Julianna Manzi, who grew up in Boston, is the founder of Names for Good, which makes specialized bracelets and works with several national charitable partners, including Boston Children's Hospital and Dana Farber. She joined GBH’s Morning Edition co-host Jeremy Siegel to talk about putting giving front and center this holiday season. This transcript has been lightly edited.
Jeremy Siegel: I want to talk about why you decided to start your company in the first place, and the story behind it and what you do with it, because it all began while you were waiting to bring home your newborn baby, right?
Julianna Manzi: That's right. So my firstborn was born premature at 32 weeks, and spent the first several weeks of her life in the NICU at Brigham and Women's Hospital. And while we were waiting to bring her home, I started making beaded bracelets for friends and family. And this pastime and hobby became something that was far more than that. People wanted to purchase them. It didn't feel right to charge friends and family for something that I was creating, and I ultimately decided to start donating the proceeds to charity. And from there, a business was born. So, truly a hobby turned into a business.
Siegel: Tell me a little bit more about what that business has become. Names for Good is kind of a descriptor on two levels. You're doing good by donating nearly $200,000 towards improving the lives of children. But there are names on the bracelet, right? Since this is radio, can you describe the bracelets for us?
Manzi: They are all custom and we get hundreds, thousands, of customizations a day now from people wanting their children's names, their dogs' names, a saying, a word that resonates with you. And we have 45 different styles, from gold to silver to precious gemstones. There's kids bracelets, but it's really just something that you can carry with you every day: A reminder of somebody you love, a word that carries meaning and brings you joy.
Siegel: Names for Good was founded in 2020 and as you mentioned, you've had a bunch of growth since then. And this year you've had a pop up shop on Newbury Street. What does it mean to you to see your business and the donations that you're doing grow like this?
Manzi: We've been really fortunate. In the first year we were featured on the Today Show. We have several celebrities, like Jessica Alba, who love our bracelets. I think the reason we've been so lucky to have this growth is because we're mission-driven. And from day one, I started this with a purist desire to give back. And that's really what we've been able to do in such a short amount of time. Like you mentioned, the $200,000 that we've donated in 18 months is just a testament to people wanting to purchase an item that gives back. And this is a trend we're seeing with consumers and businesses across the board.
Siegel: I like how you just brushed past Jessica Alba liking what you make. Very, very humble. What advice do you have for someone who's trying to figure out what to do and, I don't know, maybe how to be better this season?
Manzi: It's a great question. I think it's really what pulls at your heartstrings: Is it children? Is it dogs? Is it, you know, helping elderly people? There's a multitude of ways that you can give back. And I think it's just being really focused and reflective on what matters to you. And for me this all began when my daughter was born. So ultimately, we donate to organizations helping children.
Siegel: Do you think at all about the years ahead when your daughter sort of realizes that all of this began with her?
Manzi: I do. And, you know, it's been fun because this holiday, you know, we've had our pop up shop, our holiday shop on Newbury Street. Both of my daughters, I have two now, have been able to come in and see and experience the fun of a company and a business that their mom started that ultimately is doing good in the world. And I think the most important thing is I would love to instill this giving spirit in them. And I think through the business and through seeing this come to life, that's really something that they've been able to walk away with.