The Full Dish On The Giving Keys

Caitlin Crosby started The Giving Keys after she met a homeless couple on Hollywood Boulevard. Eager to turn her side project of making key necklaces into a charitable endeavor, Caitlin partnered with the couple to engrave inspirational words and sell the jewelry. She's created jobs for the homeless and supported shelters and transitional homes.

Q:  How did The Giving Keys start?

In 2008, I was on tour for my first album and was passing through NYC. I started wearing the hotel key on my necklace.  Then I had the idea to start engraving old, used keys with inspirational words like fearless, strength, grace, let go, breathe faith, hope.  Realising that in a way we are all like these keys – unique, flawed, one of a kind, scarred and at risk of being discarded.  I wanted these keys to have their purpose renewed over and over again. So I came up with a 'pay it forward' challenge to encourage the wearer of the key to pass it on to someone they met that needed the message on the key more than them and wanting to add a charitable dimension to the business model, it wasn't long before the vision became clear. I found the missing link when I saw a homeless couple named Rob and Cera on Hollywood Blvd, holding a sign that read Ugly, Broke & Hungry. So I took them out to dinner & discovered that Cera made jewelry – this was my 'a-ha moment.' The next day, I went to the locksmith & bought engraving equipment and from there went to Pep Boys to buy hammers. And I started hiring them to engrave the keys. And now years later, 450 stores later, 24 employees later, we've partnered up with different transitional homes to screen people trying to transition out of homelessness.

Q:  What’s the biggest lesson you've learned this year regarding running your own business?

I’ve learned - it’s wise to delegate different tasks and jobs. I wanted to hold on tight to every task because I wanted it to be done right, and the WAY I wanted it to be done, but I would give myself a heart attack so had to slowly let go. I learned that I can't do it all by myself.

Q:  What’s the craziest giving key you and your team have created?

We get hundreds of interesting requests we turn down because we will only engrave an encouraging word. To keep 'on mission.'

Q:  Any words of advice for women starting out in the business space?

Think of a brand, movement or product that is MISSING and NEEDED in the world. Be original. Don't settle. I could have 'settled' after the 'pay it forward' movement started, but I waited for the missing link for almost a year until I implemented the charitable aspect. You can always make your idea more refined and special. And then: HUSTLE.

Q:  Who's inspired you lately?

You would think that other businesswomen inspire me, but the truth is that women with solid, healthy marriages who are good cooks & mothers inspire me. 

Q:  What’s next for The Giving Keys?

We are moving into apparel like shirts, scarves, hats, pillows, note cards, key chains and even lifestyle products like yoga mats. And of course always adding new original Giving Keys chains and styles.

Q:  One thing you want people to know about the Giving Keys?

Our workspace is filled with a mixture of ex convicts, people transitioning out of homelessness, fashionistas, business experts and everything in between. We aim to create an environment where everyone feels like family. We are all in this together. We are all fighting our own different personal battles and are here to inspire each other as well as work on a product together that spreads around the world inspiring others.