I had a quintessential Americana childhood in a tiny Midwestern town. I always knew I was a lucky little kid with a magic creek in a woods and a veritable petting zoo of my very own. Mom instilled a love for learning, creating and getting good at different endeavors and cool tricks like grass-blade whistles and double heel clicks. Dad inspired big picture thinking, compassion for animals and to seize the day (and the fun). A Bachelor’s in Marketing and Research from Ball State University expanded my passion for connecting people to products and ideas and it was there I discovered Cause Marketing, which would become the love of my professional life. A surreptitious full scholarship MBA from Kent State University taught me how to turn it into an incredibly gratifying career.
Enter Karma – From Kent State I spent an adventurous year in India working as a marketing consultant in Hyderabad. Nights and weekends were spent connecting with people, eating everything in sight and learning as much as I could, including the art of mehendi which later played a role in bringing about some of the greatest designs, friendships and experiences in my life. In India I also learned the power of influence. As the first American woman and just the fourth non-Indian (it was 1993) to live in this city of 9 million, I leveraged my minor celebrity status to speak out and make a difference. I promoted women’s rights, human rights and touched every single “untouchable” I met. All to the shock of many around me, including the “untouchables” themselves, who went from confused to concerned to shocked and then on to ecstatic as I held babies and gave hugs. Living in a land where karma is considered a natural, constant state of life, solidified and reinforced my belief in its never-ending, inevitable return.
Nonprofit Experience – I returned to the US and became the diversity Outreach Specialist for Girl Scouts in Stockton, California which at the time was the most ethnically diverse city in the nation. I worked with women and girls from dozens of cultures and joined my first of many Boards of Directors (the Volunteer Center of San Joaquin County), which exposed me to hundreds of nonprofit organizations changing lives. I have chaired and served dozens of great causes and currently serve as the Executive Director for a 501(c)(3) which grants funds to help kids thrive, one kid at a time.
Connecting People – As a consultant to the State of California directing an HIV epidemiology/prevention/intervention study, I brought together people from all walks of life, from healthcare professionals and research scientists to nonprofit leaders, individuals of HIV positive status and at-risk groups such as needle users and workers from the sex industry. Our award winning proposal epitomized the fact that the best solutions are collaborative and we all have a role to play. Later, in Tucson, I chaired an effort for many years, connecting kids (eventually, in all time zones) with one moment of positive, focused thought, which included teacher’s tips and discussion topics to help kids grasp and begin to wield the power of their own thoughts and attitude.
Cause Marketing – With the fortuitous move to Tucson, Arizona I stepped into the for-profit world with a nonprofit twist. Working for a national chain of family entertainment centers I launched a comprehensive Cause Marketing campaign partnering with a dizzying array of nonprofits. Business flourished, the nonprofits benefited and families were inspired to do a little good when they had a little fun. It was the late 1990s and Cause Marketing was a relatively new concept. I authored a guide book and presented to national audiences how being good is good for business.
Creative Endeavors and Inspiration – Tucson is rich with artists, musicians, change makers and influencers. It has proven to be the perfect home base for a life of abundant inspiration. I’ve partnered with dozens of nonprofits over the decades and I was proud to be named Tucson Humane Society’s Humane Individual of the Year. Through SAAVI, I collaborated with a visually impaired artist, adding Braille to her canvasses which not only led to the best coincidence of my life (IOU a blog post on that story), it sparked the idea of Braille jewelry. I was exposed to fire performance art and learned from the Artistic Director of Flam Chen, arguably the finest pyrotechnic troupe in the world. I also took advantage of Tucson’s abundance of community education classes, learning stained glass, welding, and silver jewelry sculpting. Diversity of all kinds abounds in the Old Pueblo, and it was here I found Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism and the Law of Attraction which in turn led me to Abraham Hicks. It’s been an exhilarating, abundant, fun, wild ride ever since.
Birth of a Website – In the late 90s the world wide web was starting to become more a part of life. I launched NiceGift.org, selling themed stained glass suncatchers aligned with (and raising funds for) ten nonprofit partners. Over time, I shifted the site to aNiceWorld.com sculpting jewelry one piece at a time in precious metal clay (PMC). The Nice boomerang was born and I launched the Braille jewelry line. At the time I hadn’t heard of or previously seen Braille jewelry. THAT was an extremely satisfying endeavor, leading to meaningful custom jewelry that was a joy to make and a connection to a greater understanding and people who would enrich my life experience.
A Nice World Reborn in Wax – On April 10, 2014 I more formally met Alex Streeter, an extraordinary New York based jeweler who had miraculously relocated to the heart of the Barrio (Viejo) in Tucson. Lo and behold Alex and I struck up a friendship. He’s not just an incredibly skilled, storied artist. He is the most vibrant, brilliant, fascinating and positive person I’ve ever met and a pure laugh riot. He was curious about PMC and together we created a piece which he then cast. This opened my eyes to lost wax casting and I soon took Alex’s advice to “Record the song and then print the records.” Thanks to Alex, I can sculpt a single signature item in wax or PMC, then cast any number of perfect replicas in sterling and bronze, raising more money (a whole lot faster) to make change. He also adds more interesting conversations and exhilarating fun to my life than I’dve imagined in my wildest dreams.
And Now – Here we are, with an abundance of fun waiting to be had. It’s so exciting to feel the future unfolding and a joy to connect and create together to make the world a nicer place. Thanks so much. – Jill