Jewelry Made by Women of the North to Empower Women of the World
By Chris Olsen
Ginger Neilon’s Whyography is one of more than 30 stories featured in the “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose” book.
Ginger Neilon’s mom was rushed to the emergency room. It led to a shocking cancer diagnosis, a major surgery and an emotional hospital stay. “If anything happens, I’ll raise the girls,” Ginger promised. She was in her 20s and adored her two youngest sisters—ages 8 and 10 at the time. She treated them like they were her own daughters. She invited them for sleepovers at her house and chaperoned their school field trips. Ginger knew that kind of reassurance was what her mom needed. And she meant it.
Ginger had been working in health care and decided to go back to school to become a registered nurse. But after taking a required elective course in art, Ginger realized being a nurse wasn’t what she was interested in. She’d always been artistic, and now she considered putting her creativity to work as an interior designer. There was just one problem: The university had discontinued its interior design program.
Ginger arranged an internship with a local interior designer and boutique owner. She thought it’d help her decide if interior design was the right path. While she learned the ins and outs of the business, the owner discovered Ginger made jewelry in her spare time. She asked her to create some original items to sell in the store. Customers couldn’t get enough of Ginger’s designs. As demand increased, Ginger finally realized what she was truly meant to do. She officially launched Baubles and Bobbies in 2014. Her jewelry collections are inspired by nature, and each piece is designed to make a statement.
Though Ginger’s mom beat cancer, she experienced ongoing health issues. After an extended stay in the hospital and returning home to begin hospice care, she asked Ginger if she and her husband would follow through on adopting the girls. Ginger had inherited many wonderful traits from her mom, including a deep devotion and commitment to family. She assured her mom she would make good on her promise to adopt her sisters.
After losing their mother, and in a new role as mom herself, Ginger began to see the world through a different lens. When she learned how common sex trafficking is—particularly for vulnerable young girls in rural areas—she wanted to make sure her sisters were safe. As business grew, Ginger realized she could use it to support causes that were important to her. She chose to start donating a portion of her proceeds to organizations working to stop sexual exploitation of girls and women through the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and its Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale initiative.
In early 2019, Ginger became part of a joint retail venture called Six for Good with five other female founders—Lauren VanScoy of EssenceOne, Anna Hagen and Nikki Hollerich of Hagen and Oats, Robyn Frank of Thumbs Cookies, and Sairey Gernes of Towel Topper and Urban Undercover. It was a perfect fit and the right time for Ginger to expand her business. She feels fortunate to be collaborating with others who are as passionate about giving back as she is.
Photo: Baubles and Bobbies
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created Publish Her Story (formerly My Founder Story) and Publish Her as platforms for doing so.