A {made} Community

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Childhood best friends Rachael Roewe and Tiffany Ralston returned home to Iowa to start a company building a community of artists that turn used goods into works of {made} art.

Tiffany and Rachael
This profile was written by Sheila Samuelson and first appeared in Little Village (Vol 13, Issue 133), Iowa City’s alternative news and culture magazine.

Rachael Roewe and Tiffany Ralston started out as childhood friends in their hometown of Burlington, Iowa. Both ventured out of Iowa and eventually found themselves back in their home state, and looking for new career directions. Reunited, in 2012 they joined forces to become co-founders and artists at {made}, an online shop selling artisanal goods that is based out of Iowa City.

For Roewe and Ralston, giving back isn’t an afterthought but an important part of their model. They put their money where their mouth is by donating a generous 9 percent of brand sales to local educational opportunities for women.

Little Village recently had the opportunity to learn more about {made} and its sustainable business model from Ralston and Roewe.

Recycled GlassLV: Tell us, what is {made} and how did it come to be?

Roewe: {made} is the brainchild of two girls who saw a need for locally made sustainable jewelry designs. We wanted to create a community of conscious consumers who appreciate what we do and value why we do it.

LV: Reuse and giving back are a strong part of your brand. Is this something that you designed into your business model from the beginning, or added over time?

Ralston: Reusing materials and giving back were part of our foundation from the beginning.

Roewe: Anyone can open a catalog and order supplies, the real makers look around and use what they’ve got and that’s what makes our work different and interesting. We love the full karma loop of good sourcing and giveback. To stop short at seeking profits only for ourselves seemed like cutting off the karma a bit. We believe in creating from materials we feel good about and then sharing any success we might have with other women and communities that inspire us.

LV: Do you have any particularly interesting examples of materials reuse, or have you had any challenges related to materials reuse?

Roewe: I love the challenge of taking things that would have been discarded and turning them into beautiful objects. Last spring and summer, we sourced many of our beads from auctions, antique stores and garage sales but by the time winter rolled around we needed a little freshening of our beadstock. This summer we are launching ‘Project Re:Make’ to encourage our customers to raid their grandmother’s closets, and their own, for beads and chains to send in for {made} online store credit. We think people want in on the repurposing. It’s just too fun not to.

Read the rest of this interview with Rachael and Tiffany at LittleVillageMag.com and see more of their work at madecommunity.com

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Profile written by Sheila Samuelson, founder of Bright Green Strategy in Iowa City, a mission-driven company dedicated to helping businesses and organizations of all sizes find success in adopting sustainability programs. You can find more on Sheila on Twitter at @TheBrightGreen or at www.brightgreenstrategy.com.

Little Village is a free alternative magazine covering Iowa City culture from refreshing perspectives.  Published on the first and third Wednesday of the month, Little Village is available in print across the Creative Corridor and online at LittleVillageMag.com.

Photos by John Richard, documentary filmmaker, photographer and owner of Iowa City-based Bocce Ball Studios. Find more on Twitter @JohnARichard and more of his work at boccecreative.com.

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