An entrepreneur from a young age and a marketer by trade, Melody Murray CEO+Founder of JOYN, has a mission to provide comprehensive jobs with sustainable business practices. JOYN partners with talented artisans to create 100% handmade (and gorgeous) bags, “each bag is unique. No factories, no automation — because the more hands that it takes to make the products, the more jobs we are able to create.”
We were able to hear from Melody and discuss her business, her journey, and the system of “purposeful inefficiency” that drives JOYN.
What is the inspiration behind JOYN?
Melody: The mission and idea of JOYN – to JOYN marginalized communities with markets – was birthed in a small village in Uganda, where my husband, David and I, lived only 10 days after we married. We worked in an AIDS orphanage there and were devastated by the number of children who were given over to the orphanage due to lack of funds/jobs. We were also devastated that the orphans had little education and no vocational training – no hope for a better life. It was there that we knew we wanted to give our entire lives to giving access to jobs and work to as many marginalized communities as possible. We named our business JOYN – joining artisans with markets and bringing JOY in the process.
Have there been any catalyst events that have helped shape the company?
Melody: Many! When I moved to India and saw the plight of the street kids, I was determined to find work for as many as possible. When I saw how many sets of hands were idle, due to lack of opportunity, I created a system of “purposeful inefficiency” – we shut off all the machines, just so we could put more hands to work.
“We process, spin and weave the cotton by hand, we carve the blocks and print the designs by hand, we stitch by hand and process our leather – all by hand. The more hands, the more jobs.”
What are the long term goals for the company?
Melody: We join thousands of marginalized communities to markets. In the next 3-5 years, our vision is to be recognized by millions as a trusted brand, committed to craftsmanship. This vision will help us carry out our strategic, long-term goals.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Melody: There are too many challenges to record, but one of the greatest, most overwhelming challenges has been the area in which we are choosing to work. According to the World Bank, India ranks 155 out of 190 countries in “ease of starting a business”. I was one of the first foreigners to register a new business in our region and I was definitely one of the very first woman foreigners. We have had tremendous challenges, but each challenge makes us stronger.
What is your favorite bag style and why?
Melody: My current favorite is our all-leather handbag. I’ve been carrying it for 6 months now. I just can’t believe my team made such a beautiful, timeless and practical bag. It meets all my needs and I love how it looks. I know how many hands and how much art went into this bag and I carry it with pride. Oh, and I also ADORE my Weekender. I take it with me whenever I leave home for more than 1 day. It carries so much, so perfectly and I get compliments in every airport that I’ve ever traveled to/through.
What advice would you give to a customer who is looking to help your cause?
If you like our bags, buy them. We have no desire for you to feel sorry for our friends in India, though they’ve overcome some of the most difficult lives imaginable. It brings them so much pride and dignity when you buy our products and share with others about them. We want you to buy our bags and become loyal JOYNers because you love our products – you believe they are worth purchasing!
This September, we are focusing on self-care. What are your favorite ways to recharge and vacation?
Melody: If I have a beach, a book and a beer…I’m a happy girl for HOURS!
Thank you, Melody! And stay tuned for our Girlfriends Getaway Giveaway with JOYN on our social channels later this month!