Lesa Sawyer, entrepreneur and “give back” retail pioneer, is the heart and soul behind Giving Bracelets, a Scottsdale-based retailer that makes giving back to community its sole purpose. For every purchase of a bracelet, Giving Bracelets donates 10% of that purchase to the CASA program, both locally and nationally.
Strolling along the quaint walkways of Old Town Scottsdale, an open-concept retail space (there are no doors or windows; only one, open entryway) will catch the passerby by surprise. Luscious leather bags hang from rustic wooden structures; small batches of clothing and handmade jewelry are carefully displayed on Mexican blankets; and earth-toned gem stones accompany the lovingly made Giving Bracelets throughout the store. An “American Southwest” theme sets the tone for this eye-catching boutique and a sense of creativity pervades the air.
Oh, and of course, there is the actual, physical, hand-powered Giving Bracelet production line in the back of the space, where smiling associates gladly welcome in customers to explain the product as well as the mission of the company.
Surely, there is something special to this place; an unmistakable humanness felt with heart.
“I had a successful leather handbag company for years, and one day I noticed the glaring excess of scraps left over from production,” says Sawyer. “I thought ‘It’s wasteful and unimaginative to throw these materials away; what can I do with it?’. Many of the scraps were suitable for accessory-sized pieces, and the thought of creating a bracelet seemed profitable.
But instead of wanting to start an accessory line alongside handbags, Sawyer drew on her background of giving back to her community, specifically the CASA program in Orange County, where she lived at the time. “The lightbulb went on and I put two and two together: I’ll reuse the materials and give part of the profits to a nonprofit that I know would really benefit. I was involved with the CASA of Orange County Program and designated part of the profits to go toward the local as well as national program. When I learned what CASA is doing for foster kids, I was blown away. Everyone should know about CASA; every kid deserves a constant in their life.”
Since relocating back to Arizona, Sawyer’s home state, and opening a retail space in Old Town Scottsdale, the concept has taken off both locally and nationally. The Greater Phoenix community has embraced the concept of trendy accessories with a mission, and orders from around the country are placed daily. TJ Maxx recently caught wind of the product line and its concept and quickly placed an order for national distribution.
Yet, with so much attention on keeping up with production (amazingly, each bracelet is hand-made in-store) and growing a local customer base, it also wasn’t soon after planting roots in the Valley that Sawyer sought out a way to connect with CASA locally. As if by magic, Sawyer says, she discovered Voices for CASA Children was a neighbor in Old Town. “I was amazed we were in the same vicinity. I met with the staff and immediately wrote a check to VOICES so they could support the work of CASA volunteers in Maricopa County. I can’t stress enough how important their work is.”
And the rest, they say, is history. Giving Bracelets continues to thrive as a local, handmade retailer on a mission to serve and ignite change, and so does everyone who comes through its doors, it seems.
“We’ve been taken by surprise to see how much the community embraces our bracelets as well as loves what’s behind them,” Sawyer remarks. “I felt called to do this; it was a strike of inspiration that ignited a fire to help vulnerable children in our community. I’ve seen first-hand the powerful effect a CASA volunteer can have in the life of a foster child, so what we’re doing here is fulfilling and also sustainable. We’re giving back. People, when they hear about this, want to be a part of a movement that’s changing our community.”