Marketplace Feature: Melody Murray, Founder of JOYN

July 28th, 2014 by TOMS

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What compelled you and your husband to travel to Uganda your first summer as newlyweds?

We were crazy – crazy in love and crazy dreamers. We had big dreams from the day we met. David and I grew up in amazing families with opportunities to travel, receive a good education, expand our world view at young ages. We both had a desire to give others who were less fortunate the opportunities that we had been gifted our entire lives. This is one of the main things that drew us to each other initially and still drives us closer to each other today. We wanted to start our marriage doing exactly what we’d dreamt of doing from the day we met, so we dove right in. It was an incredible experience that has shaped the next 15 years of our marriage.

When did India first come into the picture for you? How did you decide India would be the home for JOYN?

David and I had been working for a development-based business in Tibet for the past 7 years. We were based mainly in the US and traveled back and forth to Tibet multiple times a year. We never felt compelled to move to Tibet, but knew we wanted to eventually live overseas and work among struggling artisan groups. In the fall of 2009, we were contacted by politicians in Washington DC who wanted to help a small community in northern India in which they had connections with via the Dali Lama. They had heard about our work with Tibetans and asked us to consult with them to start businesses. When we heard of the opportunity, we very quickly knew it was made for us and we moved our family and our lives to the Himalayas in northern India in June 2010.

You partner with a nonprofit, JoyCrops, can you tell us a little bit about them and how you work with them?

David and I really believe that small business development is one of the best ways to pull people out of the poverty cycle long term. However, starting a business in the middle of a struggling community is nearly impossible without some help. For a community to pull itself out of poverty and begin to thrive, it will need more than just jobs. It needs to get healthy. This is where a non-profit, community development focused organization comes in. We helped create JoyCorps (like peacecorps) in order to support Development Entrepreneurs and their community thrive. One of my closest friends, Rachel Meisel, runs the organization and her Board are close friends of ours. JoyCorps works hard to support community development efforts in our town to help our artisans thrive – from educating our artisans children, to providing medical funds, furthering education and english training, they are behind us each step of the way.

Each handmade piece goes through a 12 step process -“a model of purposeful inefficiency -” you’ve called it. Can you explain this model and walk us through the production process?

We value people and we value the work of their hands. One way to increase opportunity amongst those most marginalized in society is to value what is made by hand vs. machine. When we started JOYN, we purposefully chose processes that used as many hands as possible, no machines, no electricity. Our cotton is grown locally, harvested, washed, carded, spun, woven, block printed and stitched without the use of any machines, rather the use of many, many pairs of hands. This creates more jobs, which is why JOYN was started.

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What is the creative process like when designing new products? Do you pull a lot of inspiration from your environment in India and Indian culture?

I have grown to love design. I used to say that I wasn’t a Designer, but I realize now that my life and my experiences have made me into one. Everything has the ability to inspire. I eat, breath, dream designs. So many of my ideas come to me in my sleep – while I’m dreaming, or just waking in the morning. India is definitely an inspiration. Just today, I was walking down my lane and seeing ideas popping out at me on every corner. India is bursting with life, color, diversity, noise, JOY! We have a team of local designers – Indian, American, South African – all living here, that pull lines together quarterly. Between the 3 of us, we collaborate and come up with our designs. We are happy and proud to be doing this in-house and in India.

How do you measure your success? (personally and/or as a team, company)

Personal success for me is whether I grow and thrive as a wife, mother and leader more each year. “To whom much is given, much is required.” To me, success means that I’m sharing my blessings, talents, time and opportunities with those who God brings into my life. First with my husband, then my children, then the community that I’m thankful to be a part of. Success for us as a company is to create JOY, lasting JOY, in the lives of those around us and to continue to expand and increase our influence with as many as we can.

When you founded JOYN, what was is that you wanted to achieve back then? Has that vision changed/ evolved as you have grown?

Thankfully, my vision hasn’t changed in the past 15 years of my life – it just continues to grow. I dream bigger every day. My vision – to share my life, experiences, blessings, opportunities and skills with those who have not had what I’ve been handed my whole life. To create as many jobs as possible, bringing sustainable joy and opportunity.

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The most successful people are the ones who take big risks, which often can lead to spectacular failures.  Can you describe a time when you overcame a major failure and can you explain how you coped?

I fail daily. Its part of learning. I’m so thankful for my failures – I’ve definitely had my share of spectacular ones. My husband and I were a part of a similar venture in Tibet for over 7 years and its difficult to admit that it failed, but in many ways it did. We put all of our eggs in one basket, grew increasingly in debt, had very little experience in understanding our market and failed miserably with “team”. All in all, we learned a lot of “what not to do”. However, I believe that God can redeem any failure. You cope by believing that everything is redeemable. Nothing is accidental. We also experienced bankruptcy as a young couple, due to a Realestate partnership that went downhill quickly during the housing bubble and following recession in 2007. You live and you learn and I’m better and stronger because of it. I’m sure I’ll have many, many more to come!

What’s next for JOYN? Where do you see the company in 5 years?

I have so much in store for JOYN and I dream daily about all that might come of it. When you experience something this transformational – lives being changed for the good – it becomes addictive. I feel like the most privileged girl in the world; to see change in my own life and in those around me. We have begun to replicate JOYN in multiple cities in India and my desire would be for our model to infect thousands with lasting JOY, sustainable work, and thriving communities.

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To learn more about JOYN and to shop JOYN on TOMS Marketplace click here.