It is said that a “very little key will open a very heavy door.”
― Charles Dickens, Hunted Down
Sometimes a key is more than just a key and people prevail in times of trouble and surprise us and fascinate us with their stories.
The Giving Keys is a company with the desire to help people who are less fortunate and believe in giving those people a second chance. The company employs people that are transitioning out of homelessness and teaches them how to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that are sold and shared around the world.
Each key is unique in it’s own way and carries a message such as HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. However this is only just the beginning to this story. When the wearer of the key encounters someone they believe needs the message on the key, they give it away and send their personal story to be posted on the company’s website.
Recently, I had pleasure to interview Tiffany Solis who is the E-Commerce Manager at The Giving Keys.
Can you tell me a little about your company?
In a nutshell, The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. Each key is unique and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send us the story of their key being paid forward.
What are your daily activities when it comes to promoting the brand?
I believe the most successful form of brand promotion is the mere word-of-mouth by happy customers. That being said, daily activities pertaining to promoting The Giving Keys begins in our customer service department, ensuring that each one of our supporters is receiving the best experience and service possible.
Thereafter, daily activities consist of social media promotion, company blog updates, blogger/partnership outreach, brand research, and marketing brainstorm sessions that will help us maximize exposure.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect of E-commerce management is coming up with new ways and ideas to keep our product feeling fresh and re-invented since we don’t release collections; we usually launch one product at a time. Finding brands/companies to not only partner with, but that also make sense with our philosophy.
Definitely the stories that are told on our blog as well as those shared among our employees, interns, and volunteers. We recently had an end of day huddle with the team and asked for everyone to share a word that was meaningful to the point in their lives they were currently in. We had words such as PURPOSE, VISION, SERENITY, WISDOM, and REST come up — for reasons that would probably take me several pages to share, but all inspiring nonetheless.
Caitlin Crosby comes off as a very passionate person who is really devoted to her company “The Giving Keys,” What is it like working with her?
An absolute ball! Caitlin has a huge heart and an incredible sense of humor. For example, when we take group pictures she always loves taking a silly shot – like having everyone poke their noses.
She also cares deeply for the TGK staff. Picture this: Every time Caitlin arrives to the office, there is not a single soul that can escape her sweet bear hugs and appreciation for everyone’s hard work, of which she expresses to each member individually and with great interest.
Granted each key will symbolize something different for the individual who wears it, but as a whole what do they symbolize for your company?
That even though you might feel old, used, and discarded like these keys, you are special, unique, and one of a kind just like these keys.
Your company believes each key has a story that continues even after it is purchased. What has been the most powerful/endearing story you have come across?
This story has definitely been the most powerful one I have read to this day. I will let it speak for itself.
Since the keys aren’t new, where do they come from?
Our keys come from all over the world! It is combination of eBay, our key guy named Jesse who hunts them down in all sorts of places – locksmiths, flea markets, vintage shops, etc. – and donations from our lovely supporters.
What has it been like working with United Way and PATH?
PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) is under the United Way and they were a great partner for us once the operation got too big for Caitlin to manage entirely on her own. This whole process has been such a cool evolution to watch unfold.
It started with Caitlin and a couple on Hollywood Boulevard which grew into partnership with PATH who helped us vet employees so we were working with people who were really wanting to change their situation. PATH helped us find the right kind of employees for our operation and provided case management so we could trust the other components of our employee’s transition process to people with the training to do so. They had all the connections to housing agencies and have what they affectionately call ‘The Mall’ where their clients can go to a salon and get clothes to prepare them for interviews. They also offer counseling services and other things to assist their clients. These are all things that are critical to the success of our employees but we don’t have all there sources to do that in house right now.
We’ve recently started working with Chrysalis which is a workforce development agency serving the homeless community in LA. They’ve been operating for about 30 years now and have a great program. They do fantastic job readiness training and job placement with a demographic that most people wouldn’t give a second chance. They change lives through jobs and we’re really honored to be on of their employment partners.
How does your company help the homeless?
First and foremost, through their employment. But we have a program that’s in it’s beginning stages where we are working together with their case manager to achieve personal and professional goals outside of The GivingKeys.
How does your company go about selecting the homeless people that work for “The Giving Keys”?
Chrysalis finds us candidates based on what positions we are looking to fill. We conduct an interview with thepotential candidates that usually involves a paid training day to see how they take to the tasks associated with thepotential position.
Is there a particular success story you would like to share about an individual who has worked for you?
As of today how many homeless people has your company helped?
We’ve employed 10 people trying to transition out of homelessness. Five have transitioned with 2 others in transitional housing and 1 that came to us already living in subsidized housing.
What has been the biggest misunderstanding you feel most people seem to have about homeless people?
That they are “bums”. I strongly dislike this common misconception about the homeless because the reality is that many people who end up on the streets are there because of situations they had no control over – losing their jobs, poverty, death of parents/guardians/sole providers, etc.
The fact that they are homeless only makes it that much harder for them to receive employment: 1.) Because people usually look down on their unkempt physical appearance and 2.) Because they don’t have means to communicate with potential employers (i.e. cell phones, emails, etc).
What can people expect from your company in the future?
A lot! We are doing a Pay It Forward Day on Sept 15 where we are encouraging people to pay their keys forward and submit videos of their stories that will go on our YouTube Channel. We are also developing other products and have some big partnerships in the cooker.
Images Courtesy of The Giving Keys