The influencers who highlighted Handmade by Friendship Bridge® to their social media communities last year (combined reach of 457k followers) were by no means obligated to do so. They were not going to get paid, nor were they going to receive commissions. They had no ties to Friendship Bridge, nor had they ever heard of the organization prior to receiving the initial email from the Handmade team. Still, they eagerly embraced the opportunity to partner with the program.
As was evident in their responses, they were thrilled, grateful, and enthusiastic about supporting the talented artisan women in any way they could. From Chicago to Los Angeles to Portland, Ginny, Janelle, Zeena, and Carlo each have their own, unique content and style, yet they share a passion for women’s empowerment and a desire to use their platforms to promote causes meaningful to them.
Read more about how the Handmade team established these relationships and what such a collaboration with Handmade by Friendship Bridge® entails.
From Market Research to Handmade Highlight
Influencer marketing made its debut in the Handmade by Friendship Bridge® marketing strategy in 2021; prior to that (and not counting the “indirect influencer marketing” that resulted from Bernie Sanders’ Swittens promotion), it had not been consistently utilized.
In the fall of 2021, the Handmade team conducted market research to identify potential social media influencers as well as small celebrities who might share values and/or support causes that align with what we do at Friendship Bridge. They then sent personalized emails to these individuals, introducing Handmade, explaining why we do what we do, and inviting them to join in this movement of empowering women.
In exchange and as a thank you to the individuals’ commitment to empowering women (this was also the subject line commonly used for the initial outreach emails), the Handmade team would send gift boxes with various handmade products, specially selected for each influencer. The influencer would then have the creative liberty to share the content however they saw fit. Some took photos, others created videos during their “unboxings” which they then promoted via social media stories. They showcased the products and information about Handmade as well as invited their followers to support the program and the inspiring women who make these products by hand in Guatemala.
“Love all you do for the hardworking women of Friendship Bridge in Guatemala.” – Ginny
The very first of our Handmade highlights in 2021 came from Ginny, a German teacher living in Chicago who creates content on lifestyle, motherhood, travel, hair, and more. On her website, she says, “Through my tips and stories, I hope to help just a few of you realize that you can dream bigger and make those dreams become a reality.”
Ginny not only highlighted Handmade back in 2021 and kindly told her teacher colleagues about Friendship Bridge and our mission, but she also did another awesome feature in January 2022!
The second Handmade highlight came from Janelle, an entrepreneur and influencer who is passionate about fitness and health and whose business, fitwsis (which she started with her sister) has the mission of guiding people toward a healthier lifestyle. She shares that fitness has made her happier, healthy, and overall motivated in life, and she hopes that these fitness plans help motivate others to stay on track and to live a healthier lifestyle. Her Instagram bio says “empowered women, empower women”, so the Handmade team had a feeling this would be a great match.
Our third Handmade highlight of the year came from TV presenter, Fitness Manager, and overall inspirational woman, Zeena Aqel. She uses her platform to speak up and advocate for what she believes in. Her Instagram bio also includes, “Empower women.” Zeena created a phenomenal video in which she introduced her 200k+ followers to Handmade by Friendship Bridge® – she provided details about the trainings and education the artisans receive, showed each of the unique gifts she had received, and reiterated her passion for women’s empowerment and encouraged her community to support these talented women.
And last but not least, 2021 was the year in which Carlo Novoa, from Guatemala himself and currently based in Los Angeles, became introduced to Friendship Bridge via a mutual friend of a long-time supporter and volunteer of Friendship Bridge.
A salon owner, an entrepreneur, a licensed prayer coach/practitioner, a motivational speaker, a trainer for big corporations worldwide… and most importantly, a humble man with a deep commitment to his mission to “uplift, sustain, and maintain my fellow sisters and brothers, & remind all of us that we are all ONE #mytribe“.
“The reason that I do this… what moves me the most is that it’s about empowering women. That’s the reason why I will continue to highlight the amazing organizations that you work for. It’s because when you empower women, women will, in turn, empower their village, empower their communities, and empower their families.” – Carlo Novoa
Maya, Manager of Handmade by Friendship Bridge® and Indira, Visual Design Coordinator of Handmade by Friendship Bridge® each had the opportunity and honor of participating in Carlo’s Wednesday Women of Power features (which are conversations about “… honesty, empowerment, vulnerability, courage, fear, trust, and everything in between”) in 2021.
Not only the Handmade team, but all of us at Friendship Bridge feel incredibly fortunate to have received the support of these inspiring, selfless, and passionate individuals. Their willingness to use their influential voices to elevate our message, to educate their followers about our mission and our work to empower women and eliminate poverty in Guatemala, truly means more than they know.