On most days, I fear for the teens and tweens in today’s world, but every now and then I’ll come across an intelligent young person who literally blows me away. Most recently, that person is 14-year-old Linda Maziaris, a Havergal College student from Toronto. Outside of her daily studies, Linda dedicates her time, efforts and interests to her jewellery line called Body Bijou, a unique handmade body jewellery line and e-shop that helps educate girls around the world. With every purchase of a Body Bijou piece, 50% of profit are donated to the Girls Helping Girls charity, founded by Linda’s sister, Susanna Manziaris. Together, the two are on a mission to support girls development and help raise the global status of women one girl at a time. Pretty incredible, right? I decided to ask Linda a few questions to get to know her, and Body Bijou, a bit better. Take a look at our Q&A below!
GC: How and why did you decide to create Body Bijou?
LM: I learned how to make jewelry in a grade 7 art unit at school. I really enjoyed the unit, and from there I taught myself more techniques, as well as took some lessons with a jewelry artisan. After perfecting my craft, I wanted to share my creations with the world, so I created Body Bijou.
GC: What inspired you to help other girls in need?
LM: Two summers ago, my family took a vacation to rural Kenya to build a school. While in Kenya, my sister and I saw the difference an education can make in the life of a girl; if you educate a woman, you educate her family and her community as a whole, and the cycle of poverty can begin to break. Only a handful of girls in the community had access to an education, while the others were stuck in poverty. When we came home, my sister did some research on the low status of women around the world, and realized that this was not just a problem in Kenya, but it was a global problem. My sister then decided to found GirlsHelpingGirls, a non profit organization that works to raise the global low status of women through education. I decided to support her cause by donating 50% of the net profits of Body Bijou to GirlsHelpingGirls in an effort to help her raise money.
To date, we have provided 24 girls for girls in Kenya, South Africa, Jamaica, and Haiti with scholarship, provided teacher training in Afghanistan, and build a school in Jamaica.
GC: Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
LM: I like to look to nature for inspiration, as well as look at street trends and refine them to make them my own.
GC: What has working on Body Bijou taught you so far?
LM: I have learned a lot from working on Body Bijou. I have learned how to create a social enterprise, and what that entails. I have learned how to tell my story to the world, and how to promote what you are doing, which I have learned is a very important skill, as no one can promote you as well as you can. I have also perfected my jewelry making skills.
GC: What are some of your goals for the next 5 and/or 10 years?
LM: Some of my goals are to continue to build the brand, and raise awareness of the low status of women around the world. I would love to expand the brand into scarves and even into a clothing line some day.
GC: What would be your advice to anyone interested in starting a business that gives back?
LM: I would say never give up! I’ve learned that being an social entrepreneur is really tough. You have to stand behind what you do even when people say that it will never work, or that the problem you want to help solve is too big. If you want it to work it will!
GC: What makes you proud to be Canadian?
LM: I’m proud to live in such a wonderful country with such amazing opportunities for me. In many countries around the world, unfortunately girls do not have access to the same opportunities as me and my fellow Canadians. I also really love my freedom and gender equality rights which don’t exist in some parts of the world.
GC: Even though you just started high school, are there any universities you’ve got your eye on?
LM: Well I’m not sure, but I would definitely love to go to an American university, more specifically Parsons The New School for Design.
GC: What are some of your top picks from your new collection for holiday gifting?
Our Gold or Silver Collar Necklace with Swarovski crystal elements. It’s a really easy piece to wear that goes with anything! If your interested in something different, then our Body Chains are a great option as they can be worn in four ways. Also, I created a Charity Charm Bracelet, and 100% of profits from that will go to Girls Helping Girls. If you’re not sure what someone would want, we also offer e-gift cards. We also have free shipping to Canada and the U.S.
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