Julie Schlosser has always been interested in charity work. When she wasn’t busy working as an associate editor at Fortune magazine (first in New York, and then at the DC bureau), she spent her time on two things: fashion and altruism.
“I did a lot of volunteer work,” she says. “But I was frustrated that there was never enough time to do everything I wanted.”
So when Lee Clifford, a former colleague in New York, called her up one day in 2009 and suggested they start a business that would let them make philanthropy their focus, Schlosser jumped at the chance. Three weeks later, they quit their jobs, and Altruette was born.
The concept was simple. As a young girl, Schlosser adored the charm bracelet her mom wore for special occasions, so she and Clifford decided to take the idea of a charm bracelet and add a charitable angle.
Instead of representing memories or momentous occasions, each charm would symbolize (and directly benefit) an organization. For example, when someone purchases a tiny gold panda to add to her bracelet, half the profits from the sale go directly to Friends of the National Zoo.
Schlosser and Clifford started with charities they loved, such as DC-based microlending site Global Giving and playground constructors KaBOOM, and worked with the organizations and a modelmaker to select each design. In their first year, they started with ten charities.
As the business expanded, so did the list of causes. Nowadays, they’ve got 34 designs (11 of which are for Washington-area charities) in both gold and silver to pair with bracelets, necklaces, key rings, and even cufflinks.
Altruette’s designs are available through the online shop, or at Georgetown boutique Wink. Schlosser and Clifford are hoping to expand to more in-store locations across the country in 2012.
Schlosser says a charm bracelet is a great gift idea for the guy who agonizes year after year about what to get the woman in his life.
“A lot of men start off buying their girlfriends or wives a bracelet and one charm,” she explains. “Then they can just keep giving another one each year. It’s an ongoing gift.”