Joan Hornig, Entrepreneur

Designer Joan Hornig has not only had a variety of careers, she delved into each one of them with serious gusto.  She compiled each experience from work to marriage to motherhood as well as her artistic passion and philanthropic interests and created Joan Hornig Jewelry. 

Let’s start from the beginning.  She grew up modestly in Cleveland, Ohio where a teacher took an interest in her and pushed her to go to school in the East.  Started out Vassar and then transferred to Harvard where she studied art history.  Got married and walked down the aisle at 20 years old in the middle of college.  Pretty amazing considering that was definitely not the norm for her peers. 

After graduating, she wanted to give back to Harvard with the belief that getting an education is truly the American dream and she had just achieved it.  Joan decided to stay at Harvard and live in the dorms for another four years and took the job of raising money for the Development department in special gifts No surprises, she took the job seriously and was exposed to some of the most powerful men (yes men) in the country who went to Harvard.  She not only learned how to raise money but what it costs to have an infrastructure. 

Next stop was Columbia Business School to get her MBA spending her summers working for the Exxon Foundation.  At that point Exxon had 91 agencies in the five boroughs and she audited each of them to make sure they were following the rules.  In essence making sure they were legit.  She then became the Executive Director of Corporate Relations and Affairs raising money and doing strategic planning while deciding to go to school part-time.  During that process she had some ideas about programs for Wall Street firms.  Her idea was simple create a MBA program in the summers so that the employers would not be competing against people leaving for their MBA’s.  This way people could work while getting their MBA’s creating an interesting mixed environment at school.  Pushing Wall Street to create minority fellowships for this type of program too,  she found herself pitching this concept to Paine Webber because their company was more agile and not as structured as other organizations on Wall Street.  They loved it and she was hired. 

Her responsibilities at Paine Webber changed as she started running traders in the cash management area eventually starting her own Hedge Fund business which focused on distressed investing as well as private investing in the biotech Medical area. 

Joan has always loved props, sculpture and the analytical process of studying art from different cultures.  She started making jewelry, on the side, with her daughter.  Through a friend, she got in front of the buyer at Bergdoff Goodman who bought the line and her business was born.

She designs the jewelry and developed a cadre of people who would do the work.  She went back to her experiences of trading systems and the trust she had of people who were moving money around.  As long as people did their jobs, she trusted them.  She wanted to make all the jewelry in the states with different immigrants from different backgrounds.  What is the most amazing thing is how she gives all the profits away.  Through trusting people, she has created a platform for selling her jewelry where she absorbs all the costs only taking out the cost of goods sold and gives the rest away.  She doesn’t choose where the money goes, she lets the people who buy the jewelry decide where the profit goes by designating it to the charity of their choice. 

On the Joan Hornig Jewelry site there are over 700 of charities listed to date.   She won’t allow anyone give to organizations that are intolerant of others but anything else is up for grabs. Once the purchase is made she sends a letter to the charity letting them know that someone who purchased a piece of her jewelry has chosen their charity to give to.  It is another opportunity for nonprofits to do outreach.  Definitely forward thinking.  Engage customers to engage charities by making the consumer a philanthropist through their purchases.  It is all about leverage.

Her stuff is not inexpensive but she has recently added another line that is moderately priced.  Currently Joan is giving away more than a million dollars a year.   Needless to say, Joan has a serious amount of energy.  She began giving back to her college by helping them raise money, continued to help non-profits by making sure that they were running properly, and then created a variety of ways for Wall Street to engage minorities and people who wanted to work while continuing education, and then eventually created her own financial business which hit the jackpot allowing her to go back to her original roots of giving back.  Quite a story, quite a person.  Check out her site.  Get something beautiful and give back. A portable sculpture that is meant to be noticed while making a difference in the world, you really can’t beat that. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. David Haber

    Joanne -Love this article!! So glad you and Joan were able to connect. She’s the best.-David

    1. Gotham Gal

      Beyond impressive woman