Laura Wilson of White Bluff, Tennessee would sit and watch her guitar builder husband as he would throw hundreds of old guitar strings in the trash. She thought it was such a waste of great metal. What she didn’t know is strings are made from mixed metals and cannot be recycled therefore they just end up in the landfill.
“I thought I could do something interesting with them so I started making jewelry for myself,” explains Laura. “Then my friends wanted them. Then they encouraged me to take them to art shows and craft shows.”
Her little hobby quickly turned into a business. During this same time she realized her neighbors were struggling to feed their kids. Laura says, “These were people on our own street. Our neighbors. Our kids went to school with their kids. And those kids were going to school hungry. We looked around at what is a pretty sweet life for us and knew we needed to do something, we just didn’t know what. But we knew we had this little hobby business. We sat on the back porch of our house and started dreaming.”
A Recycling Business With a Mission
That is when the idea for Strings for Hope was first conceived. Laura and her husband took their hobby business and became purposeful with it. They began taking their bracelets to music festivals to raise money for local food banks. They also began working with people in need to make the jewelry so they could earn a living wage.
Laura explains, “We knew the root of food insecurity in American wasn’t just about putting food on the table but getting people healthy and learning job skills so they could stay in work. So we created our business as a non-profit organization with the mission of financially supporting food distribution, medical services and education. We gathered up a Board of Directors and some volunteers and Strings for Hope was born.”
Guitar strings are donated from various companies like D’Addario who is one of the largest string manufacturers in the USA, along with Gibson Guitar and Nashville Violin. Laura says, “They send us strings that didn’t make the cut in their factory to go out the door. Although they are flawed in the eyes of the musician, they are perfect for us, keeping them from going into landfills.” They even get strings from various celebrities including actor Sam Palladio from ABC’s Nashville.
They are doing twenty festivals a year including a third visit to Planetroo in the center of Bonnaroo – one of the largest outdoor music festivals in the country in Manchester, TN.
As a non-profit, they sell their jewelry online for a tax deductible donation. You can also find their jewelry in downtown Nashville at various vendor carts through street merchants. They are in Music City Marketplace inside Bridgestone Arena and at the Nashville International Airport.
“We’ve built our business on social media,” says Laura. “In fact it was a photo posted through Instagram that caught the attention of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp that started our relationship with their gift shops.” You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Giving Women a Second Chance
“I frequently get asked how we handcraft so much jewelry,” says Laura. “It really comes out of some truly amazing women. The Next Door in Nashville is a transition center for formerly incarcerated women or in recovery from alcohol or drug addictions. Their programs at TND run generally six months to a year.
“We work with some of the women there to teach job skills in making the jewelry. Not only are they learning skills that can translate to manufacturing, but they learn about purchase orders, inventory control, quality assurance and marketing. They earn money for each piece they make to help pay their program fees. These women who are working so hard to change their lives are one of the best experiences we have had so far.”
Belmont University Student Partnership
In 2013 they started working with Enactus, a student group at Belmont University that puts students together with organizations to get real life experience in running a social enterprise. Because of Belmont’s relationship with the local music industry, String for Hope was able to connect with great musicians to create their Artist Line including Florida Georgia Line and Steven Curtis Chapman. They collect used strings while on tour and create custom bracelets from those. They select a specific organization to support with the proceeds. FLG supports a scholarship at Belmont and Steven supports Show Hope to assist a medical clinic providing services to orphans in China awaiting adoption.
We are honored that Strings for Hope uses our Organza Sheer Bags for their jewelry. They especially love the copper and toffee colors. “We wanted something simplistic yet beautiful for the presentation of our jewelry. I started a web search and was thrilled to find Nashville Wraps. The hard part was making a selection from the gazillion choices they make available! I love the customer service whenever I have a question and how quickly my order arrives at my doorstep. Nashville Wraps is the best!”
This month, Strings for Hope took the first step to create a second location in another music mecca – Austin, Texas. They will be creating an “Austin” bracelet similar to their “Nashville” ones. You can partner with Strings for Hope and sell their jewelry in your gift shop! Strings for Hope another reason we love this Music City town.