I (Meagan) recently took my first trip to Nashville! The weekend included a surprise appearance of Carrie Underwood at the Opry, great new boots and a lot of cold brews, but the best part of my trip? Getting to stop by the headquarters of our new brand partner, Alyn Vaughn, and stopping by The Shine Project’s new storefront in East Nashville (more on that next month!).
My first stop in Nashville landed me on the doorstep of Carrie M., celebrity stylist-turned-jewelry-design maven. I felt at home instantly…and literally. Like I felt like I was at my house…in an amazingly kindred way. The table was covered in new jewelry designs, the dogs were barking like crazy and kids arrived with sticky hands from an ice cream outing. I was also greeted with a big hug from Nancy, interior design-guru-turned business-vixen, and yep, you guessed it, busy mom. Ahhh…we love do-it-all momtrepreneurs!
Given the meticulous execution of their jewelry line and clarity of mission, it’s surprising to discover the brand just launched in July. As with all brands we partner with, Alyn Vaughn is founded on a desire to better the world around us. Longtime friends and style junkies, Carrie and Nancy created Alyn Vaughn to empower Nashville college student apprentices through curriculum based employment.
You may be wondering ‘Why focus on helping U.S. college students. Don’t they already have an advantage over others?’
According to recent reports, millennials (ages 20 to 34) make up almost 40% of the unemployment population in the U.S. For the past several years, the unemployment rate of 22-28 year-olds has hovered around 13%, way above the national unemployment average of 4.2%. Couple that with the staggering price of acquiring a college degree, and well, you’ve got a generation swamped in debt.
“Millennials make up the largest percentage of our population today, yet have seen some of the lowest labor force participation growth and highest unemployment out of all age groups since the turn of the century, “
These days simply having a college degree is not enough to weather the climate of the post-collegiate workforce. Students need opportunities to acquire skill sets and business acumen while completing their degree. Alyn Vaughn has created a model that bridges that gap, allowing students to stretch learning beyond the classroom walls.
How it Works
Meet Ana. Her mom runs a cleaning company, her dad does commercial painting. Ana is a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) student, and thus does not qualify for financial aid. The average yearly cost of private institution is $46k a year. Public schools average between $15k-$20k a year. And the rate is rising at 2.9-3.6% per year. Whaatt???
Through Alyn Vaughn's student apprentice curriculum, Ana works year-round as studies permit and is paid hourly working in all areas of the company: Product Design (Ana is responsible for designing the brand's new bead wrap! ), Craftmanship, Wholesale Relationships, Sales, Inventory, Packaging, Shipping, and even Quickbooks. In addition to employment, $2.50 per hour Ana works is contributed to her Alyn Vaughn Scholarship Fund through product sales, which is funded at 1,000 hours worked. This equates to roughly $2,500 per year per student apprentice. (BTW- Nancy & Carrie have huge hearts, and thus have been known to help the kids out in advance of meeting the hours requirement too.) The student apprentice program is terrific; the program strengthens resumes and helps lower student debt. What we love the most, though, is that Alyn Vaughn is fostering young minds and enabling youth to discover new passions. Think of the future impact there!
Prior to joining AV, Ana was dead-set on becoming a nurse, focused intently on a health-based curriculum in high school. But now, after being mentored by Nancy during her junior and senior years of high school and working with AV, Ana has a new goal: She wants to be her own boss, and become an entrepreneur. Something she never considered in the past. We LOVE this! And we love everything about Alyn Vaughn. =) So please, support these amazing kids and grab a super stylish piece of jewelry in the process!
Meagan & Liz
PS: Inspired by this brand? Consider engaging and empowering youth in your own communities by implementing a curriculum-based work program. Nancy & Carrie are working hard to roll their program out city-wide in Nashville, and nationally. Contact them directly if you’d like to join the movement and stay tuned for updates!
 Bureau of Labor Statistics
 CNN Money, Oct. 15th 2017
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