In our first “Peer Spotlight.” we’re so excited to highlight Monica Stephenson–an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and all around awesome person.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Monica yet, you’ve been missing out!  To help you get to know her, we asked Monica a series of questions and we’re sharing her answers here.  Enjoy!

Q: Tell us about idazzle and ANZA Gems, the businesses you started.

A:  I’ve been in the jewelry industry since my first job in college, longer ago than I’d care to admit!  I’ve occupied a variety of positions over the years, including helping Amazon launch their jewelry business in the early 2000s.  I started, a blog that profiled trends and jewelry designers in 2008 when my kids were small. In 2014, I traveled with a documentary film about gemstone mining to East Africa, to see the sourcing side of the business.  I came back from the trip really struck by how hard the miners were working, and the deep disconnect—mostly due to education—with the more glamorous side of finished jewelry. So I developed a business, ANZA Gems, buying rough gemstones as close to the source as possible in Tanzania and Kenya, meeting miners and understanding their challenges.  I have them faceted in the US by artisanal cutters, and 10% of sales gets reinvested back into the Tanzanian and Kenyan mining villages and communities through education at the primary and trade level. The work is incredibly rewarding, and the story of the gemstones and jewelry created by designers working with the gems has been very well received.

Q: How have you incorporated philanthropy into your business model?

A: Since starting ANZA Gems in 2015, I have increasingly focused on empowering and supporting women throughout the supply chain.  In the past couple of years, I have collaborated on a project with NGOs Pact and the Tanzania Women Miners Association to create a sustainable and supportive market for women artisanal gem miners in Tanga, Tanzania.  The women participating in the Moyo Gems markets receive gemology education, as well as occupational health and safety training for free, and lots of guidance in the value of their gems. At the market days we pay the women 95% of the export price, which is a huge reversal of what they usually experience in the market, and they actually know their worth.  The gems coming out of this project are not only beautiful, they are also making an impact on the women who find them. I believe it’s possible to incorporate philanthropy into a business model resulting in a virtuous circle of development.

Q: What is your favorite local nonprofit and what is your connection to this organization?

A: Because of my travel, my areas of interest tend to revolve around global women’s health, and I am on the Board of Terrewode Women’s Fund, a locally-based nonprofit that has helped build a dedicated women’s hospital with a fistula focus in Uganda.  I tend to like small, grass-roots orgs that are scrappy and can really affect change

Q: Brag about your family.

A: Our family of five lives in the Madison Park area.  Our lives revolve around a lot of volleyball, as both my older daughter, 15, and my younger daughter, 13, play for their school and travel club teams.  They are both amazing young women, and my favorite people to hang out with, along with my husband (of nearly 25 years!) of course! My mom, Jane, lives with us and helps hold down the fort: we are so lucky our girls get to have such a close relationship with their grandmother. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about being a PYP Seattle member?

A: My company and philanthropy are very international.  I love that PYP is focused on King-county based local charities: it has been eye-opening to see so many orgs locally doing so many different kinds of good, and meet some of the people responsible.  I also love that PYP can have such a great impact on these local charities. Before PYP, I found myself writing checks to rather random organizations, so I truly appreciate the structure and impact that one donation can have.

Q: How can members follow you on social media?

A: On Instagram, you can follow me at @idazzle, and my company @anzagems!   Thank you so much for asking me these thoughtful questions!