How We Got Here or There and Back Again

Now Chase the Sun turned into an actual business soon after I visited South Africa early this year. One of my dear friends is South African, so we were visiting Capetown for his beautiful wedding in February. My husband had been discreetly nudging me to take a break from my job (I'd been managing enterprise customer relationships for tech companies in the Bay Area for the past 9 years), and do something different. He kept saying that with my being so creative, he couldn't believe that I had just stopped creating. He also pointed out that the state of the world seemed to bother me an inordinate amount. He'd say, you chose the spice you add to your life - that gives it the flavor. If you don't like the flavor - do something to change it! So we were chatting about that, as we were walking through Capetown one day, and there we met a woman on the street selling bead jewelry. My husband bought everything she had (a handful of bracelets she was selling to buy dinner for her kids that night), and she said to us “I do this, because it’s better than begging.”

That encounter struck me hard, as we'd just had a really beautiful lunch at the divine Shortmarket Club and here was this woman just trying to feed her kids one meal that day.

I live in a city with a lot of poverty, a lot of homelessness, but nevertheless she was the one that opened up my eyes and made me want to do something more than donating and volunteering a few hours a month. She made me start thinking about how to help people like her in a more tangible way. That led me to realize what I wanted to be doing next. (All this thinking and realizing made my head hurt, but it also made me realize how lucky I was to have someone support me and have my back while I tried this out - so thank you, thank you, to my eternally supportive and wise husband, Bart.)

Growing up in Sri Lanka with the ongoing ethnic conflict that pushed so many Tamil people to leave the country as refugees (more than 60,000 are still living in camps in Chennai, India), you are inescapably aware of the trauma, loss and devastation that people in the war zones of our island have suffered. Our initial goal was to figure out how to work with the Sri Lankan refugee population, to help them earn income.

By partnering with organizations and people who have identified opportunities to foster empowerment and rehabilitation in communities in need, we can be part of the movement towards change. We are working with refugees, struggling entrepreneurs and marginalized communities with high unemployment and typically low incomes for artists and craftspeople. We do this by designing, sourcing and curating our collection of high quality, ethically sourced jewelry and accessories made by artisans in these communities, and retailing them in the US. We buy the jewelry outright at fair prices, so the artisans see the positive outcome right away. We hope that as we gain brand awareness and recognition, we’ll be able to become a sustainable source of income to these artisans.

Right now, I’m now designing and making a line of necklaces and bracelets myself called the Bay Area Charity Collection (something I never expected I’d do) because I want to support our local community endeavors. Also, to be really creative with design, I have to be able to do the work myself. 15% from the Bay Area Charity collection, will go to support Bay Area causes. In September, we supported the Haven Humane Society in thanks for their efforts in rescuing animals from the Northern California Carr wildfires. In October we will be hosting a beading evening. 15% of the sales of the bracelets we make will be donated to Glide in support of San Francisco’s homeless population.

Now Chase the Sun as a business, happened because of serendipity. Each partnership we have formed, has been the result of a happy coincidence, because good people connected us to other good people. You can read more of the story in the “Partners” section of our website, so I won’t re-tell it here!

So far, we have four partners, and we hope to grow and scale to add more organizations and individual artisans to our platform and to market their art and crafts in the US. We are in the process of developing our website and a small collection of our products is available in Union Square, at Ron Pernell Hair Studio – which is super exciting, as Ron is a fashion industry veteran (featured in the SF Chronicle and Apartment Therapy), working with some of the biggest brands in the US. I’m really honored that he wants to carry our collection in his studio.

Our launch party was a huge success this weekend. Big thanks to Guyomar Wine Cellars and the amazing Ishka and Mareeni Stanislaus, for hosting our launch at their beautiful summer wine club party in Templeton, California. We are so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this incredible event that wine club members look forward to all year!

I have to say we wouldn’t be here today if we hadn’t had so much support. Introductions made at the right time, advice given at the right moment – and loads of tears and laughter along the way. Our models are all good friends of ours, as are our photographers, financial advisors, and fashion industry advisors. I feel really blessed by the amount of love and support we’ve encountered on this journey. That’s the real wealth, isn’t it? Good people!

We have already shipped to Singapore, the UK and one of our Maasai dog collars is on it’s way to Sweden! All I can ask is that everybody spreads the word, and we come together to build this wave of good – we can make change happen, and we already are!

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“No one has ever become poor by giving”

Anne Frank

Thank you so much to our amazing customers for the overwhelming support at our kick off event!


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