Who we are
During Ashley LeMieux's senior year of college, she was an aid at an inner city high school in Phoenix. She was involved in a program called AVID which prepares students to enter college after high school graduation. The problem she noticed, was that most of the students didn't feel like college was on option for them. Many of the students Ashley began to mentor and grew close to would be the first in their families to consider college, had no financial resources, and didn't have adequate mentorship to help them get to the next level in their lives. Frustrated, Ashley turned to her social media influence to raise money to send a group of seniors to college. During this time she had also started a blog called The Shine Project to create an inspirational and motivational space on the internet where people from around the world could come and feel rejuvenated to tackle challenges that they were facing in their lives.
After giving 7 scholarships away, Ashley knew that raising money for these inner city youth needed to be more than a one time thing. She founded a non-profit organization, The Shine Scholarship Project, to be able to keep getting donations for the students. Every single student who received a scholarship would say something along the lines of, "Miss Ashley, it's not even about the money for me. It's the fact that people actually believe that I am worth something, that I can do it, and that I have a great potential inside of me. That motivates me more than anything."
Several months after founding the non profit, Ashley learned of a student's living conditions. The entire family was sleeping on their tile floor, without blankets or pillows, and the kids were missing school frequently because of a lack of money for bus tickets. Their fridge was empty, their plumbing hadn't been working, and there was nowhere for the kids to turn for help. Ashley realized that it was hard for a lot of the students to dream about their futures when they were unsure how they would live through the day. She knew she needed to take her passion for these youth one step further and create a for profit business that could employ them, so they could learn important business and life skills, be able to sustain themselves, and have guidance throughout their college experience. She wanted a product that people could wear as a daily reminder that they directly impacted someone's life, and created a positive change.
In May 2012, Ashley taught herself how to make bracelets. Her goal was to be able to employ the first few students that had received scholarships so they could keep earning money to stay in school, and have real life job experience that could set them up for success in the future. Ashley invested $500 in jewelry supplies and teaching the students how to hand make the jewelry out of her small two bedroom condo. One month later, in June 2012, Threads by The Shine Project launched. Ashley used her social media and friends in the blogging industry to help spread the word about the bracelets that the youth made.
"I prayed and prayed and prayed that at least my mom would buy something so that I could tell the students that we sold product that they made", Ashley said.
After the first week, all the bracelets were sold out. Some of them were made with Threads, which is where the company got it's name from. Ashley knew that selling a lot of threaded friendship bracelets would not be efficient since they took too much time, so they started focusing on bracelets with chain.
Since then, The Shine Project has opened their headquarters in downtown Phoenix. It's a place where students come after school to hand make your jewelry. They are involved in running everything from customer service, shipping, jewelry design, t shirt design, new product design, sales, and events. The students who are given scholarships through the non profit are then given jobs through Threads, so they can be mentored and guided every step of the way.
Over 40 scholarships have been given since 2011, and 100% of donations given to the non profit go directly to the students.
Threads by The Shine Project currently employees 11 inner city students.