth.

This year, Pearls with Purpose’s blog and social media posts explored how love animates the 250 Filipina, Indian and Cambodian women who make its delicate pearl necklaces — and how love infuses the American shoppers who buy them for their loved ones. It sent surprise heart necklaces to about 50 volunteers and helpers who had showed love to the company. And it made a video about love as the “one thing” that has contributed the most to Pearls with Purpose’s success as a business that won first place in the National Association of Women Business Owners’ “No Small Thing” video contest.

Love is “an action word,” says Wendy Bird, a certified gemologist and the executive director and founder of Lehi, Utah-based Pearls with Purpose. Much more than a marketing exercise, “we wanted to focus on acts of love that others were giving to us.”

Now the company is seeking loving people to energize its sales effort. Last week, it launched an effort to scale up significantly — a “party plan” sales model (think Tupperware) it’s calling the AccessoRISE program — and is recruiting partners to sell Pearls with Purpose jewelry at parties in their homes and events in their offices. Bird hopes AccessoRISE will significantly boost sales and help the company provide a much better living to the women it seeks to lift out of poverty.

AccessoRISE is a response to Bird’s biggest organizational challenge today: The women she has trained have the capacity to make much more jewelry than Pearls with Purpose can currently sell. The company moves about 5,000 pieces a month, Bird says, while the women could produce about 30,000 in that period. 

Pearls with Purpose sells at events and conferences primarily. It also has an online store, though Bird laments that online sales seem capped at about $1,000 a month, despite a great deal of effort. This limited reach means most of the women work only one day a week, during which time they earn a day rate as well as a fee for each piece they make, typically totaling $25 to $50 a day. That’s much more than average local wages of about $1 day. 

“All the time we get emails from the women overseas: ‘Do you have more orders for us?'” Bird says. “I try to rotate through a variety of women each week, so they all make some money.”

Pearls with Purpose also has a nonprofit foundation that provides the women it employs with training, educational scholarships for their children, and assistance with health and dental needs. Partnering with Believe International, a Philippine charity, Pearls with Purpose has helped put 280 Filipino kids through the public school system and eight through college. It has also provided scholarships for six Indian children through Rising Star Outreach in Tamil Nadu. Many women turned down scholarships once they began earning enough money to pay for their children’s schooling themselves, Bird says.

“These are women who are not looking for a handout. They want self-reliance,” Bird says. They want to be able to say I did it, I put my child through school…. It makes it a privilege to work with them.”