By Laurie Erickson, an EO Seattle member and CEO and president of The Finest Accessories, Inc.
As CEO of the Finest Accessories, Inc., I have more than 20 years of experience in the fashion accessories industry. My expertise is in the hair accessory business, such as barrettes, headbands and ponytail holders. While I have seen my share of “hair-raising” moments, one of the most memorable experiences occurred when a loyal customer asked me a simple question.
Hillary, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy, wondered what I had for someone who had lost the very thing I built my business around: hair. I apologized and told her we did not carry anything of that nature. And then it hit me: We work with hundreds of different silks … why not make her something vibrant and beautiful? I encouraged Hillary to go to our Web site and select her favorite silk print. I then had our factory make her a scarf at no charge. It was the least I could do for this woman, a devoted customer who wanted to feel beautiful during such a difficult time.
At a staff meeting later that week, we sent her the scarf along with a card and our good wishes for a quick recovery. It felt so good giving back to someone in need, and we wondered why we hadn’t been doing it all along. It was then that our Good Wishes Scarves program was born. Our mission is simple; to provide one free head covering—either an It’s a Wrap or scarf—to women and children experiencing the thinning or loss of hair as a result of illness or treatment. Each Good Wishes item comes with a message of hope that honors the courage and strength of each recipient on their path to healing and recovery. We want to bring a small ray of sunshine into the lives of those who need it.
It has been almost three years since we sent Hillary that first scarf and we’ve been able to touch many people since then. In the process of creating this outreach, I’ve learned that we all have something to offer, something we can do to make other people’s lives a little easier. I’ve also learned that giving comes with unexpected challenges. For example, while we have a tremendous ability to give, it can be difficult connecting with those in need. Finding the bridge to connect the two is not as easy as you might think.
Most sadly and perhaps most surprisingly, I discovered that in our society, people find it hard to believe that we’re giving these items away for free. This has been a strangely difficult message to convey. In my experience, I’ve also learned that I didn’t have to wait until I thought I could afford it. In the wee hours of the night I worried as to how I was going to pay to meet the need— what a waste of time. People do come out of the woodwork when you do something good for others. In fact, we became a bridge for others to give back, too. Our attorneys, CPA, graphic designers and printer (a Seattle EO member) have all graciously offered their services pro bono to help get our message out.
It has taken a tremendous amount of research, energy and outreach to get this program up and running, and it’s completely worth it. We are making a difference in people’s lives and we do believe in the power of sending Good Wishes. Not only are we doing our part to help our community, but an unbreakable bond has been formed among our staff. Now, when I find myself frustrated by the daily ins and outs of running my company, I think about how we are putting smiles on people’s faces, one person at a time, and easing the journey of strangers. I’m able to reflect upon what really matters, and somehow, the business woes that get under my skin begin to disappear.