Stacey Boyd got the idea to start Olivela, the new luxury accessories e-commerce site she’s launching today, while visiting refugee camps with Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and her father in July. “She invited me to join her and a few other friends at the Malala Fund to celebrate her 19th birthday,” said Boyd, who went to Dadaab in Kenya and Mahama, Rwanda. “It really crystallized at that moment just how much good we could do for a very small amount of money for kids around the globe.”
Perhaps the line between refugee camps and luxury leather goods isn’t a straight one, but Boyd has experience in charitable e-commerce. She’s the founder of Schoola, an online retailer that sells gently-worn clothing to support schools in need. She’s also a former Boston middle school principal, who has an M.B.A. and master’s in public policy from Harvard and serves on the National Council on Teacher Quality. She’s an adviser to PBS on educational programs, was named one of the World Economic Forum’s 100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow and has launched Academy of Pacific Rim and Project Archive in addition to Schoola and, now, Olivela.
Olivela is launching with 12 designer brands including Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs, and starting with shoes, bags and sunglasses. There’s a mix of current season merchandise and past seasons, which is available at a slight discount. Boyd said a few brands have donated items, but for the most part the merchandise is bought as regular inventory. “In many ways, we’re like a Saks [Fifth Avenue], Barneys [New York] or Neiman Marcus,” said Boyd. “We just happen to have cause at the core of what we do.”
She classified Olivela as a social enterprise — it’s not a nonprofit — with 40 percent of proceeds of purchases going to charity. “We’re able to use the rest in order to scale and hopefully do more good in the world,” said Boyd. She has vetted and selected four charities to launch with: Jessica Seinfeld’s Good+ Foundation, the Malala Fund, VH1 Save the Music Foundation and Too Young to Wed. Eventually it will branch out to include other charities.
Boyd had the site designed to highlight transparency of where customer’s purchase dollars go, specifying the charity and what it will be able to do with the money. For example, “The purchase of this bag will provide 2,667 days worth of diapers for families in need through Good+ Foundation.” A personalized dashboard called “The Olivela Effect” tracks the total charitable impact of a client’s purchases.
Olivela is privately funded, but Jessica Seinfeld and Ariel Foxman worked with Boyd in advisory roles on the launch.
Boyd is far from the first entrepreneur to try to tie luxury fashion together with good intentions. Asked if in her market research, she found that consumers are more likely to purchase something if it results in a charitable donation, she cited a Pew study on what matters most to Millennials. “Number three was doing good for others in the world, and it was a close third,” said Boyd. “It came several points above having a high paying career, being famous, and other things you might look at.”
Boyd said Olivela is not exclusively geared toward Millennials; she gauged the average customer to be between the twentysomethings and fiftysomethings, but noted that “from a business perspective, I think everybody ought to be looking at the 83 million Millennials in the system.”