Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Interview with Sally Han, Founder of Psalms 91:1 Accessories

How did you start your company?
I started Psalms nine years ago (when I was 19 years old) and I’ve always wanted to use jewelry to share my stories and also to make a difference in people’s lives.

Where does the name of your company come from?
It comes from the bible verse Psalms 91:1, which is “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. The whole chapter reminded me of how you can trust God and you can ask him to help you in times of trouble. 
And of course, 911 is the number we call when we need rescue. I chose this name because I wanted my company to have a firm purpose to make a difference in the world.

How has your company made a difference?
My desire to make a difference really begins with my Psalms Team, who, together with myself, crafts, packages, and markets the Psalms jewelry.  I am passionate about giving a creative outlet for young people who want to use their skills for a meaningful cause.

As for impacting the community at large, in the past, my company supported Sick Kids hospital and donated to charities that helped Haiti and Pakistan recover after the devastating earthquakes. In addition, after coming from volunteer trips to Native Reserves and impoverished communities in Africa, I have sought ways to help those communities directly through my jewelry. 

For instance, the “Himba collection” was inspired from my mission trip to Africa. Himba is a name of a tribe in Namibia. I came back from Nimibia with pieces, such as wood, to integrate into the jewelry design. Also, we have created a social business with our recent Psalms x Zimele partnership. 

Tell us more about the Psalms x Zimele partnership:
In October 2012, I went to Swayimane, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa with Zimele. It is a Zulu word meaning "to stand on your own two feet" and also the name of the non-profit organization dedicated to helping communities in the KwaZulu-Natal region in South Africa, who are often poverty-stricken and affected by HIV/AIDs, to overcome those challenges and become self-sustainable.

When I was there, I taught women how to make jewelry. Through Zimele, I saw that these women could become economically independent through jewelry and I immediately saw a perfect fit for the vision I had for Psalms. Together with the Zulu women, we created the Zimele collection, which is essentially a collection for the women by the women. 

The "Zimele" necklace (the very first collaboration between the Zulu women of South Africa and Canadian designer Sarah Han)

I see this as the beginning of a sustainable social business that will help these women overcome poverty and despair. Every time someone buys a piece from the collection, this will directly help employ these women to make the pieces. It is a social business, which is distinct from charity work because we are very much partnering and working together with these Zulu women. 

Since one of the main sources of income for many of these women is bead-making, crafting, and jewerly-making, providing access to global markets for these goods will have a tremendous impact in improving the livelihood of the women and their families. 

What is the future vision of this partnership?
After the successful launch of the collection in March, which raised $5000 for Zimele, we have continued to work on the collection by putting together pieces, packaging, and are preparing to market the whole collection. We are also preparing to create more events for networking and to raise awareness about the project. 

Psalms is also planning a similar partnership with a Korean orphanage called "Gumijun". I will be visiting the orphanage every 6 months to build relationships and find ways of collaborating together. 

This is the beginning of a social business, which is a vision of mine that I have had when I launched Psalms 911--to bless God's name and the lives of other people. In the future, Psalms will help build infrastructure in communities in South Africa, South Korea, and Canada by providing jewelry making job opportunities. We want to especially reach out to widows, orphans, refugees, Natives, and other marginalized members of society. 

We will have to stay tuned to hear more about the Zimele Collection and Sally's future work in Korea! Happy 10th anniversary to Psalms!

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