Sept. 22, 2021

EP 12: CHRISTINE STREET GREGG OF CHOCOLATE & STEEL - LIFE AFTER ANTHRO

EP 12: CHRISTINE STREET GREGG OF CHOCOLATE & STEEL - LIFE AFTER ANTHRO
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
iHeartRadio podcast player badge
YouTube Channel podcast player badge

This weeks guest, Christine Street Gregg owner of Chocolate & Steel, is our 3rd interview in our ‘Life After Anthro’ series. Christine Street is the Founder and Designer of Chocolate and Steel, a jewelry line on a mission to empower women through genuine expressions of acceptance, love and strength with sustainability and giving back woven throughout. Christine has been in the fashion design industry for 24 years – starting out in apparel design, to merchandising, to jewelry fabrication and design. Chocolate and Steel was launched in 2005 with hand drawn illustrations on jewelry.  As Christine and her line evolved she knew that she wanted to do more with it than just make something that looks good.  Chocolate and Steel is now a company that grounds itself in sustainability, empowerment and giving back.  Her company donates profits to environmental non-profits and human rights organizations.

 On this episode, Michelle and Christine discuss lessons and takeaways from her time at Anthropologie, how those lessons play a part in her business today, her favorite part of the job, her best memory as well as her craziest moment working at Anthro - working a Black Friday that will live in her memory forever!

 Website: www.chocolateandsteel.com

Instagram @chocolateandsteel  

Chocolate & Steel Give Back Program

Transcript

ep-12: Christine-Street-Gregg-of-Chocolate & Steel - Life After Anthro

Michelle: Hey there. I'm Michelle Sherrier and this is the Retail whore Podcast, The Stories and Lessons from the life and retail. Hello. Hello. Welcome to Wednesday. You know, guys, this is this interview is super important to me. And I believe going into the holidays and a period of giving back, I mean, I've always believed we need to give back all the time, but fourth quarter is incredibly important. And I think that this is perfect timing for this interview. This is episode number three of our life after anthropology. And this one really has some huge meaning. And I really hope that a lot of people take some of this away. I've spoken about it before. I truly believe that as a brand and a business that you should give back even in the smallest amount, whether it be time or money. For my businesses, I personally for mc design collaboration, we give back every Thanksgiving. We put together hundreds of sack lunches. I mean, we actually, like buy a giant turkey breast and like put them together and they're well thought out. So it's a sandwich, a snack. It is handy wipes. It is to press and toothpaste. There's deodorant in there. You know, there's something I really believe that that if you are on the street that you you need and hopefully this helps. My other is the brand that I just unfortunately had to close due to COVID. Sweet Tea Love. That was a different organization. We gave back to Pug Nation and even though the brand is closed, I still am supplying t shirts for Pug Nation station and 100% of the proceeds go back to finding pugs forever homes.

Michelle: And it's just something that I, I don't know, I've always believed in, and I truly believe that I'm very lucky with what I have in my life, as well as what my business is created. And I just I can't imagine not giving something back. So today's interview is with Christine Street Gregg. She and I work together at the Anthropologie in Santa Monica. She has gone on to create this beautiful jewelry line, chocolate and steel that gives back, she believes wholeheartedly and supporting people and organizations. And she really puts her money where her mouth is. She gives back to three different organizations this year. She picks a few every year this year, which is incredibly important with the laws that Texas just changed. On abortion, she has added Center for Reproductive Rights. She also works with the Trevor Project and Right Girl. And each of these organizations has a piece of jewelry that when you purchase it either at retail or at wholesale, it goes back to these organizations or a percentage of it goes back. So I cannot wait for you to hear her story as well as she probably, hands down, has the most insane story for Black Friday. So without further ado, here's Christine Street Gregg with Chocolate and Steel. Hi. Hi there. Hi. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate your time for taking out from your busy day because I know you're super busy with your company, but thank you for doing this. How are you inviting me?

Christine : I appreciate it. I'm excited to catch up with you.

Michelle: Me too. Okay. So I have asked everybody a question that I don't even know if it was I think it was in the questions I sent you. And I realized in asking this, like everybody that is a hustler, which I consider you a hustler as well, all started working really young. So how old were you when you started working?

Christine : I was 15.

Michelle: Okay, so same thing. What was your first job and what did you do?

Christine : Oh, my gosh. I worked at Ross Dress for Less in the shoe department.

Michelle: That was my husband's favorite store. Scares that.

Christine : Oh, I'll tell you this. It was. It's my least favorite job that I've ever had. So everything's been up since there, you know?

Michelle: Okay, so. You were in the shoe department at 15. Where you on a working pass or work whatever work permit.

Christine : I was probably like 15 and a half. I think that's when you could get it. I mean, the minute I could work, I was working.

Michelle: And of all places in Ross to work outside of doing go backs. I would assume this department was probably the worst because people seemed like, just try shit on and just leave it everywhere.

Christine : Yes, exactly. And at the end of the night, cleaning up that section was just like trying to find the match and something you'd be in a different aisle than where the shoe was. I mean, I think for my brain at that time, it was I just turned it into a game.

Michelle: Yeah.

Christine : But it's. It gets really hard after a while.

Michelle: How long were you there for?

Christine : Not long, I want to say probably six months. And then? And then I got a job at Baskin Robbins.

Michelle: Much nicer. My. My first job was Wet Seal, but my second one was Haagen-Dazs because all the hot guys came in to get free ice cream. Exactly.

Christine : That's so funny. Well, yeah, it was like my friend was working there. I was like, this is the place for me. I can work with friends. People knew we were working there, so they come by and say hi. It was very different than bros dress or less.

Michelle: It was I kind of I kind of compare it to when I worked in restaurants. It was so much fun because it was like a family, kind of like you all knew each other. You work these weird, grueling hours. You weren't working side by side all the time. But like at the end of the night, when you're doing your whatever's clean up and stuff like that, like it was like such a like family bonding period for me. Like half the time you were eating your dinner, it's 9:00 at night after your shift. It's like the restaurant life. For some reason. I'm surprised I didn't end up in it longer, but it was like such a great time.

Christine : Oh, I worked at a restaurant too, and I loved it. Same thing. Felt like a family. And then, yeah, you. You grow all day together and then after, like, go out for drinks.

Michelle: Yeah, I love that. Okay, so now I got those questions out of the way. You and I work together, but I want to hear so everybody else can understand. What did you what Anthropology did you work out and what was your title?

Christine : Well, I started as a sales associate in Santa Monica and I know apparel. Apparel? Yeah. And I know that was in 1999 because that's when I moved to l.a. So. Oh, my god.

Michelle: I know i haven't put a year to the time i was at Anthro at all. I got for some reason that's totally like I don't remember what year it was. I remember I was like 27, but I know the year 1999.

Christine : Oh my gosh. I remember it was 1999 because that's the year I met my husband also. So it's a year and it was the year that i moved to l.a.

Michelle: Where where did you move here from?

Christine : Well, I grew up in Glendora, which is just outside of LA, but I moved to San Diego and then I moved to San Francisco, and then that's when I moved to kind of the city center of LA. And I haven't left since then.

Michelle: And how long were you started a sales person? Like how long were you sales before you moved into your other.

Christine : Yeah, a lot of those like time frames are mushy for me because I was a sales associate while I was in college and then I went into the fashion industry and worked for a clothing companies like clothing design. And so I just I kept that job, the sales associate job. I worked and I was.

Michelle: Doing.

Christine : Both. I was doing both. And I think out of necessity, but also like I really like the discount.

Michelle: So I was.

Christine : Doing both and that's where like time frames get mushy. Like, I definitely did that for a few years because I worked for two different companies probably for like four or five years. One of the companies I worked for went out of business like overnight, and I was like, Oh, should I need a job? And so I asked at Anthropologie if they had any opportunities and that's like then went into like customer care manager, which was a new position. Anyways, eventually I became the apparel manager at Santa Monica. Then I moved to Beverly Hills and was the store manager at Beverly Hills.

Michelle: And was that one of the flagship stores?

Christine : No, no, I don't think so. I think it was when it was like smaller.

Michelle: Oc.

Christine : Like up on North Beverly Drive. It'd be great. It became a flagship store once they remodeled and moved a little bit further south.

Michelle: How did you so apparel manager to manager explain for people so they understand I mean the difference is relatively obvious but yeah. Responsible for.

Christine : Yeah. So the apparel manager was responsible for the apparel department and helping with merchandising and going through what have we call those things like the sales where it was like the top ten sales cycle.

Michelle: Oh, the velocity report.

Christine : Velocity report.

Michelle: Yeah, exactly.

Christine : So I mean, I loved being an apparel manager. It was like playing dress up all day long by putting outfits together and, you know, kind of like curating collections. Even though there was like some direction from the Home Office back then, it was a much smaller company, so there was a lot more autonomy for each individual store. Actually, I say that I don't really know what it's like now because I haven't been there for a long time. But from what I can gather from walking into a store, it does seem like there's very different.

Michelle: It's in talking to some. So Samantha was one of my interns and Samantha ended up heading up visuals for the flagship that they open up where they created these giant homes. Like it's like they're the max store. So it's, it's home. Beholden's in their & a shoe store. It's where they really like expanded the spa and wellness area. And it's also, I guess during the time she went on maternity leave is when Glen Senk, was taken out and they brought in the now president who headed up Under Armour. And his philosophy is very different than the philosophy we've all been raised in. And I guess it's much more like where we would outfit like a rail or a T stand where everything worked on it together. It sounds like it's much more departmentalized, like here's all your cut and so's. And Samantha said, I literally, I came back and we were merchandising one way. I came back from maternity leave and it was like, Excuse me, we're doing what? Like, wait, wait, there's only cut. And so so you're like, Yeah.

Christine : And now you're like the newbie, right? You take a couple of months off, and now.

Michelle: It's like she goes, I just couldn't. She goes, I literally couldn't because merchandising the way we did, there was a philosophy of the way it was merchandise as well as that, that everything on the rail was part of this concept, right? Everything was in concepts and and everything was correct. If I'm wrong where because apparel was not my strength. My strength was home. But but where it was like everything in that rail was ideally worn altogether at one point either way, right.

Christine : Yeah. Yeah. Like interchangeable. Exactly. And yeah, we had the concepts which I loved working with concepts. I still love working with concepts like kind of having a profile of a customer that I'm designing for and you know, and it's sort of aspirational and I mean, that's I'm sure what you do with merchandising as well. It's like you want to live in France, buy this bull, you know, like this one thing. And I loved that part of it, just, you know, getting lost a little bit and the fantasy side of it. And obviously there's a lot of hard work, too. There's actually just moving product and. Hey, I mean it. But I, like.

Michelle: Tom, was my favorite. I found it easier to relate to that. Like when we had Odeal, as I always use Odeal as the example as an example, but it was a lot easier to understand in home than it was apparel to me. I was like, and there was always some random thing. I was like, I don't know what this was and it would always be my default. Like, OC goes down, down on the rails, down below.

Christine : Right, right. That's funny because I feel the opposite. It's like home is a little bit more confusing for me because everything just sort of had a vintage vibe to it. I'm like, It all feels the same.

Michelle: Not all looks the same.

Christine : Yeah, it all works together. But apparel, I was able to really segment it out and I like that.

Michelle: And I'm sorry.

Christine : Oh, I was going to say the jump from apparel to being a store manager. You know, to be honest, it just I left everything behind that I love. Like I loved working with clothes and then being a store manager is running the store and its payroll and and schedules and training.

Michelle: You didn't get a chance to work on the floor as much then the products or did you like all seem like you were kind of like everything a manager does?

Christine : Yeah, exactly. Yeah. You don't work with the products quite as much. It's much more of like a people manager. Was it more.

Michelle: Paper pushing than the.

Christine : Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's just more of reports and meetings and walkthroughs and I mean, the walkthroughs are there.

Michelle: I explain to people on the podcast a walk through of the pressure of a walkthrough and the the weeks of getting a store ready. And there was always some section you literally had no time to. And that was always when I'm a crier, that was always when I don't even know if you remember the walkthroughs, you know. And it was always Muhammad like, he'd be standing there, Don't cry, don't cry. And I would always, You're so tired from the hours of doing these these sets. And finally you have it. And it's like, you know, 18 people on a walk through from the buyers to the president. I mean, Glenn was there. The Glenn was the one. I cried and it.

Christine : Was the one you cried at.

Michelle: Oh, wow, Elaine said, inevitably, always. Somebody ended up naked, not in the team, but where you're standing in the store and through the window of homeless persons like taking their top off. And, you know, everyone's got their their back to it. And you're standing there staring at the naked person on the other side of the class and trying to have a conversation with like Glenn Sync and like Wendy and like all the VP of the company, you're standing there like, don't mind the naked person behind you. It's okay.

Christine : Oh, my God. I think I didn't feel the pressure quite as much with the walkthroughs or even just in that job in general. I was so young that, like, I kind of just kept feeling like, I mean, if you want me to stay, I'll stay. Like, I was kind of surprised I was in the role that I was in.

Michelle: And how old were you?

Christine : I mean, by the time I was the store manager, I was 24.

Michelle: Oh, wow.

Christine : I know.

Michelle: So young. What a great opportunity, though.

Christine : Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, I did feel like I was in over my head and and I mean, I have great people mentoring me as well. Jen Wilhelm, I can't remember her, her married last name, but.

Michelle: Jen Chiu was my partner at Santa monica.

Christine : Yeah. And then Angela caught, like, they were all like I mean, they knew I was young, so they were always very supportive and giving me advice. And I felt like I had a good support team there.

Michelle: How long were you there for? I think in.

Christine : The end I was there for about ten years, but it was it was sort of that like sales associate part time still with another career and then came in and worked in management for a few years. And then I went after I had my son, I came back and worked like some nights, which was grueling to like.

Michelle: That must have been hard to leave your son. And I'm going to anthro now.

Christine : Yeah. And then work during the holidays and get home at 2:00 in the morning and my kid would get up at like 5:00 in the morning. And I mean, obviously I thought with that. But there's only so much like sleeping through a crying baby you can do. So that was really rough. I mean, I look back now and I'm like, I'm such a wimp now. Like, I could not do any of that, but so yeah. And I was there ten years.

Michelle: Wow.

Christine : You know, and a lot of the final years was just to keep the discount or just to have a safety net. Just this jewelry thing about.

Michelle: People that don't know. I mean, it was 40% off and and that was, you know, a hefty discount. And then on top of it, the friends and family, then you get 40 off sale. Right. So it ultimately ended up like some stuff was like 75% off.

Christine : Yeah, yeah. You could definitely get some good prices. But also I was just afraid to like, not like to work for myself and not have something I could fall back on just in case. So I kept on for a long time in that capacity.

Michelle: So before I get to what you're doing now, what, what was one of your. Okay. We all have a crazy customer story, so I need to hear your crazy customer story because, you know, people don't realize working in retail, you get the weirdest fucking people. It's like you get amazing customers but Thirsty Promenade and some of them more like Santa Barbara or Illinois. You get some weird fucking people and it's like, Excuse me, everyone knows I cuss on this thing, but I mean, it's insane. Like, so I know you have a good one.

Christine : Oh, my gosh. Well, I have a bunch, but I have one that is like, far and away. Excuse me. Stands out. It's like the craziest. Hold on. I got to drink water. I'm not going to make it a long story.

Michelle: It's okay.

Christine : I mentioned I was 24 as a store manager at the Beverly Hills store. This was my first Black Friday to be the manager of. And I'd only been in that position like, just like a month or two months, like very new at it. So this was a really big deal for me and it was right after 911, so just a couple months after 911. And so we're starting our looks great. We're ready. We're fully staffed, ready to open the doors and just out of nervousness and like cleaning up the cash trap. And there's some mail there. And it was addressed to the previous store manager, but it was most likely just junk mail. I opened it and there was this like really odd, rambling, threatening letter, and it was actually addressed to the old store manager actually in the letter. But it was so rambling and wasn't about her, but it was super threatening and didn't make sense. And there was white powder in the bottom of the envelope and I was like, Pauline to my merchandiser or visual manager, look at this letter like, this is so weird. And she was like, That's weird. And we kind of sat there like, That's weird. And she's like, Do you think we should report this? Because that was when like the anthrax scares.

Michelle: Oh, God.

Christine : They were sending anthrax to people.

Christine : So we call the police. Just be like, we don't.

Christine : Know if this is like actually a thing, but we just thought we should report it. Michelle They closed down the store like everybody in the store on Black Friday and we're busy. Firetrucks pull up police cars. I don't even know how many they set up.

Michelle: This beats everybody else's story just now.

Christine : I know. I feel like there's a competition. I'm definitely in the top ten. They fill up like an inflatable kiddie pool outside of the store.

Michelle: This is in Beverly Hills, is not in a mall. It's on a street. So this is happening.

Christine : Right on.

Michelle: The street. Okay.

Christine : Yeah. Beverly Drive. And they gear.

Christine : Up in full.

Christine : Hazmat suits or head to toe hazmat suits. Come in and tell us no one's allowed to leave because we've all been exposed and they have to run tests to check if it's anthrax or if it's a hoax. And my customers are freaking out and like I get it. Some of it like this one woman was like, I just be cancer. I'm not dying in anthropology on a Black Friday.

Michelle: And like the woman.

Christine : With her young child, she's just like, I don't want to expose my child to this. Like, I want to leave. I want to leave now. And I was like, I get it. I get it. Again, I'm 24.

Christine : And I'm like.

Christine : I don't know how I held it together. I did anyways, like at least a half hour passes and one of the fire fighters say, who open the envelope? I was like, I did. And he's like, You can't be up here. You need to go like, is there an office you can go to? You need to quarantine. Until we know whether or not this is legit, it's like, okay, and they guess there's an office in the basement. Okay, I guess I'll go. Like, they make me go downstairs, I go downstairs and our stock guy is down there and I realize he has no idea what's going on upstairs. He's not privy to it. And so I was like, Oh, I think it was Sal. I was like, Sal, you don't know what's going on. Like, the store has been shut down and we're quarantined and there's an anthrax scare. And he's like, What? And and as I go to tell him, I just start sobbing.

Christine : I totally lose it. I was like, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Christine : It was just like I had held it together for so long up on the floor.

Michelle: Wow. If I ever have an emergency, I'm hoping you're near me, I.

Christine : I look back and I'm like, I cannot believe. First off, I can't believe that happened. And it was you know, they think it was laundry detergent, it was not anthrax. And they released us and how.

Christine : Whoever.

Christine : After the next year had like a really easy lie to beat because we lost, like, 3 hours of prime shopping.

Michelle: Yeah. So at what point, like, did so the district managers, like, did everybody know this is happening or did did they all hear about this after?

Christine : Like, no, I.

Michelle: Weren't that great because this is what's.

Christine : Going on. Oh, no, I called I called Brandon during when it was going on because I was like.

Michelle: What am I supposed to do?

Christine : And just like just follow their orders, I guess, like.

Michelle: Such a.

Christine : Brave thing. We're concerned, but also, like, we didn't think it was anything. I mean, like the powder was white, but it was also like pink and blue. I was like, it's clearly laundry detergent. But no.

Michelle: We don't know until, you know, wow, that story seriously beats everybody else's insane. Like, I don't even remember ever hearing that.

Christine : Like, really? Yeah.

Michelle: Oh.

Christine : I. I think it's Ernie. Like, every year on Black Friday, Ernie texted me, like, happy black Friday.

Christine : Remember when there was anthrax?

Christine : So I still get reminders about it. If you were.

Christine : There.

Christine : You'll never forget about it.

Michelle: Yeah, I can imagine. That could have been very traumatizing, especially, you know, you got customers staring you in the face and people are freaking out and just the scene outside, like.

Christine : Yeah. And they're arguing with me if you have to, you can't hold me hostage, you have to let me go. And I'm like, I'm not holding you hostage, you know, like I'm the one who's making like literally I had to stand up on the cash wrap and make an announcement to get everyone's attention in the store. Turn off the music, everyone. I need your attention. Like I had to be the one. But, you know, there were police officers at the front door that would not let anybody leave.

Michelle: Oh, my God. Wow. Okay. Well, the best, best story ever. I know.

Christine : I have so many other good stories, but I'll always only tell that one.

Michelle: That that is hands down, quite possibly the best I've heard. So after that, what are your you know, when all is said and done, what were your biggest takeaways from your years in anthropology, from all all ends of what you did in the scope?

Christine : Yeah, I definitely learned a lot there. I think that I think probably what has served me the best of my time working there was just learning how to give really good customer service. And, you know, I had I dealt with a lot of customers who were upset, agitated, and I learned that really you have to just listen to people, you know, like let them say their piece, do not cut them off. Don't try to like, you know, tell them that what they're feeling isn't true, you know, because sometimes I don't know. It's just like sometimes they feel like they got ripped off, you know? And it's like we have a policy, of course, but you have to approach it with humanity. So. So I think, like, that's one thing that I get in my business all the time. People tell me, like, we give really great customer service. And I think just being like face to face with our customers and having to help them come up with, come up with the solution together made me much better at that. And I've taken that with me now.

Michelle: That's great. I mean, I think everybody it's for me, it was balance, the balance of business and the aesthetic because of those reports. It's like I always say, it doesn't matter how good it looks because if it doesn't sell, it doesn't matter. And in understanding like that, the reporting part of it and like how valuable that was, that was my takeaway because it's just I mean, the lessons I feel like we walked away from there. We're in. I mean, like I talked to somebody and he's like literally my I got paid to figure things out. Like he was one of the builders for terrain and he's like, you know, like you want this built. Sure. And he was like, I got paid to figure out how the tools work, like how what does what. And he's like, you know, we feel like we did a lot of stuff, you know, underpaid. But it's like the lessons and the education we got while we were there was priceless.

Christine : Yeah. Yeah, certainly it developed a strong work ethic by working there too. You know, it is a lot of work.

Michelle: It's a lot, especially because you're working so young. I mean, it's like that kind of responsibility at that age is I mean, it's either you're going to you're going to sink or swim. I mean, I've always I've always believe in sink or swim education. I mean, I think school like education as far as schooling and I think is great. I think I'm not telling people not to go to school everyone. So don't say that. But I think hands on education is always the best. And I feel like, you know, good, bad or indifferent, the lessons that you go through in retail and especially under like the umbrella of like such a big company like Anthro, it's like there's some big lessons. So now.

Christine : Yeah, well, I mean, real experience for sure.

Michelle: So when what year did you leave Anthro?

Christine : I think really bad timing. But it must have been. It must have been 2009 because I was there for ten years. So. Yeah.

Michelle: And what was the push to make you leave? Was it because you I mean, you have and we'll get into this in a second. You have a very successful business that you literally created from the ground up and did that when you left Anthro. Was it to pursue this? Did you know what you already want to do? Is this already in the works or was it you quit and then was like, Hey, I'm going to figure it out now?

Christine : Yeah, it was already in the works, in fact. I mean, I started what I do is make jewelry, but I started making jewelry while I was at Anthropologie and I would have customers go, Where's that necklace you're wearing? Where do I find that? And I would be like, Well, I made it and I buy it. And it was like, I mean, I don't know how they feel about that, you know, like I really did start to build a little bit of a customer base by working there, people who wanted the things that I was wearing. So I did start, but it was a hobby, you know. I mean, it wasn't I, I wasn't like running reports like you were just saying, you know, it was a hobby. I was making stuff and it was like, awesome, I'm making some money. So I had my son in 2005 and then it got tricky to do all the things like take care of a kid and have this hobby that I was making money at and working in anthropology. And so when I was on maternity leave, I decided to build a website and try to sell some stuff and like ecommerce was totally a new thing at the time. In fact, that's the year Etsy started and and I joined Etsy the year that they started. So, you know, I had it kind of rolling. What pushed me to leave was that like the holidays were coming. I had already gone through, I think like two holiday seasons of working at Anthropologie and running my business slash kind of hobby. And it was really, really hard because I was getting busier. And so I asked if I could take the two months off during the holiday, and they were like, Yeah, they were like, No, no. And my husband was the one who really pushed me to to quit. He's like, he's like, You should just quit. It's holding you back. And I was like, No, I mean, but the discount and he's like, You don't need the discount and love that.

Michelle: And it was this was like the push, the push to get you out. So you're bringing your brand chocolate and. Steele, tell me a little bit about the philosophy behind it now. I mean, I've already in the intro, I've explained who you are and I'm kind of giving a loaded background. But I, you know, I go into questions and it's like, you know, like as if everyone already knows what I'm talking about. And part of it is because I do. But the philosophy that well, where the name come from, because I think it's the cutest name and then what's the philosophy? Because yours is a I don't know if you give back, but I know it's very I'm losing words right now, but I know it is. Female based. It is, yeah. The phrases all are, help me out here.

Christine : I'll tell you. I'll tell you a bit about it. Well, Chocolate and Steel, actually, the name came from a painting that I had seen back when my husband and I were like, in London. And I think it was when he proposed to me and there was this painting and it was called Chocolate and Steel, and I wasn't even making jewelry at the time. And I said, that'd be a great name for a jewelry line. Cut to like seven years later, I'm making jewelry or no diamonds. Three years later I'm making jewelry. And I was going to build that website and I was like, What should I call it? And he was like, chocolate and steel. Remember that? Like you said, that'd be a great name for a jewelry line. And I loved it because of the juxtaposition of sort of like sweet and organic, something that's like industrial and strong and long lasting. So and I didn't even really know, like, I didn't have a business plan. I didn't know what I wanted to be. I just knew like I needed a name for this website for me to put the stuff on that I was making. And, you know, I think it was really serendipitous because it has that name has I have evolved with that name. And while when I first started, I was just making things that I liked that I thought were pretty and fun. And as I've done this longer, I mean, it's been 15, actually 16 years this year.

Michelle: That.

Christine : I've been doing. I have really wanted more out of it, you know. And so the line has evolved to be something where we do a lot of giving back. We have a lot of collections where we donate proceeds to different non-profits, or we'll do fundraisers with our jewelry with different collections. So but it's all about empowering women. One of the the kind of bread and butter of the collection are these necklaces, and it's all about empowerment. And there's many different ways to be empowered. It doesn't mean you have to be like, I'm a bad ass, you know? Like sometimes you don't feel like a badass, but, you know, sometimes you need just that little glimmer of, like, we do, quote, never forget how wildly capable you are, you know, just like a little. That's right. I'm wildly capable and like, I'm going for it. So. Yeah. So we're really, as the years have gone on, have evolved and shifted to become a much more I don't know, would you call it like philanthropic? Philanthropic.

Michelle: Thank you. Because I'm like I'm like sitting there like, why my catch? Like, the word is catching my head of Mike. I know what I want to do. What I.

Christine : Know. Well, there's so many different ways to describe it. So yeah, there's like activists and philanthropic and.

Michelle: What are some of the organizations that you've done givebacks with?

Christine : Well, we have a collection where 20% of anything that you purchase from it goes to the Trevor Project. So that's like our pride collection, which is the Trevor Project. Oh, Trevor Project is it's a support system for LGBTQ youth. And they I think there was even a movie, but it's primarily for youth and they have online support and phone support and they're a really great organization. So we do that. We've done different fundraisers, fundraisers for like the NAACP. All right. Now I'm going to start blinking. We do some stuff with like best friends, animal society, animal rescue.

Michelle: So the jewelry collections you do so for like Trevor what are some are they still quote or are they different pieces? Because all of your pieces are metal and most of them that I've seen have like the saying the three little, three little.

Christine : What are targeted for like a specific cause. And that'll be like, like we did these last year. We did these like fists, like very like empowering fists with a gemstone at the bottom. And those we actually donated 100% of those sales to the NAACP. And then we did like an Angela Davis one quote necklace where we donated 100% of those. So that was like a shorter period. Like I think we did like either two or three weeks where I was like, any time you purchase this quote necklace, we'll donate 100% of it.

Michelle: So, I mean, if it's okay, if I ask, like, what did the like those donations must be relatively big. I mean, you're you're doing it.

Christine : Yeah, but Angela Gabriel one.

Michelle: Time, like, that's a lot. That's a lot to give back because I know with my t shirt company that I was doing for a while how to close it during COVID, but ours was still only 10% to publication, but 10%. When you're talking about your buying, you're paying for the screen, you're buying the t shirt. So for you, it's like you guys can make everything and find material one.

Christine : Right. So so the Angela Davis one. We raised $6000 and it was either two or three weeks. So we were really excited about that. But here's the thing. Like. I do it because I love it. I want I want to do more than make jewelry. I love making jewelry. I love and I but I love that I can do more with it. So I'm happy to. Like, in my opinion, I feel like I'm donating my time because I'm the one that's making them. And then, yeah, my company is donating the materials in a way, you know, but at the end of the day, we get more customers, you know, like it ends up it's, it's almost marketing, you know what I mean? So it does bring us a lot more customers. I've had we have first off, we have the most amazing customers who are so generous in giving us like really positive feedback. And I've had a lot of people who say they love that we take a stand on activists social issues. And so I know that that we do get it back, you know, but we also we're also part of this organization called 1% for the Planet, and we donate 1% of our sales for the year. So profit or loss, you donate 1% of sales.

Michelle: Wow.

Christine : And so all of these I mean, that one like NAACP and Trevor Project wouldn't count. But there's there are other things that we do for like friends of the LA River save the redwoods like we'll do other things like that. And so those those fundraisers that we do become part of that 1% that we give back 1% for the planet. And we can also volunteer and work for nonprofits and that those hours that we volunteer get converted into like a dollar amount that also goes towards that 1% for the planet.

Michelle: So because I have a lot of retailers who follow and who are listening and as well as wholesalers, if what would you because you're so heavily involved in giving back and and I I've always believed in the philosophy no matter what amount of money you make, you need to give back. I mean, I think that's just part of what is a human you're supposed to do. So for the people that are listening to this and they're overwhelmed, like, Oh, I can't do that much. Like, what would you suggest is like an easy way for somebody to start and on the smallest level to make a difference?

Christine : I think on the smallest level you pick one item and you put say we're going to donate 10% of the sales of this one item and you do it monthly and you'll be amazed at the end of the year. I mean, even if like it's not a big seller, you know, you might end up donating $500 to an organization. But like making that one $500 donation sometimes feels really daunting. But doing it and I mean, I have an end of month reports that I run and my tasks for the end of the month. And it's that, it's that I run the sales for all the different other fundraisers and that's like overstate it. We're not doing multiple fundraisers at the same time, all the time. You know, like we do have the Trevor Project ongoing all year long so that when I run every year, I mean every month, but then we'll have like other smaller ones.

Michelle: Well, just the fact that you're doing more than one or you're doing one that runs the entire year is huge. And I there's not a lot of wholesalers and retailers that do that, to be honest, especially when they're small. I mean, it's, you know, you're you're how many people in your company?

Christine : Well, sadly, because of COVID, we've downsized. But there's three right now.

Michelle: And three of you, and you're all hand making this merchandise that that is huge. And it's like it's don't downplay that at all because just the fact that you have that just the Trevor Project alone being all year long and available at wholesale and retail is commendable. And it's I hope that out of all it's interesting, out of all these interviews I'm doing, that this is the first time giving back and volunteering and that has come up. And I hope that retailers try to do more of this even on the smallest level, because, I mean, not only is it is it amazing, it feels good to you, but the difference it makes to the organisation is bigger and it's I mean, it's commendable.

Christine : So thank you. Well, maybe even like this, a smaller thing to do is actually buy from those companies that do give back, you know, I mean, they don't even doesn't even have to do the giving back, you know, so from me and I'm doing the giving back. You're part of that.

Michelle: Yeah. It's it's amazing. What? I'm like. So. With. With chocolate and steel. What? Where do you see chocolate steel in yourself in ten years? Oh, gosh. You weren't prepared for that one. Sorry, that was added on. Not prepared for that. You were really prepared like you answered your questions in sentiment. Didn't you do this yet?

Christine : I was supposed to.

Michelle: Answer them and I didn't read them. I didn't read them, to be honest, because I didn't want to know what your answers were.

Christine : Right. Well, I mean, to be honest, it's helpful for me to write stuff out ten years from now. I mean, I hope to still be making jewelry. I hope to have a greater impact with what we're doing. I like I would like to partner up with other companies, do lots more collaborations. And, you know, I starting the business the way I did literally in the corner of my living room, making jewelry, being like, you like it. You can like I'll give you a good price to now being where we're at and working, having employees and and relying on other people. I really like this stage that I'm at. I really like collaborating with people, throwing ideas out them, throwing their ideas back at me. So I hope that in ten years we're doing more of that, making this a little bit more of a community and not just like my singular vision of something that I want me.

Michelle: And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at the retail whore podcast, and you can find us online at the retailwhorepodcast.com