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University of Mississippi IMC student creates business that benefits Los Angeles charity

Samantha Irish
Oxford Stories
sjirish@go.olemiss.edu

STUDENT PROFILE – A senior University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media integrated marketing communications major has turned her quarantine hobby into a business as a way to give back to charity.

Leah Jackson’s With Luv From Lou business donates profits to Skid Row’s Union Rescue Mission.

Jackson was born and raised in Nashville, but moved to California in high school where she volunteered in an area in downtown Los Angeles, California known to many as Skid Row inhabited by many people who do not have homes.

“There’s a Union Rescue Mission there,” Jackson said, “and my all-girls private school in L.A. would take us on service trips every quarter to a different charity. The first one I ever went on was to Skid Row Union Rescue Mission, and the people and I connected there so much that my school actually let me go back for all of my service trips.”

Jackson said she fell in love with the people she met while volunteering and still communicates with them at least once a month since moving back to Tennessee. She is passionate about the organization.

“I would literally give them all of my money,” she said. “They’re amazing. What they do is amazing. That’s how I got looped into that.”

Union Rescue Mission is a nonprofit organization founded in 1891 to help the homeless population in downtown Los Angeles.

“I just got this random kit online and started making (bracelets),” she said. “I put them on my Instagram story, and I was like if anyone wants one, I’ll send them to you for free. Just give me two bucks for shipping. I just thought I would send everyone a little happy, a quarantine happy. I got so many messages that I was overwhelmed.”

Leah’s entrepreneurial spirit came from her mom, Valerie.

“I was raised by a single mom,” she said. “All of my memories growing up are with her, just her and me against the world. She started her own company and completely supports herself and has always supported me.”

Jackson’s mom gave her the idea to turn her hobby into a business and donate proceeds to her favorite charity.

“My mom actually gave me the idea to start selling them to benefit Skid Row because I haven’t been able to be involved from the other side of the country,” she said. “My mom was like that would be such a great way to stay involved while being in Mississippi.”

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Leah decided to attend the University of Mississippi after visiting two of her close childhood friends and falling in love with the campus and the atmosphere of the school. Initially, she was undecided about her major before choosing the School of Journalism and New Media.

“I thought I would maybe want to go into political science,” she said, “but the more I started thinking about what I was naturally good at, I decided to major in IMC just because that’s where I felt I would most likely end up in the future in the marketing, PR, social media world.”

Using the tools she has learned in her IMC classes, Jackson has created a successful business from the ground up with social media. Perry Wilkins who follows Jackson on social media saw her bracelets on Instagram and decided to purchase one.

“I saw on Instagram that she was starting a little business to support Skid Row, so I wanted to support her,” Wilkins said, “and the fact that the proceeds were going to a great cause made me even more excited to buy. I loved my bracelets. They’re so cute and trendy and go with everything.”

Jackson spends one to three hours a night working on bracelet orders, or until her thumbs cramp up and she needs a break. She makes each bracelet by hand and has no plans of stopping.

“I have loved doing this, and I think it’s so fun for people to be able to customize their bracelet and get it in the mail,” she said. “I think I’ll keep doing it as long as I continue getting orders. I can definitely see myself doing other things, not just bracelets or things I don’t hand-make. Maybe like a sweatshirt or something. But I think I will always benefit Union Rescue Mission.”

Currently, Jackson is not profiting from her sales. She spends most of the profit on supplies and donates the rest.

“Right now, I am donating about 20 percent of my profits,” she said. “It’s not a hard percentage. I really don’t profit at all from this. There’s a lot of shipping costs, and I try to buy nicer beads so the bracelets don’t break and get all yucky. Those are really expensive. But overall, I’ve donated around $1,000.” 

Union Rescue Mission uses donations, like Jackson’s, to offer services to the homeless. As well as shelter and food, URM provides emergency service and free clinics to those in need.

As for the future, Jackson is taking it day by day and looks forward to seeing where her business may go.  

“Everything that has happened with this business has kind of fallen in my lap, so I’m not a plan-five-years-in-advance-kind-of-girl, I’m just seeing where it goes,” said Jackson. “I would love to have more time on my hands to expand it into different things, but right now, I feel like I don’t have enough time to dedicate to do more things on top of the bracelets. I definitely think I would run with it more after I graduate, I so think it could turn into something more.”

Those interested in ordering a custom bracelet that will help benefit a good cause can order through Leah’s Instagram page @withluvfromlou.

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