In Defense of the Expense


Within the last month, I was invited to three (not one, not two – but three ) of the exact same brand’s adorable but expensive hosted-at-home jewelry parties. The accessories are trendy and cute, but a little on the pricey side.


It’s the kind of stuff that I used to roll my eyes SO FAR back into my head at — because I didn’t understand why a necklace (whose look-alike could be purchased at Target for less than half the price) cost so much. And, I didn’t understand the women who would ever consider buying it.


Okay. Let me just pause here for a second to give you a little bit of insight about myself.


  1. I’m a big fan of jewelry and I love a quality leather good.
  2. I’m what one would call a saver when it comes to money.    
  3. I am judgemental.
  4. I cry at commercials.
  5. I like feeling good.


Let’s start with the judgemental part.


So picture me, a few years ago, at a church event where there are tables of this same jewelry brand displayed for sale. (Please remember, I grew up in a church where jewelry wasn’t allowed. Like, at all. I was 18 when I got my ears pierced and had to show my ID because I went alone.)


Regardless, I’ve always loved jewelry. And despite my affinity for a fun accessory, I couldn’t help but feel that selling jewelry in a church building smelled a little like ‘money changers in the temple.’


I knew there was some sort of “do-good” aspect to the business model, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around why all these women were buying this jewelry. Why would anyone want to spend more money than they needed to — on anything?  (See #2 above.)


This judgemental mentality expanded in all sorts of directions: Why buy a too-expensive water bottle when you can get cheap ones at the sporting goods store? Why buy that minimalist baby toy made of recycled materials packaged in recycled cardboard for double the price of the brightly colored, potentially (but hopefully not) toxic plastic block set at the same place I buy throw pillows? Why buy that overpriced t-shirt? Wear those legitimately expensive shoes? Use candles/soap/socks/coffee you have to special order, a version of which could easily be found at the big box store down the road?


But then, (there’s always a but then) about a year or so after the jewelry-sold-in-church thing (I did not flip tables, no worries) the woman who sold the jewelry approached me about hosting my own too-expensive-jewelry party in my home. It was right around the time of our adoption.


Um, why?


Because this company, which employs artisans around the world (primarily women), who pays women fair wages and provides childcare and gives these individuals the dignity of reliable work, also donates a percentage of party sales to support adoption expenses.


Interesting, tell me more.


And that’s when she started in on the stories. About the women — the real-life women, some of whom she’s met — whose lives have been forever changed because of the very jewelry she sells. The very jewelry sold at her tables. She told me about the impact on those women’s children, their husbands, and their community.


It finally made sense: the reason this jewelry wasn’t the price of what you could find in the store down the road is because it’s handmade, by a person in another part of the world, whose livelihood relies on women like me — women like you — who are able to purchase it.


Yes, we can buy something similar that is mass produced for a cheaper price, but when we want to use our money to support a model of ethical business, we are literally putting our money where our mouth is. We can buy items that make real change in real communities — close to home and around the world.


And because I’m a person who cries at commercials (meaning, I’m a person who deeply internalizes stories), hearing the impact that a purchase I might make could have on an actual person, gave me a new perspective on the expense of those earrings I’d been eyeing.

It turns out — there are companies all over the world doing similar work. Companies who aren’t simply in the business of price and profit. But in one of purpose and potential. Businesses who provide reliable, respectable, safe, and fairly paid work. Work, in turn, which allows women, men, and children to live into their potential.


Generational change because I now have cute earrings? Sign me up.


So there I was, hosting a party, supporting women across the world, while also being the beneficiary of another woman’s willingness (my own friends’) to purchase a necklace or a purse to wear that holiday or give to her mom or sister-in-law.


The lesson I learned?


We can use our money to tell the world what we care about and what we value.


And here are some things I value:


  • I value women and men earning a living wage, being treated fairly, working in clean, safe conditions.


  • I value women who want to provide for their families and businesses who offer them dignity and respect and childcare.


  • I value a mother working so her children, who would otherwise be on the street or hungry, be fed and able to go to school.


  • I value quality over quantity.


  • I value businesses who give men, previously in gangs or on the street, work. Where the boss is a mentor, the environment is safe and welcoming, and the skills are a path out of a life of crime and hopelessness.


  • I value companies who support first families and offer living wages in communities where, in the past, an extra mouth to feed may have meant a child abandoned.


I value coffee that is roasted by men living in a shelter, so they can learn what it’s like to work and sell and support themselves in the future; candles made by formerly-trafficked women in Ohio for a company that also supports a community in Africa; leather goods made in Ethiopia by gifted craftsmen and women, but sold in America, to support the vulnerable women and children in the community in which the goods are made.


I value my own knowledge that the demand for certain goods, and therefore the livelihood and well being of others, is in direct relation to someone like me being willing to seek out, spend money on, and tell others about them.


I couldn’t make it to all three of those jewelry parties earlier this month, but I made a couple of purchases I feel really good about. With a gift certificate, I got this necklace.

Golden Arrows Necklace by Noonday. Made in Vietnam.

(The other purchase is going to be a gift, so I’m not going to show it here.)


During the holidays, and year-round, we can use our purchases to help — really help — people in our own communities and around the world.


We can use our dollars to tell others what we value.

Here are a few of my other favorite companies that have multiple levels of impact with a purchase. 


The Root Collective

These are the boots I bought nearly two years ago, and have never worn something so comfortable, adorable, or complimented. The picture at the beginning of this post is of my actual shoes. The fabric back is woven by women in the highland villages of Guatemala and the leather shoes are constructed by men turning from the streets and gangs, to work and finding purpose and value. I dare you to watch this video without crying.

Espe boot in Midnight

I pretty much want all their shoes.  (But quality and quantity can get expensive. Sad, but choices must be made.)  

If interested, here’s a link with a referral code.


Parker Clay

Oh my goodness, this backpack. It sounds weird, but the zippers zip so nicely, I fall in love with it a little bit more each time I open or close the pockets. Not to mention the color and the soft thick leather. Don’t get me started on the compliments — I guess people notice quality. And I love telling the story about how its purchase has an impact beyond me having a nice place to hold my pens. 

Miramar Leather Backpack by Parker Clay

If interested, here’s a referral code:


Eleventh Candle Co.

Started by a female nurse, this company employs formerly trafficked women in Ohio and part of the proceeds support vulnerable communities in Ethiopia. Again, I dare you to watch the video of the story without crying.

This candle? I love the smell of this scent (floral while not being overpowering) as well as the lavender one. I’m pretty sure every single scent is  lovely in its own way.

They sell little baby 2 oz. sizes up to 8oz as well as room sprays and wax melts.



A sustainable brand that became the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory. Meaning: they treat their employees fairly, produce a quality product, and want people to move from charity mindset to a trade mindset (i.e. from a give/receive model to a give/give one).  These boots are the very best in casual comfort.  

YABELA Rustic Brown Pullup

They have a video too. You wont cry, but you will learn how your shoe is made. And I can’t say I watched this without feeling total awe and connection to the fact that the shoes I wear were made by a real person across the world.


So whether we value buying local, supporting small businesses, companies that give back to causes we care about, or purchasing that thing that that friend is selling to raise money for her adoption; whether it’s ethically made clothing or your local artist — remember — together, we can support what we care about and make a demand for more and more companies to see that their customers value making a difference in the world.


Because I didn’t want to make this the worlds longest blog post, and because I don’t own them personally, here are two honorable mentions:


CuddleandKind  With a goal of providing 1 million meals a year in the US and around the world, through a “sustainable stream of giving,” these heirloom quality dolls, ethically produced by women in Peru, are nothing short of adorable and important. Their video will inform you on the importance of  being fed on a child’s ability to learn, as well as how they are empowering women. Yes, it might make you cry.

B.A.R.E. Soaps There is so much to say about this company I don’t know where to start. Bottom line: around the world, you can prevent a lot of horrible illnesses with proper hygiene. BARE stands for Bringing Antiseptic Resources to Everyone. This is soap you can feel very clean about.  


I guess this list could go on for a really long time. (Which is great.) I hope it makes a difference in your purchasing in the future.


What are your favorite “do good” brands? Let me know in the comments. 


***Much to the dismay of the friends/family who encourage me to seek out brands to partner with (so I can make some money from this blog), this is NOT a sponsored post. These are simply brands I own and love, or ones I plan to make purchases from in the future. I guess it’s also a way to say “yes, I know these are expensive, but this is why I bought them.” I love what these companies are doing and want as many people as possible know about them. Maybe consider sharing this if you want to spread the word. 

Sonya Spillmann

One Comment

  1. I love all of these that you mention! A great clothing brand that’s creating jobs for women coming out of trafficking is Elegantees. Biddle & Bop is another one for children’s toys and items.

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