Coffee in hand, I headed over to my desk. I powered on my MacBook and opened FaceTime. Taking a sip of coffee, I was immediately greeted by the friendly face of Jordyn Diorio, the founder of MEND Jewelry. She, too, had coffee in hand, a big smile on her face and immediately told me of the honor I had: seeing her without makeup due to the early hours and working at home. Not that I had noticed. All I saw was a badass babe who was making her dream a reality staring back at me. We dived into the questions immediately, as Jordyn had a busy day ahead of her.
Tell us about your story! (Where are you from, What do you do, What makes you, YOU!?)
The short and sweet version is that I was born into a big Italian family- I’m one of seven- and was raised in Illinois. I spent a couple years at a community college there then I came out here to the U of M to study Strategic Communications with an emphasis in Advertising. I worked in a couple of marketing agencies after graduating as a project manager and while I’m valuable for that experience, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. I then launched MEND Jewelry in 2017- I’ve always wanted to see if I could start a business and do it and now I’m trying to figure out what it takes to succeed.
So tell me a little more about the journey and why behind MEND Jewelry?
I’ve always liked to make things with my hands, and I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I was 16, I was printing and selling art on canvas tote bags as a hobby and when I started my career as a project manager I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. I wanted to see if I could be an entrepreneur if I could run a business and do it well. I chose MEND Jewelry because I’m passionate about jewelry. I love to accessorize, but I also wanted to create a brand about simplicity and a platform where I could connect with women. I wanted women to feel heard and to feel pretty when they wore the jewelry. With gemstones and crystals, it can get to be a little “wooey” but when people buy a certain gemstone it usually turns out be what the need- trust your instincts. Yes, it’s a jewelry business but it’s much more than that- it’s about pushing myself as an entrepreneur and connecting myself to women around me.
To us, "feminist" isn't a naughty word. It's powerful. It's worthy of praise & pride. What does the word “feminist” mean to you? What does feminism mean to you?
To me, it’s about opportunity, and about equality, but the word equality can sometimes feel overwhelming. When I think about feminism I want everyone to know they have an opportunity and that they have a choice- the opportunities and choices I’ve had in life- if I want to have a career that’s great- if I want to stay home that’s great. With the word “feminist”- it’s so loaded- and I feel like it’s really watered down. I know there’s an element of anger, and I understand that, but I’m the type of person to lead by example and I’m going to show that I’m a feminist by running a business and mentoring other women that don’t have the level and opportunity that I do.
Along with opportunity, I feel like it’s also about education and collaboration. For example, what I love about my boyfriend is that he doesn’t get defensive- he’s open to listening- and sitting down and seeing it from a different lens. There are a lot of men who have helped me in career but have also stepped aside so that I can rise. I think that we need more of those kinds of men to keep the movement moving forward.
What personal experience drew you to feminism? Why did you become a feminist?
In college, I took a sociology class about gender, sex, and power and it ruined me in a good way. I realized the conditioning I had about the way I looked, what I wore and realized that’s not how I value myself. I wanted to be more than my looks, I wanted to move ahead by doing X, Y, and Z. I wanted to be smarter, etc.
For a final project, we all had to do a project that was out of our gender norm. One guy applied to be a waitress at Hooters, one woman proposed to her man. I went to Home Depot and pretended I was paving my driveway and the guy helping me was incredulous by this. It just really opened my eyes. I know it’s super cliché but knowledge is power. It’s important to try and understand each other and be informed.
We believe that equality is a no brainer! What does equality in the world look like to you?
I don’t think it’s a massive change- I think it’s subtle changes. For example, if a woman goes into a leadership role- when we start to change the language around why it’s a big deal- not make it about her being a woman but because she’s qualified and she’s good at what she does. It should be about small movements like that that make the big differences. When people are hired because they are qualified, they should be paid what they are worth regardless of their gender- to me that’s a no brainer.
How do YOU want to see change in the world? What actions need to be made for that to happen?
We need to listen. We need to stop and take a good look at ourselves and acknowledge where we are. Are we making a positive or negative effect on the people around us? Start there. Don’t get overwhelmed by the idea that this is bigger than us- it’s not. It’s the small choices. It’s starting at home- starting with believing and listening to ourselves. Being advocates of ourselves, but also being advocates to those around us.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by women who have been dragged through the mud and have gotten through to the other side. I’m constantly surrounded by women who are pushing and creating through the adversity- it’s so inspiring.
On another note, what inspires you?
A ton of different things: books, traveling, music, podcasts.
I read a ton of books. Self-help books, even fiction. I’m currently reading In the Company of Women, which is a big book about entrepreneurial women and their businesses. How To Be a Badass was super good too.
Traveling is another inspiration of mine. When I went to Europe I was so inspired, from the fashion in France to the architecture in Amsterdam. It’s just so fun to be in an environment that you’re not used to.
Also, music and podcasts. I love Oprah’s Super-soul Podcast and How I Built This. Specifically, the Dyson one, listen to that one ASAP, it’s so good. I also love TED Radio Hour. Listen to “The Person You Become”- I sobbed when I listened to the first segment. Stories like those inspire me so much.