Written by: Stephanie Blum

Elizabeth Lahey (or Lizzie, as she likes to be called) was born in the Midwest and describes herself as “coming from the non-profit world.” Graduating with a major in Strategic Communication from Miami University of Ohio, she always had a passion for social entrepreneurship and appreciation for jewelry. Lizzie was awarded a scholarship to study at the Gemological Institute of America for an immersive jewelry design course last year and she is now based in New York City where she runs her jewelry company and social enterprise, PHOEBE. 

Previously, Lizzie spent over seven years working for an organization that provides mentorship and life-skills to at-risk girls in Africa. While working there, she traveled to Kenya. Her eyes were opened to the high level of unemployment in the slums and the profound impact gainful employment can have on a family’s well-being and access to quality education. Through her work, Lizzie was also introduced to and started mentoring a young girl in Kenya named Phoebe. Lizzie wanted to find a way to help support Phoebe and her siblings’ education. Combining her passion for jewelry and international development, Lizzie launched PHOEBE (affectionately named after her mentee) intending to support Phoebe’s college education and to provide sustainable and meaningful work for artisans across Kenya. 

PHOEBE launched its e-commerce website (shopphoebe.com) and first jewelry collection in 2017. Working with artisans on the ground, Lizzie aims to increase the company’s impact and the number of artisans it works with. In the long term, Lizzie hopes to launch a training school in Kenya to develop jewelry making skills for youth. Her work has directly impacted more than twelve people and she wants to continue providing educational opportunities for children. PHOEBE is committed to creating social and economic impact for artisans and their families.

Lizzie describes her efforts in operating her enterprise as “a one-woman show”. Being the Founder and Creative Director of the company brings challenges. Some of the challenges that Lizzie described are the learning curve in how to communicate desired jewelry designs in a way that could be produced at the artisan workshop and the marketing and website development for a company that relies primarily on e-commerce sales. But all of those challenges have rewards, Lizzie can help provide sustainable income for artisans and help them have more consistent orders for their workshop. Lizzie’s mentee Phoebe was the inspiration for that and being able to support her education keeps Lizzie working hard. Shopphoebe.com can “check all of the boxes” for its customers, it sells ethically made, affordable jewelry, with a modern design aesthetic, and, of course, has a social component to it, doing good for others. Lizzie describes her product as “ethical, everyday jewelry essentials for the modern woman” and says “the story of PHOEBE resonates with many customers.”

 Y&Y has been helpful by providing an online portal that has allowed Lizzie to refine her business plan and concept. Also, her mentors, who have a wide range of skill sets, as well as retail and digital marketing experience, are helping her scale her reach through guidance on the implementation of digital marketing, social media, newsletters, and blog content.

What keeps Lizzie motivated to continue her venture is her passion to help others and reach their goals: “Following your passion does not feel like work”. Supporting Phoebe keeps Lizzie motivated as well, knowing that her next college tuition will be covered is a great feeling. Lizzie keeps in touch with Phoebe regularly. You can learn more about the brand and shop online at www.shopphoebe.com.