Greeted with wide smiles and positive energy, our team met with Jessica and Brandon Hotz, the CEO and Co-Founder of the brand – Elevate. A brand dedicated to empowering people, Elevate creates opportunities for those who need it most.
So what does a “creating opportunties” brand look like? Elevate supports and emboldens local artisans in India by providing them a sense of ownership and responsibility over the handcrafted products they produce. The best part? The profits from these leather bracelets are then used to further empower more people in need through education and vocational development.
With a story as impactful as theirs (read the full story here), we couldn’t wait to hear more about their adventures in South Asia and see upcoming product.
Meet some of Elevate’s team below and shop with a purpose for your handcrafted leather accessories today. Oh… and did we mention Jess picked up some pretty cool henna skills? Because that’s worth checking out too.
Meet Brandon and Jessica
You have a special spot in your heart for India. Tell us how it started.
J: When I first decided to go to India, I couldn’t remember where it was on the map. I had only been to Mexico and didn’t even know that Indian women wore saris! I just heard of the opportunity and knew that I was supposed to go. My plans for that summer were behind me and India was before me. I remember landing in the city we would later call home, and I was in shock. Growing up in a cultural town myself, I was enthralled with the people, the smells (not exactly good ones), the colors, the food, and the sounds. I really believe that my purpose was born in India. I finally knew why I was alive.
You’re married and you manage a business to together. What is that like?
B: Working together is really amazing. Jess has such great vision and can see things in the future that I can’t. She is definitely the dreamer and that makes us a good team!
J: It’s fun! I like to put on inspirational music and think of ways we can partner with more people and be a greater asset to the world, then make action plans. Brandon likes to get things done, so I call him the Chief Executer and I love him! He is so faithful, diligent, and loves people so well! Of course we have our moments where we, with wide-eyes, look at each other and try to refrain from saying words we will regret when it’s dinner time, but it’s mostly just fun!
Describe the moment you knew you would start Elevate.
J: The moment was more like a series of moments. Starting a non-profit business was not what we had planned. We just wanted to live in India. A series of circumstances and personal growth led us to do what we knew would be the best decision… starting Elevate. It was a moment where we realized we had to give up something small in order to better serve the world with something a little bigger.
Name the best part of your job.
B: Seeing peoples’ lives and families truly change, going from hopeless situations to hope filled lives! Also, the relationships we have with our partners is so fulfilling. I think it’s so healthy for us to see how other people live. It gives us a much bigger picture of the world.
Recall a time during your stay in India that you’ll never forget.
B: We were going out to a village to see some community development programs on an Indian train. There were three seats on the side Jess was on (clearly only enough room for three people) and an Indian man came up and sat on Jess’s lap! Her eyes were screaming “I am going to die,” we laugh about this all the time still!
J: (Laughs) So my washing machine in India did not automatically stop filling up. You had to manually shut off the water. After turning on the faucet one evening, I went in to stir my soup and forgot about the water. Someone rang my doorbell and said, “The water! The water!” I ran out to my porch/laundry space and was mortified to see that the water was gushing over the side of the porch, down three stories and onto the ground where an Indian wedding was taking place! I leaned over and everyone at the wedding was staring at me. Fail. The worst part of the story is that it happened again on another evening and kept everyone awake in the complex all night long. Sigh…
What’s one piece of advice you would tell anyone starting a business?
B: Always be willing to learn from those who have gone before you.
You are travelers. What’s on your bucket list?
J: We just go with the flow, but Iceland would be fun because a dream of mine is to see the Northern Lights!
What are you most thankful for?
B: I am so thankful for the opportunity to work towards a global goal that is bigger than ourselves! To help as many people as we can by empowering them to work and transform their own communities brings us happiness. We are so thankful to be putting the answer to the problems in the hands of those most affected.
You’re a Volunteer Coordinator for Elevate. What does that involve?
Volunteer coordinating involves leading our distribution nights where volunteers come together to tag the leather goods being sent to our wholesale accounts and our online store. When we aren’t organizing distribution nights, I help lead our product development team where leather product ideas come to life.
How has Elevate inspired you?
Elevate has inspired me to connect and find common ground with individuals from across the world! Volunteering on Elevate’s team has instilled in me the appreciation for new culture, helped me leave my comfort zone, and befriend individuals from different countries.
What do you value most in life?
So many things, so little time! On the top of my list is authentic relationships! I cherish learning about people on a deeper level and inspiring them to live their life with purpose. If we all could offer others a little more kindness, I think we all could learn to cherish the people we’re lucky enough to encounter daily.
When did you first hear about Elevate?
I had the honor of helping develop Elevate from the very beginning. I met Brandon and Jess shortly before they left for India and our relationship grew. We became especially close when they came home. They shared their vision with me and we all walked through the steps of making that become a reality. My sweet friend, Jamie Kucera, and I both have a background in graphic design, so we worked together with Brandon and Jess to create the Elevate “brand”.
You’re the Creative Designer. What does that all involve?
I love the opportunity to help anyway I can with Elevate! Since I have a design and photography background, most of the time “helping” looks like creating brochures, info cards, ads, and doing some web design/updates. I also help with product development brainstorming, CADing, photography, and everything Elevate!
Share a special memory you’ve made during your journey with Brandon and Jess.
A memory that stands out in my mind right now is when we went to make the shop page on the website live, it was a really big deal because it was a huge milestone of all the hard work we’d been putting in for months. I was at my house and Jess was on speaker phone. We had spent the morning proofing and making sure everything was just right, so she and Brandon gave the go-ahead to hit “Publish”. We all held our breath. I pushed the button and…the software crashed! We said a quick prayer, rebooted, and tried again. This time everything went smoothly! It was a great day of celebration and will always be a fond memory I have with them.