Meet the 28-Year-Old Jewelry Designer Fighting Human Trafficking
Get inspired by philanthropist and The Brave Collection jewelry designer Jessica Hendricks Yee's mission and the 3 steps that ignite her day.
It all started with a trip abroad. Jessica Hendricks (now Hendricks Yee), a then-NYU student, traveled to South East Asia to teach English. She was struck by the very real, very dire issue of human trafficking in Cambodia. “Meeting girls my age and younger who were set outside of bars and restaurants as items for sale is something I will never forget. Talking to teenagers in recovery shelters who had their childhoods taken from them was absolutely heartbreaking and completely infuriating,” says Hendricks Yee. Perhaps more disturbingly, the girls she encountered are just some of the estimated 30 million people in involuntary servitude worldwide.
She swiftly took action. In 2012, Hendricks Yee developed a jewelry line, The Brave Collection, meeting with Cambodian artisans to build a skilled team of fair-trade crafters. The Cambodian culture-inspired designs incorporate the Khmer alphabet and Buddhist symbols. “By collaborating with artisans in Phnom Penh, we’re forging a tangible connection between women in the East and women in the West with each piece we make, sparking awareness, conversation, and ultimately change,” she explains. Not only do the colorful wares help the women making them — they’re provided above-average wages, health insurance, and education stipends for their children — but 10% of profits go directly to fight human trafficking. Currently, the donations go to Free to Shine, a Cambodia-based nonprofit.
We spent a morning with Hendricks Yee to learn more about The Brave Collection, and chronicle the effective morning routine that contributes to her success.
A Difference Maker’s Difference-Making Morning Routine
Step 1: Meditation
At 8 a.m., Hendricks Yee’s South Williamsburg apartment is filled with the sort of covetable sunlight realtors plan showings around. She shares the one-bedroom with her newly minted husband — the pair married in February.
“My mornings set the tone for my whole day, so I have to push myself to make them count,” she says. She starts off with Transcendental Meditation, a technique developed by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (yes, of Beatles fame) in the 1950s. Among other defining practices, the meditator repeats a mantra, a typically one- or two-syllable word.
“Last year I went through a period when between designing a new collection, moving, and planning my wedding, my anxiety was spiking through the roof. Learning Transcendental Meditation completely changed the chemistry in my mind and body, giving me a sense of balance and mental control I hadn’t experienced,” she explains. “Training my mind each morning to be present and open means that I can begin my day with clarity, and access the most creative parts of my brain, instead of allowing a clutter of noisy thoughts and emotions to cloud my thought-process.”
Staying cool, calm, and collected is particularly important during this time of growth. “Since our very grassroots start, we’ve launched an e-commerce business (shipping jewelry to all 50 states and 57 countries), a wholesale business (selling to over 100 select boutiques in 17 different countries), and this month we’re launching our first all-metal collection,” explains Hendricks Yee. “It’s a busy time, for sure.”
Step 2: Skin-Care Routine
With a clear mind, Hendricks Yee moves on in pursuit of clear, healthy skin. “Feeling fresh, alert, and beautiful from the inside out is so important. You need all of the confidence and courage you can get to put yourself out there as an entrepreneur,” says Hendricks Yee.
“I don’t wear much makeup, so keeping my skin healthy and moisturized is really important. I look to my 90-year-old grandma who still has the most glowing skin, and I remember how important it is to take care of my skin now. I’ll thank myself later.”
Hendricks Yee turns to Clinique’s 3-Step Skin Care System each morning to balance her naturally dry skin. Her regimen starts with gentle liquid facial soap, followed by a clarifying lotion to strip oil and dead skin, and finishes with Dramatically Different moisturizing lotion.
“The lotion spreads on so smoothly and leaves my skin bright and dewy,” she says as she applies.
Step 3: Matcha-Making
Matcha may be having a moment, but its roots are ancient: Chinese monks first embraced the green beverage back in 2500 B.C.E.
Hendricks Yee finds matcha-making soothing, a savored process in her morning routine. Matcha lattes are her go-to. She starts by sifting matcha powder into a bowl with hot water. She whisks the powder into a paste, pouring it over ice and adding milk.
“The first time I tried matcha, I’ll be honest … it was for that fabulous pop of color,” she laughs. “I found that matcha gives me energy while keeping me relaxed -- it’s loaded with antioxidants, and a matcha latte basically tastes like green tea ice cream. I love to know I’m putting something good into my body at the start of each day.”
Properly centered, with hydrated skin, and caffeine on her side, Hendricks Yee is good to go. After heading to The Brave Collection’s Williamsburg studio to catch up on emails from her Cambodian artisan partners (they’re 11 hours ahead), she’ll run to appointments with buyers, and prep for an upcoming trade show.
“When I first traveled to South East Asia, it was like a ceiling above me was lifted, and my whole world immediately expanded,” she recalls. “Collaborating with our partners in Cambodia each day is a little reminder of that. It’s an absolute blessing to be able to bring a dream to life, and to use your skills to open up doors for others – and to do so every day.”
Photography by Atisha Paulson.What Is a Sponsor Story?