This week, we have Kay McDonald in the She’s Trending interview corner. Founder of Charity Charms, Kay’s company is dedicated to bringing brands to life by creating custom charm bracelets for fundraising, cause awareness, and donor thank you’s. Inspired by people and passion, Kay McDonald is changing the world through the power of charms one organization at a time.
ST: Who is Kay McDonald, what do you do, and why?
KM: I am a believer in the power of charms. I help causes change the world and harness their power with my company called Charity Charms. Charity Charms is the culmination of my years in the retail and wholesale industry combined with my deep passion to help people.
ST: Tell us more about your background. Where did you grow up?
KM: Growing up I was the cliché “military brat.” My father was in the Air Force, and I spent the first 18 years of my life moving state to state. I went from Montana to Florida and other states in between, along with two stints in Europe (Greece and Italy). I feel so fortunate to have grown up like this because it made me adaptable to many situations and I also developed a love for people of all cultures and countries. At 20 years old, I moved to New York City and worked in the Garment Center while attending FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). I was always inspired by my mother’s grace and sense of style, which is why I was drawn to the fashion, accessories, and charms. The next 15 years, I continued to travel the world with my work as a department store buyer and VP of an Indian clothing company. All the while collecting amazing accessories. In addition to the fashion aspect, I experienced poverty at its greatest while working in India, and vowed that I would use my talents for good in some way. At age 35, I started a women’s accessory company called Regalia with my wonderful business partner Karen Lovcik. A percent of all the sales from events were donated to charity for the 18 years that we owned the business.
ST: Your love for charms began at an early age, and your grandmother had a lot to do with that. What type of impact did your grandmother have on your life?
KM: My grandmother was a strong woman. Her name was Eleanor Howard and she had a college education before most women even knew it was possible. She was smart and had a wicked sense of humor (which she needed as she had six children and then thirteen grandchildren). One of my favorite memories was her magnificent charm bracelet with all the silhouettes of her grandchildren that would tinkle and make a happy sound. We would all want to see “our charm,” the one with our head and the other fun ones from trips and adventures. This is where I developed my love and fascination for charms. My cousins and I are writing a book about our grandma called “The E-Factor.” She instilled strength in us as women by telling us we could do anything. She gave us great tools for life.
ST: Before Charity Charms was founded in 2004, you had been in the jewelry business for about 25 years. When did you have that aha moment and realize Charity Charms was something that you wanted to pursue?
KM: Owning my jewelry company Regalia for 18 years made me realize the need for quality items that companies could give to donors and supporters for engaging campaigns. Then, in 2003, a whole resurgence of charms began. Charms had not been a “hot item” for years but were making a comeback in a big way. I knew that my life’s calling was not to just sell jewelry. That’s when I had an “aha” moment where I realized I could create custom jewelry (namely charms) for charities. I could help them raise funds and awareness while utilizing the resources and merchandising skills I had developed through my years in the industry. My true moment and core of Charity Charms was when I decided to focus on making the charms out of the charities logo. I had spread a bunch of charity brochures on my dining room table one day, and as I looked down all the wonderful icons and their logos stood out to me. Wow, these would make amazing charms! The aesthetic that guides our look is the icon on the front, and the charity information on the back. That way, the charm is a miniature work of art, a meaningful, wearable token that brands the charity in a subtle way.
ST: We love that organizations, schools, and charities have the opportunity to tell their story and raise awareness about their cause with a charm. Do you remember the first organization you created a charm for?
KM: Oh yes! The first organization was the Arizona Humane Society. I picked them for several reasons: I love animals, I had friends working in the organization, and they had an adorable logo with three icons that we turned into three charms. The three charms were underwritten, and the executive director at that time was Cheryl Nauman. She embraced this new concept and was willing to be the first adopter. This really launched Charity Charms. An added benefit was that our adorable Yorkie mix ” Rufus” joined my family after being adopted at Compassion for Fashion…the signature event AHS puts on every year.
ST: Back in 2011 you wrote, “Wow…. didn’t realize my birthday would show up to the world when I created my Facebook profile (sorry…still learning!) …but what an amazing birthday I had with tons of great messages…thanks to all!” How are you with social media now?
KM: Well truly, I need to be much better. Social media is an integral way to tell stories and connect with causes. I do much more with my business social media than I do personally. LinkedIn and Pinterest are the two we focus on because we are a B2B business. LinkedIn provides a way for me to connect directly with the people I need to engage with such as non-profit executives and corporate executives, while Pinterest provides an idea forum.
ST: We noticed that your celebrity look-alike happens to be Ariana Grande on social media! Do you have the vocals of Ariana Grande and can we find you singing to one of her songs in the car?
KM: Oh my gosh…singing is one talent I DO NOT have. Although, those that know me well can usually pull out my rendition of Janis Joplins “Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz”…when provoked at a karaoke party. Cover your ears though…it’s bad.
ST: When you are not busy helping the community and creating new charms, what do you like to do in your free time?
KM: I absolutely LOVE to cook. I never use a recipe, and it is my “wind down time” at the end of the day to open the fridge and just create. I am really into presentation and love to entertain friends and family. And back to my Grandmother, she could make a meal when there appeared to be no food. I do the same, or so I have been told. I also plan trips all the time. Where’s next? Life is an adventure…keep it coming!
ST: What do you want the readers to know about Charity Charms and how can people get involved?
KM: Charity Charms has been blessed to create custom charm programs for over 500 organizations, schools, and cause-minded businesses since 2004. We are really a niche business that provides private label, custom charms, and jewelry that help these entities spread awareness for their brand and mission. The charms are not available to individuals through us but must be acquired through the organization. Individuals can fund a charm program for a charity, and we love to get recommendations and connections through individuals for organizations that could benefit from a custom charm.
ST: What do you see in the future for Charity Charms?
KM: We have many dreams and plans. Our main goal is to help Change the World by having a “Charm on Every Arm.” That means that people worldwide will be wearing the charms, talking about them, and spreading the message of hope and gratitude. We constantly seek to align with new partners and resources to help spread good news through the power of charms. There are 1,800,000 charities in the USA…we are just getting started.
ST: With all of our interviews, we like to sign off by saying thank you! We know you’re trending, which is why we chose you to be one of our featured guests. In honor of our tradition, we would like you to finish the sentence…I’m trending because…
KM: I’m trending because I care.