Inspiring Awe

by Rona Berg

In 2016, Jill Johnson, cofounder of Awe Inspired, was recovering from breast cancer. During that difficult time, according to her son and business partner, Max Johnson, Jill was focused on others who were much worse off than she was. She wanted to do something
for them.

The mother-son duo began to share thoughts about what it means to be a survivor—a survivor from sexual trauma, eating disorders, mental health crises, as well as cancer. “We wanted to honor and celebrate resilience,” says Max. “We thought about how survivors had the ability to empower others—like what my mom was going through.”

Jill had spent her career in the jewelry business. After Max graduated from Stanford University, his first job was on Hillary Clinton’s digital campaign. “My mom has the jewelry skills, I have the digital marketing,” he says. And they share a passion for elevating and empowering women. “The synergy we bring together is what makes it work,” says Max.

Together, they launched Awe Inspired, a collection of beautiful coin and medallion necklaces that celebrate women and offer meaningful and exceptional quality gifts for anyone looking to honor a survivor in their life. The first Goddess theme paid homage to the classical deities—Aphrodite, Athena—as well as modern-day inspirations like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harriet Tubman, Frida Kahlo.

“The Goddesses became a symbol of strength and personal empowerment,” says Jill. They also became a favorite of celebrities and fashion icons like Sophia Bush, Kristen Bell, Emma Roberts, Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, January Jones, Vanessa Hudgens and more.

Women of Worship, the new Awe Inspired collection, features five women of divinity from five different cultures and faiths—Quan Yin, The Buddhist Goddess of Mercy; Mother Mary, The Christian Blessed Virgin; Pachamama, The Incan Mother of the Earth; Lakshmi, The Hindu Goddess of Fortune; Oshun, The Yoruba Goddess of Love. The pieces are made with sterling silver, 14k gold vermeil or 14k gold. They are delicate and beautiful, made from non-conflict precious metals and diamonds, perfect for layering. This year, the Johnsons plan to introduce recycled materials into the designs.

Twenty percent of the proceeds from every order is donated to the brand’s National Charity Partners, which, according to Max, were chosen because “they provide direct services, impacting those in need of assistance on their road to survival and empowerment, and have a nationwide presence.” So far, recipients have included NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), The Trevor Project (offering support and suicide prevention to LGBTQ youth), RAINN (the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization) and CancerCare. Some styles, like the Harriet Tubman coin pendant, donate up to 100 percent: in this case, for the NAACP.

If there is anything we’ve learned over this past year, it is that we can all use a “taliswoman,” something bright, beautiful and meaningful that brings joy to ourselves and helps others. Something we can, quite literally, hold close to our hearts. aweinspired.com

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