“Do for one what you wish you could do for all.” It is a maxim with special meaning for Erin Smeltz of O’Jolie Designs. It is one her father lived by in his produce business and instilled in each of his five children. The ripple effect of these words are spiraling out beyond their Pennsylvania home into the terror ravaged cities of Iraq with every purchase of Erin’s “Love First” bracelet.
What part of PLC’s work resonates with you?
I was moved by the language used by PLC in regard to defying ISIS, waging peace and providing hope for families facing gross loss and devastation. Coupled with the opportunity to help women like me who want to care for their families, I wanted to be involved in coming alongside of survivors with the opportunity to operate a small business.
Why did that aspect appeal to you?
I am deeply grateful for my financial, political and religious freedom. My small jewelry business, O’Jolie Designs, affords our family to live comfortably, and my hope is for any woman in the world to have the same options that I do.
How did you decide to use part of your proceeds to benefit Iraqi families?
“Do for one what you wish you could do for all.” My father lived this out in all the years that he has been a business owner, so it is part of the fabric of our family to meet a need out of the overflow of our blessings. I fervently believe that all that I am given is not for me to hold tightly to, but it should pass through my hands to others as well. The more that our family lives this out, we experience peace and trust in a God who we know is always near. Our relatively large family lives on a "small" income by American standards, but we marvel at how God provides for us the more that we give away.
What do you envision your creative contribution doing?
My goal has been to help at least one woman receive the opportunity to start a business. Beyond that, I'm just doing the best that I can to walk out the gifts that God has given me to illuminate his love and grace for all people.
How did you get started in your artistic field?
I graduated from college with degrees in Business Management and French, and while I enjoyed a few design courses, I was set on working corporate America. After our oldest son was born, I decided to utilize my entrepreneurial drive from my basement laundry room instead of a luxe office. I marketed, sold and shipped a variety of fashion items until I found success hand-stamping jewelry.
One of my friends had a darling bracelet stamped with her kids names, and after searching for something similar and coming up short for an affordable option, I did what seemed like a better alternative...I bought metal stamps, took a few online classes and crafted my very own bracelet. I was so excited to hone my newfound skill, and so I began making gifts for friends. Soon those friends wanted gifts for their friends. I continued reading and researching techniques and reached out to other designers.
In 2010, after three, rowdy sons, my husband and I had a baby girl, named Olivia Jolie. When I decided to casually open an Etsy shop, I used her name because she was a bit of a diamond in the "rough." Things took off from there, and I've just been trying to keep up. It’s a humble success story in a billion dollar industry, but it's been a gift to me. My work is so incredibly rewarding because the jewelry I create is an expression of who you are and who you love. I get to hear all kinds of stories behind each piece from tragedy to triumph. They are meaningful to the people who wear them because they serve to remember, honor or celebrate love and life.
Is this a primary job for you or a hobby?
It is not my most important job. But I am a "German workhorse," and so I pour a lot of energy and zeal into my business. I take one day a week to "rest," but the other six days I'm quipping, "Feet don't fail me now." To my delight my children have the same entrepreneurial spirit and have sold homegrown produce, mowed lawns, made wooden toys, and held yard sales to fill their piggy banks and give to children through Compassion International.
My most important roles in life revolve around being married to a gem of a guy and supporting him in his position as a pastor, and raising our children. (Gabe, 11, Isaiah, 9, Ben, 7, Olivia, 5, Josiah, 2 and Anasophia, 9 months).
Tell me something unique about you.
I'm happy to be an ordinary kind of girl. :)
I had a charmed childhood. I was shaped by an incredibly supportive and stable immediate and extended family, of whom I adore. My parents had a produce business (how I learned to work hard), they opened a youth center in a warehouse on our property (where I learned to serve), they had 5 children (where I learned to share), one of my brothers lives with emotional and intellectual disabilities (how I learned empathy) and I have been part of the same church family my whole life (where I learned to love God's people).
I choose to see all the beauty of life, but I've had to wrestle with heartache and fear and found God so near in those moments. I am delighted to have emerged with a more grateful and amazed heart.
Erin, thank you for choosing to see the beauty in every life. Your tenacity and heart for the people of Iraq, crafted in the midst of your daily grind, is a living maxim for all of us.