Tis the season to shop. And this year, the Reese sisters hope hearts will rule when it comes to picking out presents. Specifically, they want shoppers to purchase with purpose—to look beyond the person receiving the gift to the person who made it. “Buying is a powerful choice. We can each make a difference with where we put our money,” explains the oldest of the four, Erin. “It’s really important to be conscious consumers. There’s a human being behind every product, whether it’s clothing, a candle, or Christmas ornament. Their lives are valuable.”
Holiday music fills the air, as Erin restocks shelves inside Given, the sisters’ store on East North Street, just a few steps from Fork & Plough. The back wall features bright purple and lush green blankets, each made by a woman at risk in Bangladesh. A center table holds scented soy candles poured by Tha Thay, a refugee from Burma. Tassels, totes, and towels from East Africa, Rwanda, and Peru spill from displays alongside on-trend clothing and colorful cards. Goods sold within the airy, 900-square-foot boutique are helping to feed children around the world, remove women from the sex-trade, and educate young and old. The entire shop is curated with socially conscious items, made using fair-payment principals, by sisters whose souls are like-minded in mission.
It’s taken several years to transform their vision into a brick-and-mortar concept cementing worldly causes. “It started with a conference we attended that opened our eyes to human trafficking, world hunger, and global crisis,” recalls Erin. “We all left feeling like we needed to do something.” The Reese ladies prayed for a year, conducted research, and even made detailed lists of each other’s skills to devise a way to partner and create change. Beth works with preschoolers. Jessie sells insurance. Caitlin conducts marketing. Erin had retail experience, managing local shops Swoozie’s and InsideOut at Home. Three years later, the creative quartet returned to the conference to launch Given with $1,500 in seed money.
After running a website and pop-up shops out of Erin’s home, the siblings opened the store next to Shaw’s Pharmacy one year ago. “The more we sell, the more we can buy from these companies that are paying living wages and creating sustainable communities,” says Erin. “The more orders they have, the more people they can employ, and it’s a circle of continued success. It’s really fulfilling when a jewelry designer you’ve been buying from for several years says she just bought her first home, or the lady who pours candles is able to send her kids to college.”
Several of the shop’s 30 vendors are local, including Jocelyn Conrad, founder of Jocie Pots, who also gives back to groups assisting those in need. “When someone purchases my pottery, it gives me joy knowing there’s a purpose behind it,” shares the artist. “It’s really important to know your items are not made in a factory with poor wages and poor practices.” She also admires the aesthetic at Given. “It’s modern and contemporary, with prints and colors you can use in your closet.”
New Delhi, India. Jinja, Uganda. Greenville, South Carolina. Every penny spent at Given empowers a life in a corner of the world. “Being able to help others in this simple way, it’s a blessing,” says Erin. “There are so many things that are so big, you don’t know how to help. In doing this, we can be a small part of making some of those vast problems a bit less.”