We all do it. We put up inspiring quotes on our instagram feeds, or Facebook statuses. You know the kind…the ones that say something like, “speak the truth, even if your voice shakes,” and are spray-painted on the sides overpasses or broken down barns. Then we feel really cool, like we’ve put something fabulous and a little hipster into the world, and we go on with our days. We talk the talk, but we rarely walk the walk. We scarcely inconvenience our own lives, or move our own feet enough to be real reflections of our cyber selves. We’re virtual saints, but nothing about that can actually be felt by human skin.
Just the opposite, however, is true about Be The Change Boutique owners, Ashley and Ashleigh. When first landing on their website, before taking in the array of cute tops, jewelry, and other odds and ends, a famous Ghandi quote travels the screen. It reads, “be the change you want to see in the world.” And in Ashley and Ashleigh’s case, they’ve done it. They earn the right to tout the well-known phrase every day, and they’re doing so from a tiny shop hidden in a slight-framed cranny on King street.
The two entrepreneurs, who have been besties since sharing a cubby in the first grade, sell merchandise with a mission. They only carry lines of apparel, accessories, and knick knacks that give back. They feature lines that provide aid to underprivileged men, women, and children around the globe, right here from the cobblestone streets of Chucktown. Among their favorite lines is “The Stitch,” a simple $5 roll of distinct orange thread meant to be sewn on clothing items to raise awareness about sexual abuse. A subject often taboo, the stitch starts a conversation about how important it is for such victims to obtain therapy and support to take their lives back. Proceeds of “stitch” sales fund counseling for sexually abused people from all walks of life, and was founded by a man who owes his very existence to the recovery he was able to achieve in therapy. How can we all not want to get behind that?
I first met Ash-ley/leigh duo just before Christmas when they hosted a benefit to collect toys for the children’s hospital at MUSC. I was humbled by these women immediately, and had to know their story. I asked Ashley number 1 where her inspiration to take on such a project came from. She passionately told me stories of how she was so affected by the people of Uganda on a trip in her early twenties, and how they use craftsmanship to make money for their communities. She eagerly praised the other Ashleigh for hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice, and uprooting a life in Maui to start the venture with almost no questions asked. She spoke of it as though it was a no-brainer for both of them. You just do good where you see the chance to do it. But, what I see are two hearts of gold. Without a profound empathy for others, the loudest calling will never be heard. If people do not care, they do not respond. But not with these two; the horn sounded, and they came running with arms open.
I implore this amazing LowCountry community to stand with these women. Let’s support this boutique when we stroll down King Street. Let’s not only look fabulous on the outside, but also on the inside. And let’s do this without the goal of feeling good, but doing good. Let’s lace up our shoes, lay down the signs, and actually act. Let our dollars go to educate, elevate, and emancipate. Ashley and Ashleigh have the lantern in hand, lighting a great path. They shine brightly, from their hearts over their wallets. The light, so strong, has reached out and warmed my skin, the seeped into, all the way to my heart.
by Lorna Hollifield