The Giving Keys
“Ugly, broke, and hungry”
…read the cardboard sign that homeless couple Rob and Cera were clutching under an umbrella one day in downtown Hollywood. The sign was as heartbreaking as it was real, showcasing the pain and hardships of our society that go too often ignored. The sign’s purpose proved to accomplish what it set out for- one person’s realization and sympathy- but what the couple didn’t realize was that who the sign attracted wasn’t just an average pass-byer, but rather, a woman with a heart of gold, who needed their help just as much as they needed hers.
Caitlyn Crosby was born and raised in a world she struggled to understand. Growing up in Hollywood allowed Caitlyn the opportunity to pursue music and acting, but also to see society in its rawest form, to see its vanity, narcissism, beauty, and reality. She knew she wanted to make a difference, to leave the world in better shape than what she found it in, but she wasn’t sure how.
Eventually, like most (arguably all) teenagers, Caitlyn rebelled. Her rebellion however, didn’t include wild hair colors, loud music, or questionable boyfriends, but rather Caitlyn rebelled against the very culture she was raised around; Caitlyn joined a local youth group.
Joining youth group taught Caitlyn the beauty of imperfections. She became so inspired that she travelled the world, documenting people’s love for their flaws, while displaying her findings at her concerts. One day, while travelling through New York, she stopped at a locksmith to get the key dangling on a necklace around her neck engraved with “love your flaws.” While there, she purchased other old keys and had them engraved with positive quotes such as hope, courage, love, and strength. She began selling them at her concerts.
The mantra of the keys were to remind people that regardless of if they feel old, used, or discarded (just like the keys) they are still unique and beautiful and can start over. Therefore, the purpose began: buy a key engraved with a word you feel your life may be lacking: such as faith, hope, courage, fight, or dream, wear the key proudly- embracing the message- and when you meet someone along your journey that needs the word more than you do, you pass the key forward. (Caitlyn also encourages you to email her the story on why you gave it away…how cool is that?!)
As soon these necklaces were offered at Caitlyn’s concerts, they sold faster than her albums. She began to sell thousands of them, realizing that they would be a great business opportunity, but also realizing that they needed to be more than that. She wanted them to give back, she wanted them to make an impact in the world. She pondered over their purpose for six months, until she found it in the most unlikely place.
One Sunday, Caitlyn left church in devastation. She wasn’t sure how, but she knew she wanted to help others, save the world, and find the meaning of her life. It was then, in the form of two beautiful people- homeless and huddled under an umbrella, holding a sign displaying their misfortune- that she did. (Hence, the top paragraph!) She stopped in her tracks, determined to discover their story, to understand their life. She eventually invited them out for supper with her that night, unknowingly changing all of their fates forever.
During their supper, where they all had drinks and talked for several hours, Caitlyn complimented Cera on her necklace. Cera replied that she made jewelry. At that moment, everything fell into place. Rob and Cera agreed to be business partners with Caitlyn, thus creating the iconic brand The Giving Keys.
Since the company’s beginning, they have employed 28 people transitioning out of homelessness, helped 22 move into permanent housing (including the homeless couple Rob and Cera that helped start it all, who now have GEDs and their own apartment), are sold in over 1200 stores worldwide, and have been featured on The Today Show, Ellen, ABC World News, E! News, amongst several others.
Despite the commercial success, worldwide fame, and countless celebrity followers (including Ryan Reynolds, Ellie Goulding, Taylor Swift, and SO many more) Caitlyn has one message that has never faltered:
“Keep your eyes open to all the needs around you. They’re all over the place. It’s simple, you see someone who’s hungry; get them food. You see someone who’s cold; give them one of the dozens of blankets you likely have stacked in a closet. There are locks all around you- maybe you hold the key to someone else’s freedom.”
….like we really needed another reason to love The Giving Keys?!