WHEATON – A former downtown Wheaton jewelry shop and studio has been reborn online with a focus on social justice.
Once the owner of Genuine Article, Betty James Hoppensteadt has teamed with Wheaton resident and longtime friend Tim Kurth to move her jewelry brand, Tybeta, to the Internet.
Their venture offers items from Hoppensteadt alongside direct sale products from women around the world who have been freed from human trafficking.
The idea sprang from the ashes of Genuine Article’s final days last March.
“I’m the creative type,” Hoppensteadt said. “The day-to-day running of a store kept me away from the creative side and teaching, and I wanted to get back to that.”
Kurth volunteered to help her pack up the store’s remaining wares.
“I was helping her figure out what items we could liquidate online, and it was really the first time I paid attention to her beautiful jewelry,” he said.
Kurth thought that with his business background and her creativity, they could work together to give her work the attention he believed it deserved.
But the question arose: who would make all the jewelry if the business succeeded?
The answer came a couple of days later, when the pair heard about Destiny Rescue, a Christian nonprofit that frees victims of human trafficking and provides them with job opportunities. One of its programs is with a jewelry production company out of Thailand.
Both Kurth and Hoppensteadt had gone on several mission trips to locations including Kenya, Peru and Slovakia. They quickly became interested in sending Hoppensteadt’s designs to women around the world to be produced internationally and sold online.
“Tybeta isn’t really about jewelry,” Kurth said. “It’s about Betty’s passion for design and beauty being conveyed to the world while equipping and empowering women around the world with a skill to make their lives better.”
Hoppensteadt said that Tybeta recently received its first shipment of jewelry from three women in Kenya who are HIV+. Their traditional jewelry style will join Hoppensteadt’s on the Tybeta website.
Kurth said the duo is planning to contact more agencies as they expand, including Destiny Rescue’s Thailand shops, as well as women at the People’s Resource Center in Wheaton.
If or when it becomes profitable, Kurth said that 50 percent of the business’s profits will go toward an organization he started called the Shepherd Fund, which trains missionaries in countries throughout the world.
“Betty and I feel an obligation that Tybeta needs to get started and be wildly successful, so we can increase the demand for jewelry out of Thailand,” Kurth said. “We are driven by the need to expand the market to provide income and resources for the women who help create our jewelry.”