It all started with a hobby.
Gorjana Reidel, a Newport Beach resident, would design jewelry for friends and in 2003, she was surprised to have a Newport Coast boutique offer to sell her pieces.
With a staff of 16 in a Laguna Canyon artist's studio, the brand took a philanthropic route in 2008 by incorporating charity.
It began with a holiday food drive for the Orange County Rescue Mission, which they now call Team Hunger, at four Laguna Beach grocery stores. The first year, they had 10 people helping with the food drive. The next year they had 70 volunteers. Most recently, they had as many as 15 grocery stores participating in Orange County.
Last year, they took an extra step by incorporating their individual employees in charity work. Each employee gets to choose a charity and gorjana will design a product for that nonprofit. Throughout the year, 50% of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit group, and during one month 100% will go to the charity.
This month is Product Development Manager Lisette Espinosa's charity of choice, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County. Her husband, John, inspired her to choose the charity because of his involvement in and appreciation for the program.
"He has been with his little brother Angel for four and a half years," Lisette Espinosa said. "Just seeing the benefits Angel's had with having my husband, John, in his life … it can be really life changing for these kids. He gets a lot out of it and I think Angel does as well."
Her design is an is an 18-karat gold-plated necklace with two hammered disks — a little and a big one — symbolically representing the relationships formed with the charity.
Jason Reidel, Gorjana's husband and chief executive of the company, thought involving the employees was a logical step.
"We want them to feel invested in the company," he said. "It's one thing to say as a company we donated $5,000 to this charity, but we felt it was important to give them the opportunity to donate to the charity of their choice. It's their cause. It's what matters to them."
They also decided to host a charitable event each quarter. Right now the theme is animals, and they're celebrating with Bowling Because at Bowlmor Lanes in Tustin. All the proceeds will go to the Best Friends Animal Society.
With the natural disaster that shook the world last week, the
On Friday, all proceeds from gorjana's sales will go to Kids in Distressed Situations (KIDS). The nonprofit is helping relief efforts in Japan by donating supplies and clothing.
"We just look at the social responsibility. We're very fortunate," Jason Reidel said. "We've grown each year we've been in business. We've been put in this position and we should give back."
All sales are done at gorjana.com. However, many boutiques sell their products such as Basics on Balboa Island.
How To Help
Events: "Bowling Because" Best Friends Animal Society fundraiser at 5 p.m. Sunday at Bowlmor Lanes at the District in Tustin