Women around the world — but more specifically with this campaign, women in Uganda and women here in the States — they all want the best for their families.

I am a pessimist. I wasn’t always this way, but life’s experience pushes us down a very particular path, one that forces each and every traveler to confront the harsh realities of life — poverty, famine, refugees, terrorism, a list that never ends and grows with the passing days. Some of us watch this experience unfold from afar, flipping on the nightly news and gaping with horror as solemn news anchors describe all the terrible things people can do to one another. These viewers shake their heads sadly and say, “If only there was a way to help,” a sick feeling in their gut the only contribution they will ever make before rolling over in bed, turning out the light, and curling up around the one they love. It’s easy to feel empathy, but it’s hard to take action.

I am an optimist. I wasn’t always this way, but sometimes things happen in life that are so powerful, the only possible response is to humbly acknowledge that people can be kind and generous and thoughtful. Yes, there is ample ugliness in the world — there is also amazing beauty, a world filled with people who are willing to lift up a fallen stranger, dust them off, and tell them everything will be okay. Sometimes I turn on the evening news, expecting the worst, and see a story that is so uplifting I’m reminded humans can be incredible creatures when given a chance.

In this job, I speak with a large amount of business people who have built successful companies and concentrate exclusively on maximizing the amount of dollars that can be made — this is what business is, after all. On much rarer occasions, I speak with executives who have not only built successful companies, but who concentrate on maximizing the amount of impact they can have on the world at large — making money is fantastic, but giving back to a community rewards on a much different level.

Musana was started as a way to empower Ugandan women, creating jobs as jewelry artisans that in turn allow these women to provide food, clothing, and education for their households. The artisans create unique jewelry out of local materials, Musana sells this jewelry on their website, and the cycle of empowerment is strengthened.

Jane.com was started as a website featuring daily boutique deals for women’s clothing and accessories. Since their founding, Jane.com has grown to house 60+ employees in their Lehi-based office, with women comprising ⅔ of the workforce.

A chance meeting at the Illuminate Women’s Conference offered both companies the chance to work together. Out of that combination comes the #StrongLikeYou campaign, where Musana and Jane.com are partnering together with a common goal — “empowering women and providing the opportunity to make a difference in their lives.”

“Women around the world — but more specifically with this campaign, women in Uganda and women here in the States — they all want the best for their families,” said Mike McEwan, CEO of Jane.com. “Healthcare, nutrition, and just a better life for their families. That’s what Musana is doing and there are parallels in our own company, we’re providing opportunity for women to sell on Jane.com. We have 1500 active sellers and the vast majority of them are women.”

For the week of January 18 through January 25, Jane.com will be featuring various flash deals on Musana-crafted jewelry, with 100 percent of the proceeds donated directly back to Musana. You’ll never feel better about buying jewelry because not only will you look awesome, you will be empowering people to build a better life.

McEwan recently visited Uganda and was privy to an up-close look at the impact a business can have on the community.

“Musana is doing some really cool stuff with the community,” he said. “Really trying to help the community help themselves, rather than just spend money. At each home, I would ask, ‘What has Musana done for you? How has your life changed?’ Each of them couldn’t say enough about how Musana has changed their lives. Before, their kids couldn’t go to school, they didn’t have enough money. One of them said, ‘We used to burn candles’, then pointed to the lightbulb in their house and said, ‘Now we have electricity.’”

Let’s be clear, a very important distinction must be made regarding the word empower. Empowering does not refer to blind help, where one throws money and walks away, hoping that the flash of green can solve whatever the problem might be. Empowering is providing capable individuals, people who are strong and skilled and willing to fight for the ones they love, with the opportunity to share their skills with the world. This opportunity can come in many different forms, but it centers on the same idea — any person can be amazing if given the chance.

Musana believes this. Jane.com believes this. The #StrongLikeYou campaign was created to highlight this and through it, both companies are hoping that others will join them in believing.

“I think it’s important for any business or individual to give back, especially after going to Uganda and seeing the way these people live,” McEwan said. “We have so much. To give back in the right ways, it just seems right. It’s our responsibility to give back in any way we can using our strengths. Our strength as a company is marketing and web development and that’s a weakness of Musana’s. It’s cool to be able to use our strength to help them out.”

Published 1/22/2016