Retail Pioneers: A Day in the Life with The Giving Keys

September 08, 2014

So excited to have Darnell create my custom TGK keys with “House of G&C” and “HGC Give Back” keys!

I love Caitlin Crosby’s analogy of keys. Like people, keys are unique, flawed, sometimes scarred and at the risk of being discarded. Yet keys, like people are unique and serve a purpose.  The Giving Keys founder, actress and singer/songwriter, Caitlin Crosby, wore an old hotel key on a necklace and had the idea to start engraving old, used keys with inspirational words. Realizing that in a way we are all like these keys she wanted to create a purpose for these keys- being able to renew their purpose over and over again.

Crosby wanted to add a charitable dimension to the business model, and it wasn’t long before her vision became clear. She found the missing link on a rainy day when she saw Rob and Cera on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles holding a sign that read Ugly, Broke, & Hungry. They went to dinner and Caitlin discovered that Cera made jewelry – and this was her “a-ha” moment. Rob and Cera joined the team and started making Giving Keys the next day. Since then The Giving Keys have partnered closely with Chrysalis and United Way’s PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) program.

Today, The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. Each key is unique and carries a message like LOVE, STRENGTH, INSPIRE or COURAGE. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send us the story of their key being paid forward. Check out the Employed for Change page for more info on the team.

My love of The Giving Keys started with a trip to Kitson, when I was on the hunt for a birthday gift. I found the “Dream” key necklace as a gift and I got an “Inspire” key necklace for myself as well. I’m a huge supporter of TGK because the necklaces are a cool way to show your own personal style, but more importantly, the products serve a purpose that is close to my heart- preventing homelessness and helping people become independent again. The homeless population in Los Angeles- particularly in South LA and the LA metro continues to grow, so much that over the course of a year, 190,207 men, women and children experience homelessness.


Darnell hard at work hitting the keys

Darnell hard at work hitting the keys

Fun times with Managing Director Brit, Mannix, myself and Founder Caitlin Crosby at the RonRobinson + Coco Eco Magazine event in West Hollywood

Fun times with Managing Director Brit, Mannix, myself and Founder Caitlin Crosby at the RonRobinson + Coco Eco Magazine Launch Party

I knew I had to find out more and meet the awesome people behind this great cause. This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer with TGK team and chat with their powerhouse production manager, Angela Lira about what goes on behind the scenes and about new The Giving Keys product now available online, or in stores near you.

HGC: What does a typical day for you and the team look like? 

Angela Lira: The day starts and almost everyone knows what they are doing for the day. We have Darnell hitting keys for web and we have Kellie packing and shipping those orders. The rest of the team does wholesale orders. Mannix hits and presses majority of our wholesale orders, and sometimes we have Robert jump on the press to help fulfill bigger orders or helping us fill up our key inventory, otherwise, he is making our displays and signs for stores. Everyone else like Nikki, Kylee, Haley, and Hanna are filling wholesale orders and having them shipped for the day. Then we have Kenzie who manages all of our keys. That is a process in and of itself! When they come in, she counts them, sorts them, cleans them, sorts them again, and then she does all of our Ebay key purchases as well as communication with our key connections.


DePriest working on custom keys

DePriest working on custom keys

HGC: About how many orders are you and your team processing each day? 
AL: That really varies! It really changes everyday but we are entering in the busy season for the business so things are actually quick hectic right now. Typically, for web, Kellie will ship out about 70-90 orders a day. Wholesale is a lot different because the number of order that go out really depends on when the account placed the orders. So, everyday the number of shipments change.

My makeshift work station for the day

View from the key makers’ station

HGC: Aside from fulfilling daily orders, what are some other behind the scenes job responsibilities that the team has to complete?
AL: I think everything in general is more than what people think. The product itself make look “easy” to make, but the process isn’t all that simple and straight forward. Everyone works so hard to get the final product of what people buy. Then we have Robert who uses the press and make a lot of our signs and displays that you might see in the stores that carry our product.


HGC: How long have you been with TGK? How did you become a part of the team?
AL: I have been working here for a little over a year. I actually started around March 2013 after Caitlin came to my college and spoke. I fell in love with what she was doing and I just knew I wanted to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. So, I volunteered and I was dedicated to it for a few months and thankfully they asked me to be a summer intern and then just a few short months after that I was hired on as the assistant production manager, and then a few months after THAT I was moved up to production manager.
An example of a letter and keys that Head Key Buyer, Kenzie gets on a regular basis

An example of a letter and keys that Head Key Buyer, Kenzie gets on a regular basis

HGC: What is the most rewarding part about working at TGK?
AL: I think the most rewarding thing is working in such a safe place. We operate not only as a team, but as a family as well. It’s always refreshing to see growth in the people I work with. We do life together and it’s one of the most beautiful things to see who we were when we started and who are we today and how we are continually bettering ourselves.

HGC: I also asked the team about their favorite keys, and which words of inspiration were their favorites. 

Kenzie, Head Key Buyer: The three-holed indepedent Lock Co. vintage padlock key. They have an automatic history of what they could have opened. Aesthetically they’re symmetrical and can pair well with any other key.

Kylee, Assistant Production Manager: Anything with a swirly or Victorian design. I love imagining what keys like that were used to open, probably the lock to beautiful wardrobe chests filled with gowns. Who knows?

DePreist, Engraver: My favorite keys are the brass keys because they’re the easiest to engrave. My favorite key would be “Faith” and my favorite saying is “Never let the little things get you down.”

Nikki, Production Team: I like the Gayle keys with the heart shape because they remind me it was once a key to someone’s heart, or to something someone loved dearly.

Angela, Production Manager: I love the rustic antique with the heart-shaped bow, aka: the Angela key.

Kellie, Web Processor: The 1800′s Oracle Brass P&F corbin with a Victorian design and also the MasterLock Co. Gold with Lion minted on the bow

Mannix, Engraver: My favorite key is “Patience” because it will help remind people to be more patient with themselves and other people.

Robert, Production Team: My favorite saying is, “Failure is never an option, so keep trusting the process of treating others as you would treat yourself.

HGC: Thanks Angela for chatting with me, and for the NEW product reveal, shop the The Giving Keys latest, the Rebel Pendant Necklace launched just last week. Click here to shop and to view other photos, prices start at $85. 

Photo courtesy of TGK. The latest addition to The Giving Keys, The Rebel Pendant Necklace

In addition to their new Rebel Pendant, check out the Limited Edition “Give” tee, in partnership with goodhYOUman, another awesome brand that gives back to a great cause. Shop the limited edition The Giving Keys x goodhYOUman tee here. For more info on The Giving Keys, follow the company on Facebook, and stay in touch with goodhYOUman here.

Rebel Pendant Necklace, $85

Photo courtesy of TGK. Rebel Pendant Necklace, starting at $85

Limited Edition tees! Get yours now before they sell out.

Photo courtesy of TGK & goodhYOUman. Limited Edition tees! Get yours now before they sell out.


This entry was posted in RETAIL PIONEERS and tagged accessories for a cause, caitlin crosby, charitable accessories, charity blog, charity fashion blogger, do good look good give back, fashion blog, fashion for a cause, hgcapproved, house of g and c, limited edition Give tee, rebel pendant necklace, the giving keys, the giving keys necklaces, the giving keys rebel pendant necklace, the giving keys x goodhYOUman by

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Summer 2015 Photo Shoot: HGC fashion Inspired By Words and fueled by action ‹ House of Gratia et Cartias

[…] *The Giving Keys: I love everything about this brand. The keys, the messages, and the people who make it all happen. Since day one, I’ve always really loved this concept behind Caitlin Crosby’s cause and to be able to see the brand grow so quickly and make such a difference- that makes me incredibly happy for her and her amazing (and growing) team.  But what I love most is being able to meet the faces behind the scenes and know the people that your Giving Key purchases will help.  Find out more about my first day in the life with TGK here. […]

June 17, 2015