Shop local. Those two words have never meant more than over the recent past and present years. The pandemic has forced small businesses all over the world to close their doors for good. And with the focus now on online sales, customers are combing through more small businesses, wanting to help keep them afloat. It goes without saying that shopping local means supporting dreams. Supporting families. Supporting the fabric that ties economies together.
In our desire to highlight small businesses who give back to society, who have social consciences weaved into their very fibre, we sat down with Shirley Sze, the founder of C.J.ROCKER, to learn more about her mission to end sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.
At C.J.ROCKER, they believe in leaving the world better than they found it. Whether that be through their stunning jewelry or their work supporting victims and survivors of sex trafficking. Their mission is to leave no girl behind. By first rescuing victims out of the sex trade, and then supporting them until they are self sustaining, C.J.ROCKER provides freedom and a second chance to those who were forced into trafficking. They believe that every girl deserves a life free of violence, fear and exploitation. Every girl deserves freedom, safety and love. With a portion of proceeds from every purchase, up to 25%, being donated to local and global non-profit, this award winning jewelry brand has raised over $50,000 since their launch in 2017.
Here are four questions that we hope helps you get to know C.J.ROCKER a little better.
Why did you decide to be a socially conscience business. Why did you choose the cause that you support?
It was a no brainer for me. It was part of the reason why I started C.J.ROCKER. I always had one foot on the entrepreneurial floor, so when I finally took the plunge and quite my 9-5 to launch C.J.ROCKER (yes, I quit my steady career before I even sold one piece of jewelry. Not sure if that was the smartest idea but it’s now part of the story), supporting cause was already built into my business plan.
As for why we chose sex trafficking, that’s a longer story which I’ll cover in the next question.
“I could not ignore that story, it shook everything in me. The way I know how to help financially is to host galas, and that is how we raised another $38,000.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your story?
When I was planning the launch event for C.J.ROCKER back in 2017, I opted not to do the glitzy party at a posh supper club. Instead, I took the glitz and threw a fundraiser gala. The idea actually came to me while I was alone, in a tent in San Fransico, on a personal development course. When I decided on the gala, I immediately wrote down “sex trafficking”, not realizing why, Eventually, I would come to realize that it was because unlike the media today, no one wanted to talk about little girls being forced into the sex trade. I get why, but not talking about it, doesn’t make it go away. Planning the gala, I completely immersed myself in research. I watched every documentary I could get my hands on and spent countless days reading articles. The more I read, the more my heart broke. But the more determined I became. The goal for our first fundraiser gala was to donate $10,000 to Covenant House. We were incredibly overwhelmed with the support and was able to hand over a check for $12,000, $2,000 over our goal. Because the event literally took everything out of me, I was working 21 hour days, with reluctance, I vowed that our first gala would be our last. And then, I heard a story that would change my life.
In 2018, I met Angela, the founder of One Body Village Canada who told me one of the worst stories that I have ever heard. I should probably warn readers that this is graphic.
Angela asked me the question I get all the time: “Why sex trafficking? I explained that two causes break both my heart and my brain if I try to understand them: sex trafficking and organ trafficking. With sad eyes, Angela told me a story that still causes me grief. A 6-year-old boy that Angela met at a shelter in Malaysia showed her his scar. He had his kidneys removed. When my brain finally understood she was telling me that sex trafficking victims who get pregnant are now forced to have babies to use for organ trafficking, I couldn’t sit back and do nothing. I could not ignore that story, it shook everything in me. The way I know how to help financially is to host galas, and that is how we raised another $38,000.
How did you refocus your business in 2020 and what are you looking forward to in 2021
2020 was no doubt a challenge but we took the opportunity to really dial down on creative Marketing and refocus on reaching our customers on a more one to one level. We worked on a new collection that will launch this year.
There is so much for us to look forward to in 2021. We had to postpone our fundraising gala last year and we’re ready to get back to planning!
Can you share your most memorable moment for C.J.ROCKER
Handing over that first cheque for $12,000 to Covenant House was an absolutely incredible moment for us.