‘Giving Joy’ Through Artisanal Gifts, Entrepreneurship, and Mentorship

Giving JoyJoy Kolin (center). Photo courtesy of Giving Joy.

Joy Kolin first came up with the idea for Giving Joy while at the salon, when her hairdresser complimented her purse and proposed that she sell the artisanal products that she had collected from around the world. Drawing off her experience in international development and economics, Kolin launched Giving Joy in November 2018.

Giving Joy’s support for female entrepreneurs is three-fold. First, it builds on microfinance models to bring work from international female artisans into the American market. Second, through an application process, Kolin selects an additional five female entrepreneurs to feature for the chance to receive a $500 grant from Giving Joy. Third, Kolin and grant winners provide mentorship to future grant winners and local entrepreneurs.

Kolin’s has worked professionally on international nonprofit projects, but with Giving Joy, she’s taking a different tack.

“We were doing a lot of good, but the good doesn’t always trickle down to the individuals or takes a lot of time to trickle down today,” she says. “I wanted to do a different type of inner development, meaning more direct. And so I saw that if you give people opportunities, they just run with them. And really even small amounts of money can change their lives.”

Kolin emphasizes that the goal of Giving Joy is to create a bridge between local and international. The project allows consumers to have a say in where their money goes, while supporting global artisans and both local and global entrepreneurs.

The artisans that Giving Joy works with are located in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Bangladesh, and India, and Kolin has personal relationships with each of them.

After verifying that the businesses are led by women, Kolin purchases goods from the artisans and sells them, both online and at local markets. With their purchase, Giving Joy customers get to vote for which entrepreneur or organization they’d like to see receive the grant. All revenue from customer purchases currently goes to funding the grants and purchasing new goods.

Grants are given to winners in several installments based on their reporting back to Kolin, which Kolin says holds grant winners accountable.

Boston-based multimedia artist Ngoc-Tran Vu won a $500 grant from Giving Joy in April. She’s used some of the grant to register for classes on finance and purchase QuickBooks software for small-business accounting. She says the grant has allowed her to see her art practice as her business.

“It made me really get in the mindset of seeing myself as an entrepreneur, and as a business owner, even for artists,” she says. “I have to really, in order to be sustainable, think of myself as a business owner and what I want to do and how I can be sustainable for my practice and my work.”

“Even a little money, you can do a lot of good, but it’s more about giving opportunity,” Kolin says. “So many women just don’t have that opportunity. And if you give them that first, if you crack the door open, they run with it. That’s really my dream, to give more and more, to open the door a little bit for women, especially for women to run it and women helping women the same way.”

The third aspect of Giving Joy, which Kolin says “happened organically” with the development of her business, helps crack open the door by teaching skills like grant writing and resource mobilization for nonprofits. Kolin is collaborating with the Center for Women & Enterprise to host workshops for women on these subjects.

In the future, Kolin hopes to increase the size and frequency of Giving Joy’s grants, and to include local artisans in Giving Joy’s products. She also hopes to develop a brick-and-mortar space for Giving Joy, which could act as a storefront and as a place for female entrepreneurs to gather and exchange ideas.